3 tips for turning class lectures into educational videos


Seated in class, students are a captive audience. Lectures can last the entire class period, travel down any number of tangents, and go without visual aids. You might put students to sleep, but they aren’t leaving the room.

Don’t even try that online.

The Internet’s endless possibilities also mean endless distractions, and endless diversions, for anything that can’t hold a viewer’s interest. Content has evolved to fit the medium. Web copy, for instance, typically has shorter paragraphs or is broken up into bite-sized sections. On the occasions when a long-form article is published online, it’s spread out onto eight or nine different web pages.

Online videos also adhere to the format, and that’s where class lectures have to adapt. Even the most captivating lecture may not survive the migration to pixels with its appeal intact. Videos that break big online are of a different breed than what generates TV ratings or box office receipts.

Folks might watch their favorite movie on an iPad out of convenience, but they only gather around the laptop for fresh content when it’s produced for the form. Here are 3 tips for turning a quality class lecture into a quality educational video. Click on the links for examples from UNCG Online of face-to-face lectures adapted for the online format.

Why 3? Because that’s the number of minutes you have in an online video before attention dramatically starts to drop.

  1. Watch the timer. A 30-minute lecture on a complex subject doesn’t need to be compressed into three minutes. But it does need to be broken into 10, three-minute chunks. Online content is consumed on the go. If you can communicate the lessons one point at a time, students will find the hours and energy to watch them all.
  2. Use visual aids, not speaking aids. A PowerPoint presentation may provide speaking notes for a lecture, but in an online environment they’re just wasted space. If students can hear the instructor and then replay any portion, they don’t need to see the same words on screen. Use that space for photos, graphics, charts, or key terms for added emphasis. Not only does it increase the educational content of a 2-minute video, it also boosts the viewership.
  3. Invite comments. A recorded video can’t hold a conversation with students, but it can and should jump-start discussion elsewhere. Good online courses have a forum for class discussion either through live chats, social media, or learning management systems. Lecture videos should spark that conversation by asking questions, posing problems, and inviting comments. It increases the value of each video, and makes for more engaged viewers.

Speaking of comments, what about yours? Is there an example of a great online lecture produced for the web? Does it adhere to the 3-minute rule?

Note: this post originally appeared on the blog for UNCG Online