Five Steps to a Great Video Lesson

Post by Swaroop Raju, co-founder of eduCanon.

In an earlier post, I discussed the pedagogy behind some of the highest-performing lessons video lessons. In this post, I want to dive a little bit more into the nitty gritty—the best techniques and strategies that we’ve seen teachers use in effective lessons. Much of the information below has been gleaned through direct interviews with eduCanon’s master teachers. 

Step 1 – Finding a purpose

Before jumping straight into the production of the video, have a clear instructional vision. The instructional value can be virtually anything, but here are a few examples we’ve seen videos being used for:

1. Content delivery –
2. Skills modelling –
3. Differentiation –
4. Review –
5. Introducing an assignment –

Step 2 – Finding the right tools 

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to divide video capture into two camps, screen casting and traditional video recording. While there is some evidence to support the theory that Khan-style tablet recordings perform better than standard powerpoint lectures, for the most part the effectiveness of the video is less dependent upon the medium and more upon your comfort level.


If you are running a laptop or desktop device, Screencast-O-Matic is a  great place to start. It is free, web-based and directly records the audio and visuals on the screen at the click of a button. For an eduCanon lesson built with Screencast-O-Matic, click here

For more advanced editing, ScreenFlow is great, but does cost money ($99 in the Mac App Store). 

If you are creating videos with an iPad, Explain Everything does all you need. The functionality is comprehensive and you have the option to export the recording straight to YouTube.

Video Recording

Thankfully, it is not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on a video camera if you already own a smartphone. Many eduCanon users build their video lessons with their iPhones, iPads, or other smartphone device. When combined with a tripod (~$15 on Amazon), you’ll have the video quality and steadiness you need.

Step 3 – Find your presentation style

This part is pretty easy. If you are screencasting or video recording, choose your form of presentation (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, Google Presentations, whiteboard drawing, etc.). Of course, if you are using a tablet device you will be using the presentation style of the chosen app. 

Step 4 – Production!

A few tips for those in the traditional video recording camp: 

1) The light should never be behind the subject (which is most likely you). If it is, shift the subject or the recording device so light is facing the subject and not creating shadows. 

2) If you’re using a smartphone or other smaller recording device, try to get as close to the camera as possible in order to have good audio while still maintaing decent visuals. 

3) It is common to see people holding their smartphones vertically as they take a recording. Unfortunately, this is a bad idea. In everything from YouTube to television, the aspect ratio is suited for horizontally aligned recording. 

As far as video length goes, try to keep the length down to 1.5 times the grade level of the student. For instance for a fourth grade student, keep the lesson under 6 (4 x 1.5) minutes. 

Step 5 – Share Away!

At the end of your recording, you will want to find a video hosting site to share the lesson with your students. The most popular are YouTube, Vimeo, and (if your network blocks the former) TeacherTube. If possible, I recommend YouTube as it is the most reliable and the host adjusts the video resolution based upon the viewer’s network strength.  

Until next time! 

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