YouTube Instructional Videos- Let’s Improve Them!

Golden Star

Last night I watched On the Lot in which amateur movie makers have one minute to show their story. I’m fascinated by how much can be told in a minute. Look at the story that commercial tells – some in fifteen seconds. When I compare these videos to a multitude of teacher and student made YouTube-ish videos, I notice several startling differences.

Videos get you into the story immediately. Many teacher and student videos take a long time before we even know what the story is (other than the title). Music plays for 15 seconds and then a title slide appears. In another video 1/7 of the total time was in a song which had nothing to do with the teaching part of the video.

Videos get to the critical part of the story quickly. Many teacher and student videos describe what they are doing without telling what the students are learning. “We had fun doing this experiment. We opened the rocks……..” So what did “we” learn? Have students tell more about the important part (learning) than the description part (actions). Have teachers focus more on explaining what the experiment did what it did.

Videos do not repeat the same story over and over. Many teacher and student videos have groups of students saying the same thing. We do not need to hear five groups each saying “We had fun doing this experiment. We opened the rocks……..” Either have each group say something very different or only show one group.

Videos use close ups to show the details of something important. Many teacher and student videos use the same type shot for a group of students as for a critical object. Get in close. Let us see it clearly.

Videos do not include distractions. Every shot contributes to the purpose of the video. Students running around for the comedic value distracts from the learning. Videos showing all of the room are not important in a learning video about chemistry. Use a non-distracting background. Bring in a solid color sheet and drap it over things to create a quick non-distracting background

Videos focus on their purpose. If the stated purpose is for students to show how well they learned a certain letter like “D,” then there should be a multitude of clips of “D” things. Otherwise the video is just a glorified album of class pictures. Make sure your video is an instructional video. What will others know or be able to do after watching your video? I felt that after most videos, if I imagined myself a student, I knew nothing new nor could I do something. INSTRUCTIONAL video.

Videos let you hear the speakers. Have students and teachers speak loudly and clearly. Keep the background music soft so that the speakers can be easily heard. Do not include copyrighted music. Have the rest of the class keep quiet so their talking is not distracting. “Silence please. We are recording.”

Videos uses visuals effectively. Video visuals give information. Do not just talk, rap, or sing, show the information in visuals as well. Use arrows, signs, and other visuals to emphasize the information. 4×6 sticky-notes with large letters can be effective labels. Each visual moves the story along.

All of the previous suggestions are based on watching teacher/student videos.

Please plan out instructional videos so that other teachers and students can learn new concepts and can do new actions as a result of your video. Only upload instructional videos, not “here is our class” or “watch us goof off” types of videos.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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1 Response to “YouTube Instructional Videos- Let’s Improve Them!”


  1. 1 barbara January 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Knowing that posted videos are useful rather than entertaining would cut down the time of weeding out “keepers”. It’s like organizing your filing cabinet. There is a place for entrtaining and nonsense videos and those that are instructional. Not that you should never just post your students working or “showing” off what you thought was successful. I like to see what’s going on in other classrooms. Just have the two under different categories.


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