- Internet Speeds
- Screen Font Size
- Webcam or No Webcam?
- Reduce Video Noise
- Prefer Dynamic Content When Possible
One of the major factors that can contribute to students’ online learning experience is the quality of the lecture videos they must watch. It makes sense then, that one of the best ways to increase student engagement is online courses is to ensure the quality of the production is decent. A few minor checks can have major engagement implications!
Carleton’s Capture Support Team has curated five key checks that you can go through before investing time in creating your lecture videos.
|Note: it’s important to do a test recording before you invest your time making a video that matters. A two-minute check before each recording can save you hours in troubleshooting and post-production issues.|
Regardless of how professional your setup is, poor internet connections can drastically decrease the quality of your recording.
- Wired over Wifi: An ethernet connection can make all the difference when you’re uploading your videos to MediaSpace.
- Upload Speeds Matter: When testing your internet connection (at speedtest.net for example), pay particular attention to the upload speeds. Fast Download speeds are great for streaming your videos. But, getting them up into MediaSpace requires decent upload speeds. We recommend a minimum of 5Mbsp upload speed and higher upload speeds will make your audio sound, and your video look, better.
Your students need to be able to understand you! Poor audio can impact students’ ability to understand you and can decrease engagement. Especially for educational videos, the audio is more important than the video. Students won’t watch videos they can’t hear or understand.
- Choose an external microphone: In most cases, the built-in microphones on your devices will not produce decent sound. So, use an external microphone when possible.
- Computer Speakers Off: Keeping your computer speakers off when you record can eliminate issues like audio feedback. If you need to hear your computer, then wear headphones or earbuds.
- Sound Check: Each time you record, check to make sure the mic you plan to use is the one selected by your recording tool. Then,
- Record yourself speaking (say things with “s” and “t” sounds – like “check two, six”). Testing these sounds in particular gives you the ability to test harsh sounds to check for high volume and whistling.
- Turn your system’s audio output down to half volume and through headphones check to see if you can hear yourself speak.
It’s not necessary to watch these videos – but you can listen to them and consider the audio examples:
Which one did you like the best?
|Note: Are you missing equipment that could help increase the quality of your educational videos?
You might be able to loan audio/visual equipment from CTS to help you! To apply for such loans, fill out the form at the bottom of CTS’s Equipment Loans for Teaching Online page.
If you’re sharing your screen, remember that what you see might not be exactly what your audience is seeing – especially when it comes to sizing (e.g., Font Size).
- Check your font size: Make sure that you can read your screen share from a cell phone screen. The rule of thumb for text sizes in face-to-face video presentations (i.e., minimum of 24-point sans serif font) is also true for online presentations.
- Increase your shared screen readability: When it’s not possible to change the size of font on your screen (e.g., webpage sharing), think about ways you can magnify your screen during your recordings. For Mac users, Apple’s documentation page demonstrates how to toggle zoom. For PC users, check out Microsoft’s tool.
Consider the following examples:
|Decreased Readability||Increased Readability|
While watching these two videos, did you have a preference for one over the other? Can you think of a few reasons why you might have preferred one over the other? One key difference between the videos is the readability of the screen share. For example, the video on the left has bars along the sides. It also uses serif font, which isn’t as easy to read on a screen compared to the sans-serif font from the video on the right.
Is sharing your webcam necessary and helpful for your lecture video? Just because you can share your webcam footage, doesn’t mean it’s beneficial to your students.
- Include Webcam: When the footage of you adds meaning or personal connection to the lecture video. If you are going to include a talking head, be sure to maintain eye contact with the webcam. Looking away can send a signal to students that they too should look away.
- Exclude Webcam Footage: When the footage of you distracts from the lecture video. For example, if you’re sharing a dynamic process on your screen, your webcam footage can distract from the moving parts and meaning of your production.
Consider the following examples:
|Appropriate Time to Exclude Webcam||Webcam Distracts from the Lecture Video|
The first video (on the left) demonstrates an appropriate time to exclude the webcam. Note how there is dynamic movement on the screen that is important for the audience to attend to. Conversely, the video on the right includes the webcam footage. While having the instructor on screen is interesting, it distracts from the point. In fact, in this example the webcam footage is covering up important information. That doesn’t always mean you should have your webcam off, though. Take a look at these two examples:
|Missing Webcam Footage||Appropriate Time to Include Webcam|
In these examples, it would have been nice to have the webcam footage on both! You see the added benefit of having the webcam footage in the second video.
One of the ways to make sure that your webcam footage is not distracting from students’ learning is to decrease the visual noise. This can be done in three basic checks:
- Reduce distracting background items: the plainer your background, the less distracting for students.
||A – This person’s background is not only messy – it’s moving around, which is very distracting!
B – Virtual backgrounds make it really hard for some people to concentrate.
C – This person’s background is interesting yet not distracting. The words on the map aren’t legible, which means the audience won’t be tempted to read it.
- Check framing: In photography, there is a Rule of Thirds (explained more in this external blog). In short, if you were to cut your webcam footage in thirds, your eyes should be on the top line.
||A – You can’t see this subject’s mouth.
B – You can’t see this subject’s eyes.
C – This subject is very far away, which makes it hard to focus on the part of them that delivers this message, which is their face!
D – This is an example of an “up-the-nose shot”, which isn’t flattering, but it’s also distracting!
E – This subject is well-framed!
- Check lighting: the best way to make sure that you’re well lit is to have your light source come from behind the camera. At the very least, try to make sure your light source isn’t behind you. The optimal solution is to have Three-Point Lighting, which means two lights directed at you from 45 degrees and a soft light from overhead. The following video demonstrates how your lighting can make a big difference in your video!
||A – This is an example of “back-lighting”, which might be useful if you’re trying to keep someone’s identity private. It’s not ideal for lecture videos, though.
B – This is an example of appropriate three-point lighting.
C – This is an example of “over exposed” lighting that can be distracting or reduce the visibility of you!
D – This is an example of being “under lit”, which makes it hard to see you as well.
Try not to talk over the same slide for more than one minute. If it’s necessary to do so, you might consider adding movement into the slide. For example, you can zoom in on certain components of a complex diagram. Alternatively, you could use annotations to add some movement and direct students’ attention to appropriate areas of the screen. The main goal in creating quality educational videos is to increase the signal (i.e., engage audience) while decreasing the noise (i.e., reduce distractions). One way to accomplish this is to put less content on each slide and increase the number of slides.
As instructors, we put a lot of time and effort into teaching our courses. These video checks are not meant to add to this time but rather reduce the time spent fixing them once you’ve finished recording. In fact, most of the time, it’s easier to re-record videos than it is to use software to fix them.
The Capture Support Team is here to help you! Please send us your Media Quality Checks and we can give you feedback before you start recording hours of lecture material.