By Jim Davies, Associate Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science

Video versions of courses tend to get one of three views: the professor, the slides or a combination. I’ve had students complain that they see too much of the professor in the videos, and I can understand this: watching Khan Academy videos, for example, shows you how unimportant seeing the professor can be. It’s especially important that you use the computer cursor to refer to things on the slides, as opposed to pointing with your hands or with a laser pointer, because otherwise the video students won’t be able to connect your pointing with the slide (laser pointer light is so small that it’s invisible on video).

The picture-in-picture solution is great. At CUOL they call it a “corner wipe.” The picture below shows what a corner wipe looks like. The problem is that often a portion of your slide is covered up, hiding important information. This makes it difficult for the director of the video to optimize learning for students.

A screen shot of the corner wipe technique
The solution that I’ve adopted is to place a gray square in the lower right corner of all of my slides, and to make sure I don’t put any information there. This way there’s always room for the corner wipe. I hired a student to modify all of my slides so that it’s there, and it took her about five hours (CUOL paid the student).

The image from my analogy lecture below shows the slide with the gray square. It reserves the part of the slide that would be covered by the corner wipe should the director choose to use it.

A screen shot of Jim Davies gray square method on slides

All you need to do is make a square of this proportion and copy it to all your slides. This object can be made to be part of the PowerPoint template you use for your CUOL slides, or it can be added manually (copied and pasted) into each slide. In either case, you modify or build new slides around the square, and students can spend more time seeing both you and the slides.