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Oppida raises the bar in online education

Oppida talks: the use of teaching videos in online learning

In this Oppida talks video, CEO Bianca Raby discusses the best and most effective approaches to using teaching videos in online learning. Dive into the full video transcript and read more information on the topic after the video.

Video Transcript

Hi. Today I want to talk about video content and why we do video content. I get asked this question quite a lot because I think when we had started to move more into this online learning space, the first reaction people have is that, well, if I can’t stand in front of the class and look at the students, I might as well stand in front of camera and teach into the students.
Now there is, you know, some positives and negatives to that kind of mindset, but basically, at Oppida we really ask the question first is, what is the best way to teach this learning outcome? That is question one. Now often if it is video, that’s great – fantastic because video is a very engaging way of interacting with your learners.
However, video that just sits there and talks at a learner and just passes on knowledge like a lecture in a room is going to fall very flat. We know that the attention span is around five minutes maximum and if you don’t catch attention in the first 20 seconds you’re pretty much not going to get their attention the whole way through. So the days are gone now of video content of hours and hours long – we don’t have that much time and we’re not that patient anymore.
So when we have to ask a question about whether a video is what we would like to do, we really need to think about why we’re going to use it and the best way to use video is: to convey emotion, it’s to convey a story, it’s to get through a personality, it’s to be a hook, it’s to be something that gives the learners something to kind of understand you more as a facilitator or understand the content more. And it should be, really, if it is instructional, then it should have lots of moving elements. It should have some animation. It needs to have things that create that difference in the learner’s view from active to passive so they need to be switching and thinking and being kind of inspired by the video.
So days are gone, long lectures, they don’t work. Think about your video more in bite-sized chunks where you can convey key points with emotion or emotive hooks or getting the learners to really understand who you are, so they can connect to the learning better.


It’s one thing to stream a lecture live from your living room (complete with video-bombing cat) during a COVID-19 lockdown. It’s another thing altogether when you set out to create teaching video content as part of an online course. In that case, you’re designing specifically for the online learning experience as part of a digital education strategy. At Oppida, we’re all about ensuring that our teaching videos are effective – here’s how we do it.

The first thing is to decide whether a video is actually necessary. Check out our earlier blog: Do your online courses need video? 7 must-ask questions to help you decide to be sure that video is the right medium to teach your particular learning outcome. Then if you go ahead with the video, keep the following key points in mind.


Use audio and visuals together to present new information

Teaching videos create the opportunity to provide audio and visual material simultaneously and in an integrated way. According to the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, working memory has two channels to acquire and process new information: a visual/pictorial channel and an auditory/verbal processing channel (Mayer and Moreno, 2003). Using both channels together, and matching audio and video which complement each other enhances both information integration and retention in learners. 


Keep it short

In the video above, Bianca notes that we’re designing for a 5-minute attention span. This is supported by a study of almost 7 million MOOC video viewings, which found that 5-6 minutes is the optimum length for a teaching videos (Guo, Kim and Rubin, 2014). Beyond that, viewer engagement falls off dramatically. The best idea is to segment the material into meaningful snack-size chunks by keeping the focus narrow. If there’s more material to cover, make another video. Avoid using images which don’t support the audio – they are a distraction rather than an enhancement. Use minimal music or sound effects at meaningful moments only.


Make it active and interactive

Encourage learners to actively process the information by using guiding questions and guided activity, and by allowing opportunities for reflection. Teaching videos allows learners to control the pace, stop to reflect or take action, and to repeat sections if they need to. Use tools to make it easier to navigate within the video, and signal key material through colour changes, symbols and sounds.


Make it personal and targeted

The 2014 Guo study found that students are more engaged by watching a “talking head” than by slideshows, so make sure you’re video-ready. Speak in a conversational style rather than a formal lecturing tone, and if you have to read from a script, use a teleprompter, cue cards or a tablet. Rehearse enough that your delivery flows as naturally as possible. Speak clearly and with enthusiasm directly to the camera. Make an emotional connection by telling a story rather than providing a dull narration. Define your target audience, and use verbal and text clues to indicate that the material has been designed and presented just for them.


Mix it up but don’t overload with text

Use a variety of visuals – moving images, close-ups, stills, slow-motion, and animation. Use as little text as possible, in bulleted points, and in a clear easy-to-read font. Layout should be clear and easy to follow.


Expand the learning space

Use the power of teaching videos to take learners out of the classroom on virtual tours or site visits. This doesn’t necessitate high production values, although it’s important to ensure that the image is steady (use a tripod) and the sound is clear and without wind noise. Check out our super tips for home-made/low budget teaching video production here.

We’ve summarised the material above into a free downloadable for you – help yourself here: Top ten things to consider when designing teaching videos


References/further information


Cognitive theory and multimedia learning


Research and best practice