Designing Video Workshops for the Post-Pandemic University: A Playful Approach

by Ross Parker, Durham University, UK.

The Covid-19 pandemic, remote working and emergency remote education placed a far greater emphasis on the use of video in mainstream education than ever before. Yet, in the years following a temporary pivot to online learning, encouraging academic staff to invest time in producing asynchronous video materials for face-to-face teaching can be a challenge.

While evidence has shown that using video as a teaching resource can lead to strong learning benefits (Noetel et al., 2021), pre-pandemic concerns about using videos remain. Self-consciousness, fears of making mistakes, and a perception that humour and spontaneity should be avoided all serve as potential barriers to engagement with video (Joseph-Richard et al., 2018).

As strong advocates for utilising video in the appropriate learning contexts, myself and colleagues James Youdale, Dr Malcolm Murray, and Dr Matt Wood from the Digital Learning Team at Durham University’s Centre for Academic Development (DCAD) designed a workshop about how to make effective educational videos. The workshop draws upon elements of playful learning (Whitton, 2018) to help remove many of the perceived barriers to engagement with video.

Our Approach

In designing a video workshop, we aim to cover two broad areas. Firstly, to educate staff on the characteristics of what makes effective educational videos (Brame, 2016), and how to put this into practice using readily available tools. Secondly, we want to teach staff about the technical process of planning, shooting, and editing a video for themselves.

As our plan to cover all of this within a one-day workshop was ambitious, especially with staff time was at a premium, we had to think carefully about how we could cover such a vast amount of content in a format that staff can engage with amongst other commitments.

1 A storyboard accompanied developed by workshop participants accompanied by a supplementary workshop guide called how to make effective educational videos.

Building upon feedback from earlier iterations of this workshop, we chose to keep presentations and demonstrations to a minimum and instead store guidance in a dedicated website we call our Multimedia Hub. Accompanying the site are printed booklets containing bullet-point guidance that we hand out during the workshop. By shifting guidance to resources that can be accessed at any time, this frees up time in the day, and allows us to encourage a more active learning approach where staff learn by doing.

The Workshop

The main workshop activity tasks staff with planning, editing, and publishing a one-minute video.

2 – James Youdale introduces the practical activity for the workshop that tasks groups with planning, recording, and publishing a video.

Concerned that asking academic staff to focus on their own discipline may be restrictive and difficult to communicate amongst a diverse audience, we present staff with a choice of playful made-up scenarios upon which to base their videos. This helps staff to focus on planning and producing an effective video, rather than dwelling on their choice of content.

3 – Participants from one group discuss which scenario they are going to choose.

This creates safe, playful learning spaces in which staff can be creative, use humour, and take risks, without fear of failure (Whitton, 2018).

Staff work in small groups, which allows each member to learn from each other’s experience of video. As workshop facilitators, our role is to be the guide on the side, providing prompts, advice, and technical demonstrations when required to help groups along the way.

4 – Participants use a smartphone to record a scene as part of their one-minute video.

We encourage the use of smartphone recording, as it’s a device that almost everyone carries around with them. We supplement this with some low-cost additional kit such as small tripods, microphones, and lights. This allows staff to create videos that look professional, whilst using minimal kit. We are keen to demonstrate that creating videos today doesn’t have to be an expensive or highly specialised area.

The workshop finishes with a cinema-style film screening, complete with popcorn. Each group presents their final video and reflects on the experiences of producing a video.

In having delivered this workshop multiple times, we’ve seen some fantastic examples where groups have gone above and beyond the brief to produce videos that are highly engaging and often entertaining.

The workshop has continuously received high praise from academic and support staff alike, largely in part to its practical nature and playful approach. The workshop serves as an excellent foundation upon which staff can further explore the potential of educational videos with the support of Durham University’s Digital Learning Team.

Editor’s note: We are delighted to have Ross as one of our speakers for Media & Learning 2023: Where pedagogy meets media which will take place 20-21 June in Leuven, Belgium.


Ross Parker is a Digital Education Consultant at Durham University’s Centre for Academic Development (DCAD), UK


  • Brame, C.J. (2016) “Effective educational videos: Principles and guidelines for maximizing student learning from video content,” CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(4). Available at:
  • Joseph-Richard, P. et al. (2018) “Big brother or harbinger of best practice: Can lecture capture actually improve teaching?,” British Educational Research Journal, 44(3), pp. 377–392. Available at:
  • Noetel, M. et al. (2021) “Video improves learning in higher education: A systematic review,” Review of Educational Research, 91(2), pp. 204–236. Available at:
  • Whitton, N. (2018) “Playful learning: Tools, techniques, and Tactics,” Research in Learning Technology, 26. Available at: