How to create videos that really work for online courses?

Video has become an essential format for online learning. Streaming services such as YouTube provide authentic virtual classrooms where relevant knowledge in any field of knowledge is taught. Video lessons, tutorials, animations, screencasts, unboxings, interviews, debates… thousands of educational channels teach us the most diverse and unusual subjects daily.

In this context, the most important Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms such as Coursera, EdX and Miríadax use video in their courses as a privileged didactic tool to achieve solid, effective and long-lasting learning.

However, the use of audiovisual content in online teaching involves several obvious risks and is not without problems and limitations. There are countless boring videos on the web, with poor content and of low quality that, in addition to failing to excite the viewer-student or offer an enjoyable and rewarding experience, rather than providing knowledge, detracts from the value of the learning opportunity offered.

Therefore, it is necessary to learn how to create educational videos that really work, that certainly catch the viewer’s attention and allow them to learn, think, study, share and enjoy.

In our article “Knowledge in Images and Sounds: Informative, Narrative and Aesthetic Analysis of the Video for MOOC” we studied more than 400 videos from Miríadax, the main platform for MOOC courses in the Spanish-speaking world.

What contents and formal elements should an educational video show to achieve its objectives? Analysing the audiovisual techniques of the presentation videos of these MOOCs, we can recommend the following creative and didactic considerations.

Interesting videos are not mere recorded classroom lectures: they have their own narrative, their own nature as an educational story. The more they move away from the conventions of the classroom lecture, the more qualities they bring to teaching.

For this, it is essential to write a script: documenting, defining the objectives, setting up the structure and incorporating narrative techniques from cinema, television, or radio to capture the student’s interest, informing and exciting her/him at the same time.

Choosing the format that best suits the content is equally essential: for example, animation videos can illustrate or visualize complex concepts; interviews help to contrast divergent points of view; recordings of experiments show on-screen step by step how a test or trial is carried out.

Length is also very important. In a five-minute video, it is possible to impart content that would take much longer in a master class. Making the most of every second of the viewer’s time should be a basic objective when producing a video!

In this sense, the greater the variety of expressive audiovisual resources used, the better: teachers speaking to the camera in first person, titles, graphics, location recordings, voice-overs, music, etc. This confluence of languages and audiovisual styles, in addition to making the video more entertaining and impactful and resembling television productions to a great extent, ensures that learning is reinforced by the sum of the visual and sound messages it integrates.

Think also about the different screens on which the content will be displayed, namely computers, televisions, mobile devices. It is advisable to create different versions and offer dubbed or subtitled text, as well as the incorporation of multimedia or interactive elements that enhance student participation.

Finally, it is also essential to understand video as open, dynamic, living content: the student’s opinion based on his or her experience as a viewer is very important to improve this same production as well as others that will be produced in the future. Gathering these points of view through surveys, comments, etc. should be considered as essential a task for the teacher as lighting the set or properly capturing the sound when recording a piece, and the student’s participation as an evaluator should be considered from the very writing of the script.

In summary, educational video for MOOC or SPOC, NOOC, COOC and other variants of online courses, is a sensational example of an audiovisual resource that allows for the fulfillment of many didactic and communicative objectives at the same time. It is a vehicle to make known the contents of the course (inform), offer significant training results for the student/viewer (train), place the teaching in the audiovisual ecosystem of the Internet (entertain) and communicate the brand value of the institution responsible for the project (advertise). You can’t ask for more advantages from a three-minute video!


Dr. Mario Rajas, Professor of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at the Faculty of Communication Sciences, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain and coordinator of the Ciberimaginario research group

Dr. Manuel Gertrudix, Professor of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at the Faculty of Communication Sciences, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain and coordinator of the Ciberimaginario research group