How Do I Design Videos That Students Want to Watch?

How Do I Design Videos That Students Want to Watch?


Videos can be very helpful teaching tools whether you are teaching in person, fully online, or somewhere in between.  Videos can provide more opportunities for students to see their instructors as  real people. In fact, showing an instructor’s presence through video has been positively linked to increased retention, motivation and learning in online courses (Grave, 2019). Video lectures can also be a powerful pedagogical tool to help you deliver course content online. They can also help you develop and cultivate positive teacher-student relationships, boost students’ motivation, and support students’ success. You can use the videos you create to connect with your students, communicate with them, teach them, and engage them (Costa, 2020). 

The most common forms of recorded lecture videos involve talking through a short set of slides or speaking directly to a webcam. When you create your lecture videos, consider the following tips. 


Tips for Creating Effective Lecture Videos 

  • Keep it short (~5-10 minutes). To help your students focus on important ideas and concepts of your lectures, break them into short sections. Mini-lectures reduce the cognitive load of your students, are easier to remember, and make it easier for students to retrieve specific information at a later time. Short videos are also easier to update and re-record, if needed. 

  • Make it relevant. Lecture videos should provide students with something that the readings or their textbook cannot. Provide real life examples, inspire students to further explore key concepts, or focus your video on problems or concepts that your students may be struggling with in your course. If every video your students watch helps them solve a problem or complete a homework assignment, they will keep watching. 

  • Be yourself. Talk directly into the camera and explain concepts in everyday language, as you would in the classroom. Your students want to connect with you on a personal level. One way to encourage this is to make informal videos, as recommended by Karen Costa (Mount Wachusett Community College). If you are using PowerPoint to deliver your content, consider using a script. A script can help you keep your video focused and you can upload it as a transcript of the video. When using a script, imagine speaking to your students to sound more engaging.  

  • Make it interesting: Visuals can enhance your presentation, and make material more interesting. Looking at text-heavy slides or a “talking head” makes it harder for students to concentrate on what you are saying. Mix your presentations up with images, graphics, figures, and drawings to make them more interesting. When developing your presentation slides for your videos, follow these guidelines:  

    • Leave space around the texts and images so the slides are not overcrowded. 
    • Use the same colors, fonts and alignment so there is visual consistency. 

You can also make your videos more engaging by ending them with a teaser (cliffhanger) that segues to the next topic(s). Students will be curious and will want to watch the following lectures. 

  • Make it count. Hold students accountable for watching videos, and make watching videos worth some points. You can give them a quiz about the content, or you can include a short, minimally graded assignment after each required video. For example, have students complete a reflective writing assignment with prompts such as: 

    • Two things that I already knew about the topic before watching the video. 
    • Two things that I learned from watching the video. 
    • Post a question you want to ask your classmates about the video. 

For lecture recording, UMass IT recommends using Echo360, Zoom, or VoiceThread for lecture recording (either asynchronous or synchronous). 


Use Videos Throughout the Course for Different Purposes 

In addition to using videos to deliver course content, you can also create brief pre-recorded videos to provide updates, answer questions, show a demo, etc. This helps students create an emotional connection with the subject and the instructor. These kinds of videos can be much more informal, authentic and personal. Below are a few examples of how you may use informal videos throughout the course. 

  • Welcome videos create social presence in an online course. Let students know you are excited about having them in your class and look forward to interacting with them throughout the term. Explain why you enjoy the subject matter and include a little about your professional experience. Post this video online prior to the beginning of the semester. For more information, see Karen Costa's "When in Doubt, Create a Welcome Video.” 

  • Course Orientation videos help your students navigate the course by providing them with a quick tour of the course and course site. 

  • Weekly Announcement videos set the stage for the week’s content and address things that will happen that week. For example, you can comment on the themes emerging from the students’ discussion board or refer to current events or raise questions that students may have. 

  • FAQ Topics videos allow you to frontload common questions that you anticipate students might have about the course, or you can use these videos to provide answers to the whole class instead of writing individual emails. 

  • How-to-Do-This videos show students step-by-step instructions on how to go about a complex task or assignment. For example, show your students the different steps involved in an experiment, a project, a problem-solving process, the creation of a product, or the use of a particular piece of software. 

  • Before-A-Mini-Video-Lecture videos allow you to provide a brief introduction to a pre-recorded lecture video, setting the tone for the content to come. Provide context for how this video is relevant to their learning in the course, and address any concepts students are struggling with in the course so far.  

  • Assignment Feedback videos can be used to make grading more individualized, and offer a modality that might be more helpful for some students. Instead of giving written feedback, you can record a short video (~1 minute) to comment on student assignments, making feedback more personal and memorable. 

For other best practices and tips of using videos in your courses, watch Michael Wesch’s (Kansas State University) video, Make Super Simple Videos for Teaching Online and check out Karen Costa's book 99 tips for creating simple and sustainable educational videos : A guide for online teachers and flipped classes (available as an e-book through UMass libraries). 

Please contact the CTL with any questions or for more details about the examples shared at 



Costa, K. (2020). 99 tips for creating simple and sustainable educational videos : A guide for online teachers and flipped classes (First Edition.). Stylus Publishing, LLC.  Available as an e-book through UMass libraries. 

Darby, F. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey-Bass. Available as an e-book through UMass libraries.  

Graves, H. (2019, June 6). 4 ways to make sure students are watching your videos [video file]. Retrieved from:

Myers, S. (2016, March). 6 tips for creating engaging video lectures that students will actually watch [blog post]. Retrieved from: 


The word lecture written on a notepad.

Memorable lectures emphasize key concepts and connects them to what students know, have a structure, and allow time for processing.

Photo of Sophie Horowitz

In spring 2020, Sophie Horowitz, Assistant Professor in Philosophy, made the switch from in-class lecturing to engaging her students with the course content through brief pre-recorded videos.

UMass CTL logo

Elizabeth Porto, Senior Lecturer II, shows students' brief introductory videos during class over the first few weeks of the semester to build community and help her students learn how to introduce themselves professionally.