Making Videos That Students Want to Watch

Making Videos That Students Want to Watch

Spring 2021
Sophie Horowitz
Area of Study
Email Address

Pre-recorded videos can be a powerful way to personalize your class and deliver content. 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. In the 11-minute video below, she discusses her video making process and pedagogy for her large introductory courses of 100+ students.



Here are some key takeaways:

  • Videos can be more efficient than live lectures because they dispense with wasted time.
  • Videos allow instructors to speak directly to students with intentional eye contact, which can feel more personal.
  • You can guide students through lectures by crossing off material on slides as you cover it.
  • You can humanize your video by speaking in a conversational tone without a script and adding a personal touch, like Sophie’s annotated photo of her desk.

Pre-recording lecture videos doesn’t need to take up much of your time. As Sophie reminds us: Keep it simple and don’t re-record a video unless you made a significant mistake.


Watch Sophie's Video

Here are more reflective thoughts from Sophie.


What were your goals for pre-recording lecture videos?

My goals were largely the same as they would be for an in-person lecture: to clearly explain material to the students, in order to put them in a good position to evaluate the arguments offered in the readings and to write about them in their papers. But since we are remote and everyone’s routine is upside down, I also wanted the videos to be easy to fit into students’ schedules. I made sure to break them into chunks of about 15 minutes each for that reason (following best practices I had read about from the CTL and others). I also wanted to add an element of human connection to the videos, which is why my videos show my face alongside the slides. And finally, I made sure my videos would allow students to turn on closed captioning. Fortunately, this is now easy to do on both Zoom and Echo360.


What considerations or tips do you have for other instructors?

My main tip is: don’t overthink it. You don’t need fancy software, you don’t need to film yourself lecturing while skateboarding down the street like that one video I watched in the spring, you don’t need to edit out those last few seconds where you’re searching for the “end recording” button… Just talk to the students as you would if they were in your office.  I have had good results treating it more like a casual conversation.


What has been the impact of these strategies on your students?

I have seen a striking positive difference in student evaluations, on both the MAP and the SRTI. Students in my large lecture course seem to like the videos more than they liked lectures. I could speculate about why this is: is it that they can watch with fewer distractions? That they appreciate the one-on-one feel of a video rather than sitting in a large anonymous crowd? That I’m not a very good lecturer? In any case, they worked so well that I am using some videos in one of my upper-level classes this semester, too.


What are your next steps? Have there been any challenges or things you might do differently in the future?

Going forward, I will be thinking about how to transfer some of this success back to in-person teaching. I am considering trying a “flipped classroom” approach so that students have the videos to come back to throughout the semester, and face-to-face time can be used more effectively. I am also, maybe counterintuitively, considering giving students a stronger attendance requirement. I require their engagement with the videos using the attendance feature of Echo 360 analytics, both to keep students on track and to reward what I know is a very difficult task for them this semester: just showing up. Could this be part of what’s working for them? As I go through this semester, I hope to glean some more information from students about what exactly is going well and badly, so that I can think about how to carry over these lessons into future semesters.


To talk more with Sophie about her videos and her course, email her at


For more tips, strategies, examples and resources, check out our CTL Keep Teaching webpage on How Do I Make Videos That Students Want To Watch?.


For resources on using Zoom and Echo for creating, downloading, posting, and tracking attendance for pre-recorded videos, contact IDEAS at

You may also find it helpful to read Karen Costa’s (2020) e-book 99 tips for Creating Simple And Sustainable Educational Videos: A Guide For Online Teachers and Flipped Classes. You can access it through UMass Libraries.


Attached Files
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Sophie-Horowitz Transcript.vtt 13.97 KB

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