Breaking Up Video Lectures

In order to maximize student engagement in online lectures, try dividing lectures up into smaller videos.
by LSA Learning & Teaching Technology Consultants

Transitioning a class from in-person lectures to online lectures can be daunting, and it is tempting to record lectures exactly as they are given in class. The problem with posting such lectures as videos for online viewing is that they lose a good deal in the translation. The environmental cues, shared space, and much of the body language of in-person classes are removed, leaving students to focus only on video in a little box. They are useful for in-person students to review during later study sessions, and they are sufficient as an emergency solution, but an hour long recording of someone talking is not engaging course material. This presents a 

few challenges for instructors who are teaching fully remote classes. Instructors of such classes will need to take a few steps to maintain attention and retain information: break up the videos and pair them with activities.

As we discussed in October, evidence shows that online learners process information at a different rate and in a different way than in-person learners. This means that lectures given through video should be delivered in shorter packages, ranging from ten to fifteen minutes at maximum, and followed up with a class activity to help learners actively process the information. This activity could be a quiz, a short reflective writing prompt, or a progressive application exercise that spans several videos, such as selecting and then arranging architectural elements, or solving a multi-step equation.

To effectively translate longer in-person lectures to the abbreviated form of fully online lectures, it is also important to look to the learning objectives for each lecture and determine where the natural breaks are within the lesson plan. Consider where breaks for discussions, inserted media clips, problem solving, or questions would normally come during an in-person lecture. Those points can help determine where the natural stopping points of each part of the video lectures could be. 

If you have sufficient time to prepare, think about how you can connect the video lecture to other course elements, for example an overview of the week’s topic, associated readings, asynchronous or synchronous discussions, quizzes, and other online course activities to guide students to a deeper understanding of the topic. By using Canvas modules to sequence and “package” all these things together, a path can be designed to guide students through the different parts of the lecture. As an example, the module might start with an introduction to the topic, move on to the first video segment with associated knowledge quiz, and follow that with a reading that students will now have context for. Then might come another portion of the video lecture with associated short reflection, then a discussion that students could build upon they reach that point, and the module could finish off with a final video segment that wraps up the topic. This allows students to self-pace their learning and allows instructors to guide how students process the information. We have a variety of Canvas Templates available for different class types, which have blank items created in such sequences for instructors to fill in and build upon.

If you’d like to discuss how your course material might best be arranged, or what activities your video lectures might be paired with, please contact the We’ll be glad to help.


Release Date: 08/05/2020
Category: Learning & Teaching Consulting; Teaching Tips
Tags: Technology Services