If you have been wanting to incorporate more multimedia into your course, a good place to start might be the microlecture. Microlectures are short videos, usually produced by the instructor, that introduce a single concept. The videos are often bundled together in modules. Each video is typically under six minutes and focused only on the most relevant content. The short duration of the videos, the ability to play and pause the microlectures, and the ease of finding specific content, all work to lower the cognitive load for students. Interactive elements can be added to increase student engagement. The good news is that you don’t need expensive equipment to make quality videos, just a laptop with a camera and screen recording software already available to U-M employees.
Several studies report that there are benefits to this type of instructional format. One finding is that students learn better when there are no distractions and that they benefit from taking notes at their own pace (Copley, 2007). Students also enjoy the ability to learn independently, pausing and rewinding as needed (Zhang et al., 2006). Assigning microlectures to be viewed before class ensures that students are prepared and have had time to process information and formulate questions.
A group of professors of academic medicine (Berrocal et al. 2022) define a microlecture as “a brief high impact e-learning video that manages cognitive load, applies multimedia principles, and promotes engagement.” They outline a simple three step process for creating high-quality microlectures.
Step 1: Preproduction
- Prepare content - Keep each video to under six minutes by weeding out extraneous information. Try telling a story and using a narrative structure to engage students. Minimize words on screen and replace text with high quality visuals whenever possible.
- Use a script - Write a draft of what you want to say, but keep it conversational. Use examples and humor to personalize your narration and keep it relevant.
- Make it interactive - Design questions and activities to engage learners. Allow students to control the pace. Integrate immediate feedback with an in-video quizzing tool.
Step 2: Production
- Practice - Rehearse until you sound natural. Be yourself!
- Capture - Use a high-definition microphone instead of the built-in laptop microphone. Record in a quiet room with no echo. Modulate your tone and pace to maximize engagement. Use annotation tools to highlight or circle text and images.
- Audio is key - Prioritize audio quality over video quality. Edit audio to remove background noise, pauses and filler words.
- Edit video - Splice content together. Use transitions sparsely and customize interactive elements.
Step 3: Postproduction
- Get feedback - Request input from others for quality improvement. Establish feedback loops for quality assurance and improvement.
- Publish and share - Optimize for smart devices.
If you are serious about creating microlectures, we suggest you read Mayer and Fiorella’s (2014) “Principles for Reducing Extraneous Processing in Multimedia Learning: Coherence, Signaling, Redundancy, Spatial Contiguity, and Temporal Contiguity Principles.” The principles they suggest provide ways to reduce the cognitive load in multimedia learning. This theory and its principles provide guidance on how to create effective multimedia presentations for learning. The article also introduces the cognitive psychology foundation upon which Mayer’s principles are built and then summarizes each principle. If you are ready for more in-depth information, read Richard Mayer’s seminal book Multimedia Learning (2009) which details his extensive research on how to structure multimedia materials effectively to maximize learning.
If you think microlectures can work for your class and would like help getting started, complete this consultation request form and we will schedule a time to meet with you.
Berrocal, Y. , Darr, A. , Ibrahim, H. & Akunyili, A. (9900). Microprocessing the Microlecture: Creating Effective Videos Anywhere on Any Budget. Academic Medicine, Publish Ahead of Print , doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004737.
Zheng, H. (February 17, 2022). Short and sweet: The educational benefits of microlectures and active learning. Educause: Teaching and Learning. [Microlecture]
Jonathan Copley (2007) Audio and video podcasts of lectures for campus‐based students: production and evaluation of student use, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44:4, 387-399, DOI: 10.1080/14703290701602805
Mayer, R. E., and L. Fiorella. 2014. “Principles for Reducing Extraneous Processing in Multimedia Learning: Coherence, Signaling, Redundancy, Spatial Contiguity, and Temporal Contiguity Principles.” In The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. 2nd ed., edited by R. E. Mayer, 279–315. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mayer, Richard E. (2021). Multimedia learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.