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How Many Videos Do I Need?

by Judith Dutill, MA


You’ve made the decision to incorporate instructor-generated videos into your course next semester: great! After careful consideration, you decide you will begin with a course orientation video, an introduction video, a weekly announcement video and microlecture videos to support your course content…wait…how many videos is that?

As an instructional designer, I have the “how many videos do I need?” conversation all of the time. Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dry answer. It is a good idea to set production goals to help yourself stay focused on creating something substantial. Yet, if your plan is to make an original video for each concept and lesson in your course, your goal may simply be unrealistic for several reasons:

  • that is a whole lot of video to generate at once;

  • it won’t offer your students much variety;

  • and you are not leaving yourself much room for trial and error.

Although there is no set number for how many videos you will need to create to be successful, here are five tips to help you to determine how many videos you need:

Tip 1: Parts of your plan will be quantifiable, begin there.

Let’s go back to the example of planning to create a course orientation video, an introduction video, weekly announcement videos, and mircolecture videos. The course orientation and introduction will only require one video each - easy wins that will make a big impact. The weekly announcement videos will only be needed once per week and in a fifteen-week course that, of course, means fifteen videos. Creating the announcement videos all at once will mean that they are done and out of the way, and making them all at once will make it easier to adhere to a consistent format too. (Creating weekly announcements all at once will not work well for someone who is teaching a course that may require schedule modification throughout the semester. If you decide that you are going to create your announcement videos on a weekly basis instead of all at once, set a standing appointment in your calendar as a reminder that this task needs completion).

Tip 2: Embrace modularity. You also want to incorporate microlecture videos and that is when it becomes difficult to quantify how many videos you will need. Unlike in the classroom where so much of what we do is framed in terms of minutes, the online environment allows us to embrace modularity. Rather than thinking about everything in terms of time, develop modules or units that align with your learning objectives and develop videos to support their achievement. Videos that are simply summarizing or synthesizing reading assignments (for example, creating a video of yourself narrating a publisher’s PowerPoint) is not your best move here. Instead, find opportunities to build upon the required readings and prep work to help students grow toward the learning objectives.

Tip 3: Don’t forget to lean on the experts. There are a lot of high-quality videos out there on YouTube and other educational sites that you can embed directly into your learning management system. Your library may even have a subscription to video streaming services such as Kanopy or Videos on Demand that you can use. Our recommendation is to find a balance between the videos you curate from other sources and the videos you create yourself. You do not want curated videos to take away from the sense of instructor presence you can build into a course by incorporating your own original videos. Yet, you do not want to have to reinvent videos that have already been created.

Tip 4: Embrace assessment and give yourself room for trial and error. I was extremely proud of the first videos I ever created for my courses because I was learning to do something that I knew had the potential to transform my teaching and would ultimately be beneficial. Yet, just like the first time I taught in the classroom, the videos I created left much to be desired. Continuously assessing my video content by engaging in self-review, peer-review, and gathering student feedback was essential to elevating the quality and effectiveness of my videos. For now, I will encourage you to watch your videos from beginning to end before publishing them in your course.

Tip 5: Do not create all of your microlecture videos at once. To begin, create the minimum number of original videos you feel are necessary to achieve your learning objectives. Then use student feedback to target content that didn't work as intended and needs to be replaced in the future as well as areas where additional videos may be helpful. As you refresh your videos, older videos that you no longer deem worthy of having center stage in your course content can be archived to create a repository of additional content that you can pull from when needed. If the videos are good but not perfect, make this archive accessible to students as an optional study resource.

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