Educators: Using videos to teach

There are a number of excellent resources (and some not-so-excellent ones) out there about online learning and remote teaching that advises using video conferencing. There are ways to use videos to teach really well, and there are ways where using videos might not actually add too much to your teaching. In this blog, we quickly walk through some pros and cons of different video teaching methodologies and give some suggestions of when/how to use each type.

Let’s start with synchronistic and asynchronistic video teaching. What are they and how are they best used?


Synchronistic Video Teaching

This is a video conference happening in real time. You are speaking in a video to your students on the other end in real time. It’s like a virtual class. You can enable/disable chat functions, and if you want, you can have students share their own screens or ask questions. Basically, this works like a virtual class.

PRO: It allows for real-time questions and discussion and tangents that might not otherwise happen. It is more like an organically developing class. Students can feel seen and heard.

CON: It can be unfair to students who do not have the same resources (high speed internet, devices etc.) at home at a fixed moment in time. Throughout COVID19’s unprecedented move to have us all work from home, some students are sharing space, devices, etc. with other family members. Because it’s spontaneous, you may or may not cover everything you intend to in the allotted time.


Asynchronistic Video Teaching

This is a video that is pre-recorded and can be watched by the student on their own time. It does not allow for real time question and answer, but it can be paused and replayed if the students miss something or want a repeat of information that they didn’t catch the first time through.

PRO: It is equitable in the sense that students can access it when/how they want or can, depending on their needs. If they need aids to hear/see etc. they are able to put those in place in advance (or you are, via closed captioning etc.). You can polish your material to ensure that you communicate what you’d like.

CON: It can be a bit disengaged both for you and for your students. As well, if you are not familiar with pre-recording without an audience, it can feel very strange to teach to a computer screen! There is no option for real-time questions, and so students might misunderstand material.


Obviously, there are pluses and minuses to both kinds of video teaching. A more thorough approach is one that blends both asynchronistic and synchronistic video teaching options.

  1. Asynchronistic Lessons: Pre-record short (5-minute) videos with mini-lessons on whatever the topic might be that you want to cover. These can be resources that students can refer to again and again, and short videos are easily consumable by students.
  2. Synchronistic Office Hours: Schedule one-on-one or small group “office hours” or discussion groups where you give students the opportunity to check-in and ask questions. As well, it is nice to touch base with them.
  3. Asynchronistic How-To Videos: If you are using technology that may be new to you or the students to deliver material, you can make very quick and easy screen capture videos that can be a reminder showing students “how to” use the software that you want them to use. Similarly, you can use voice-over for power point presentations and offer those as stand-alone videos.
  4. Synchronistic Feedback: If you are providing feedback on submitted work during this time when we are all working from home, you may want to schedule brief one-on-one feedback sessions that allow students to get more insight into what they did well or not so well on their assignments.

You can use Google Meet, Zoom, YouTube, Skype, Go to Meeting, or even FaceTime to connect via video with your students. 

Make sure you check the settings before you launch your first video conference, and even do a trial run if you can. Where possible, use password protected or invite-only options so that you can limit your synchronistic video sessions to your students and your students alone. If you are comfortable with your asynchronistic sessions being more public, then you can easily use YouTube and set your settings to public, making your teaching resources available to a wider audience, including those who may find themselves in classes without dedicated teachers like you!


More than anything, be yourself. If you are most comfortable standing at the front and talking, then set up your phone, turn on the video, and stand up and talk! Record yourself and share that with your students.


There are other platforms, EssayJack included (screenshot below), where you can add in your own short videos as part of larger assignments and lessons. 


EssayJack Essay Editor View with Video


So get filming and have fun!


If you found this article helpful, do let me know and reach out to me on Twitter and let me know what other articles around teaching writing and teaching online you’d like to see more of. 


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