2 Tips for Creating Videos to Deliver Course Content

I suspect many of you are shifting to using videos to deliver your course content online. Videos are a great way to bridge the gap initially when transitioning from an in-person lecture-based format to online. Remember, the goal of this immediate situation is to help the students successfully meet the course outcomes and complete the course. Here are 2 evidence-based tips to consider that are grounded in what we know from neurobiology about how the brain learns best.

  1. Keep ‘em short by chunking. From neurobiology and cognitive psychology, we know that short term working memory is limited, but it can be improved by breaking down information or content into smaller components or pieces and by connecting it to previously learned material or experiences (Orlando, 2016, 2019; Sousa, 2011; Willis, 2006). Just think about how we remember a series of 10 numbers. We break them into segments, such as 3, 3, and 4 digits, like a phone number. This is referred to as chunking. In education, chunking is when we intentionally break down content into smaller segments of learning so we can enhance the capacity of short-term memory along with comprehension and retention.

When moving your lecture-based course or any lecture to an online format, think chunking. Instead of making a 50 minute or longer lecture into one video (which is a challenge in itself), break the material to be covered into smaller pieces presented in shorter videos. So a 50-minute lecture may end up having five 10-minute videos, for example.  Some studies report that students are more likely to completely view a video when it is shorter, whereas with a long one, they are likely to walk away or not finish watching it at all (Mendez-Carajo and Wolla, 2019; Pomales-Garcia and Liu, 2006).

Create an outline of what you intend to cover or write out a script – then break it down into sections that will become short videos – each focusing on one central concept. Keep the videos less than 20 minutes. By the way, one-page (front and back) of 12 point font, double-spaced, is about 2 minutes of video. An advantage of chunking like this affords students the ability to go back and quickly review those videos with concepts they didn’t understand well without having to search through a 50 minute or longer video. (Parisi and Thornton, 2016).

The other aspect that helps the working (short-term) memory and enhancing the movement of information into long-term memory (retention) is when the new learning is connected to prior learning or experience (Ambrose et al., 2010; Freeman & Walsh 2013; Immordino-Yang 2016; Willis 2006). Think about ways you can include helping students make these connections with your video narrative, video visuals as well as through assigning tasks and activities.  This point leads to the second tip – engagement.

  1. Engagement. It’s one thing to hope the students will watch the video all the way through, but we can support them to do so by making the video engaging through the intentional use of questions before, during, and after the video. Just as a traditional lecture can be transformed into an interactive experience by engaging students through the use of questions and activities, so too can a video. You may even be able to adjust some of what you originally had planned as activities or assignments for your in-person class to be integrated into the video viewing process.

There are several ways you can create engagement, such as including pre-video questions or a survey, including pause points during the video when students must answer a question or complete a task before continuing and a post video assignment. Using reflection, quizzes, surveys, asking students to put what they learned in their own words, giving them questions to answer or problems to solve using the concepts in the video are all ways to engage the students. Of course, depending on the platform you are using, the comments section or using a discussion board or chat space for students to put their responses and comments can also be helpful.

Remember, online teaching requires some different and unique skills from in-class instruction, so be patient with yourself, and try not to expect perfection. I can almost guarantee that this unexpected challenge will result in your having more skills and tools when you return to teaching in the classroom.



Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., Dipietro, M., Lovett, M.C., and Norman, M.K. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Freeman, G. G, & Walsh, P. D. (2013). You can lead students to the classroom, and you can make them think: Ten brain-based strategies for college teaching and learning success. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 24(3), 99-120.

Immodino-Yang, M.H. (2016). Emotions, learning and the brain. New York: New York, W.W Norton and Company.

Méndez-Carbajo, D., & Wolla, S. A. (2019). Segmenting educational content: Long-form vs. short-form online learning modules. American Journal of Distance Education, 33(2), 108–119.  doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2019.1583514

Orlando, J. (2016). Apply neurology to online videos. The Teaching Professor.  Retrieved from https://www.teachingprofessor.com/applying-neurology-to-online-videos/

Orlando, J. (2019, November 9). Chunking content: A key to learning. The Teaching Professor. Retrieved from https://www.teachingprofessor.com/topics/online-learning/chunking-content-a-key-to-learning/

Parisi, S., & Thornton, D. (2016, June 24). Tips from the pros: Tips for effective video instruction. The Teaching Professor. Retrieved from https://www.teachingprofessor.com/tips-from-the-pros-tips-for-effective-video-instruction/

Pomales-Garcia, C., and Liu, Y. (2006). Web-based distance learning technology: The impacts of web module lengths and format. American Journal of Distance Education.20(3). 163-179.  doi.org/10.1207/s15389286ajde2003_4

Sousa, D. A. (2011). How the brain learns (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Willis, J. (2006). Research-based strategies to ignite student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curricular Development (ASCD).


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