We all learned quickly to convert our class lectures to live streaming or pre-recorded during the pandemic.  Although referred to as taking our curriculum online, this was actually incorrect.  What we did was convert to virtual teaching, not online education.  However, our online educational counterparts, who are well versed in the approaches needed to create effective online courses, know if you are going to use a pre-recorded video or even live streaming session, it is best to keep it short.  Neurobiology and cognitive psychology also supported this concept.  The brain has limited short-term memory, but it can be improved by breaking down information into smaller components (Orlando, 2016, 2019; Sousa, 2011).

Introducing microlectures.

Microlectures are short videos focusing on a key concept or specific skill (Zheng, 2022).  They build upon existing research that has shown that shorter videos promote learning engagement, and students are more likely to watch the entire video (Guo, Kim & Rubin, 2014; Mendez-Carajo and Wolla, 2019; Pomales-Garcia and Liu, 2006).

Microlectures have three main components:

  • They are short and concise, usually less than 10 minutes.
  • They include the image of the teacher recording the lesson (talking head). By doing so, this approach makes the experience feel more personal.  Seeing the person teaching, even on a recorded presentation, provides a sense of direct instruction and connection and can increase students’ perceived learning and satisfaction (Nilson & Goodson, 2021; Wang & Antonenko, 2017).
  • Microlectures have an interactive component that engages the students immediately with the material presented. Research supports this approach, showing a positive impact of active learning approaches on student performance (Freeman et al., 2014).

Active learning suggestions for use with microlectures

One component of microlectures is to intersperse active learning activities to engage the student and to include some accountability for that engagement.  Otherwise, students may not watch the video.  Here are a few suggestions.

 Pause Points: These are intentional pause points during the video where the student is asked to pause play and complete a task.  For example, they could be asked to compare what they just learned to a previously learned concept or read a diagram such as an EKG or a lab report.  Including pause points in video lectures have been shown to increase learning over those without pause points (Biard, Cojean & Jamet, 2017).

 Quizzes: Depending on the platform being used, some (Pandopto or Camtasia) will allow for a pause to be built into the video for students to answer a few quiz questions before continuing.  Empirical research suggests that including interactive quizzes can increase learning performance (Brame & Biel, 2015).

Written Response Required Tasks: Including an assignment where the students must write and submit is another way to include active learning tasks.  This writing assignment could occur during a pause point or at the end of the video.  Examples include having students post on a discussion board, write a reflection piece on what they learned, or give them a problem to solve.  These should be submitted and reviewed or graded.

Note Taking or Summarizing: This can be a pause point task or come at the end of the video.  This activity directs the students to take notes or to summarize what they just learned, preferably in their own words.

Remember to consider student accountability in whatever active learning tasks are included.  They don’t necessarily need to be graded, but there should be some consequence if the student does not complete the tasks.

Benefits of Microlectures

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).  Another advantage is that it allows students 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; Scagnoli, 2012).  These short videos also allow for on-the-go learning as students can watch them at any time or from any location, like standing in line waiting for coffee.  Microlectures work well with a flipped classroom lesson, having students watch a brief video before class about the topic being covered that day. From a faculty perspective, these short videos will create a library of reusable videos (Scagnoli, 2012).

 Tips for Creating a Microlecture

When moving your lecture-based course or any lecture to a video format, think of 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 (chunking) and present it in shorter videos (microlectures) focusing on one or two central concepts.  So, a 50-minute lecture may have five 10-minute videos, for example.  

Create an outline of what you intend to cover, including the interactive components, and write a script.  By the way, one page (front and back) of 12-point font, double-spaced, is about 2 minutes of video.

Create the PowerPoint slides, and when recording, be sure to include the speaker image on each slide so the students see the slide and the presenter in the corner of their screen.

Run through the microlecture to ensure everything works correctly before releasing it to students.

Helpful Tools

Powerpoint and Keynote both have narration and video recording abilities.  There are also several screencast tools that allow for screen capture with options for an audio narration or audio and video narration (talking head).  These include QuickTime, Loom, Screencastify, Screencast-O-Matic, Zoom, Flip or Edpuzzle.


 As a result of the pandemic, faculty now have additional tools for curriculum delivery when an in-person lecture cannot be provided. Live streaming and pre-recorded presentations are becoming commonplace. However, it is essential to consider breaking down an hour or longer lecture into smaller components, with pauses and active learning activities. By doing so, we enhance the student learning experience, engagement, and performance.  


Biard, N., Cojean, S., & Jamet, E. (2017). Effects of segmentation and pacing on procedural learning by video.  Computers in Human Behavior 89, 411–417.

Brame, C. J., & Biel, R. (2015). Test-enhanced learning: The potential for testing to promote greater learning in undergraduate science courses.  CBE—Life Sciences Education 14(2), es4.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., Wenderoth, M. P. (2014).  Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 410–415.

Guo P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical student of MOOC videos.  In Proceedings of the First ACM conference on Learning@ Scale Conference, 41–50. 

 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

 Nilson, L., B., & Goodson, L. A. (2021).  Online teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research.  San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

 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

Scagnoli, Norma (2012). “7 Things You Should Know About Microlectures.” EDUCAUSE, November 1, 2012.  https://library.educause.edu/resources/2012/11/7-things-you-should-know-about-microlectures

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

Wang, J., & Antonenko, P. D. (2017). Instructor presence in the instructional video: Effects on visual attention, recall, and perceived learning. Computers in Human Behavior 71(2), 79–89. 

Zheng, Hua (2022).  “Short and Sweet: The Educational Benefits of Microlectures and Active Learning.” EDUCAUSE Review, February 17, 2022.  https://er.educause.edu/articles/2022/2/short-and-sweet-the-educational-benefits-of-microlectures-and-active-learning


50% Complete

Thanks for signing up!

 Watch for the newsletter in your e-mail.