Earlier this month, I published, “Improve Your Academic Success with Fun” (2 January, 2013) and demonstrated that online students can do better in their classes by proactively seeking out ways to make e-learning fun for themselves. One of the suggestions made in that post was to “play with technology.” Doing so is part of the enjoyment of e-learning; therefore, students should use their online courses to experiment with a type of technology they haven’t used before. (Run your idea by your professors first if the directions to an activity don’t specifically state to use a certain type of technology.)
One easy place to start is using video. Most people are already somewhat familiar with the use of digital cameras, especially the ones on their smart phones or sites such as YouTube on which users can post their own clips. Here are some suggestions on how to get started playing with video technology to improve your learning experience in your online classes.
Choose an Activity
The first opportunity to use video in your online class and perhaps the most logical is in the introductions discussion. Most online courses will require that students introduce themselves to the rest of the class. Typically everyone is asked to share some information about their academic and professional pursuits. For instance, you may share with your classmates that you are in your second year of college, that this is your first online class, and that you are currently a receptionist at a law office, hoping to work your way up to being a lawyer. Rather than type this out, think about how much more personable recording a video of you at your desk introducing yourself and where you work would be.
Sometimes when I teach online, I record my introduction to the class and/or respond to some of their introductions by video. This allows a stronger sense of community and personalization of the course because students see that I am a real person, dealing with a similar school-work-family balancing act as most of them are. A video allows me to share, for instance, a shot of the toys my kids have left on my desk so that I don’t miss them while they’re at school, a favorite resource, or how I organize myself for the course.
You can do something similar to strengthen your connection to your classmates and to just have fun.
Pick a Method
A variety of ways exist for you to create your video. Start with a brief plan. The clip should be short, usually two to five minutes, so don’t over plan. Some people like to use a script; I usually just create a rough outline to follow so that my speech sounds more natural. Choose your location carefully. Make sure there is nothing behind you that you don’t want viewers to see and that there is bright light in front of you so that you show up well. Try to place the camera a bit higher than eye level if it’s going to be stationary so that you aren’t looking down or appear as if you’re talking in your sleep. Having someone else to assist you if you use a regular camera or camera phone can be helpful. Using an external camera will allow you to easily download the video onto your hard drive where you can work with it before posting.
Another method is to make use of the webcam that probably already exists on your laptop and a program such as TechSmith’s Jing. This is a free, very user-friendly program that allows you to record up to five minutes of video, capture screen shots, and share them easily with your classmates by email or upload into the class’s discussion board. This short video by My Computer Work’s Matt Bower shows how easy Jing is to use:
Note that Jing comes with its own tutorials and that it is a stepping stone to more advanced video applications that will allow you to do more editing.
Whatever method you use to record your video, you will want to review, revise, and edit it before sharing it with your class. Don’t feel like you have to have the special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster. Mainly, what you may want to do is crop off the beginning of the clip that has a close-up of your hand turning the camera on or your last minute grooming. If you choose to experiment with Jing, do be aware that you can’t edit within Jing itself. However, you can do so within its sibling programs, Snagit and Camtasia Studio.
If you want to experiment further with editing, check out Jaspel’s “18 Best Video Editing Software for Free Download (Windows)” post (7 August, 2012). An excellent way to further your video skills would be to take these one at a time: With each video you create, choose one of the software programs listed here to checkout its features and user-friendliness.
Starting out, the main goal is to make sure the video contains the content you want and need without any extra or unwanted information or visuals.
Publish and Share
Finally, when you share your video with the class, for example, as an attachment to a discussion post, there’s nothing wrong with stating for your classmates that you wanted to experiment with video. Consider asking for a video reply or any tips or tricks they might be able to share. Even if your clip and theirs are a bit rough, this can be good as it personalizes the online classroom. If the course were meeting in person, would everyone speak perfectly all the time?
Hopefully, you will try using video soon in your online classes and share your videos via the “Comments” area below. If you are a follower of this blog, feel free to practice by posting a video greeting to in Google+. If you do, I’ll respond with my own clip, too.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net