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Developing Video Content for Students

Resources that guide the design and development of video content to students

This document was created to guide the content using audio and video formats. Research guides the recommendations found here, but the findings are meant only as guidelines — further consultation with an instructional technology consultant is recommended as various situational factors may lead you to different decisions. It is, therefore, meant as a starting point for video content development. The document is broken into five sections: definitions, benefits of video, length of video content, student outcomes, format recommendations, and technology recommendations.




A literature review shows studies that looked at several video delivery formats. The research articles used various terms to describe these different formats. To simplify the results, the document has standardized terminology around the following types of video delivery formats:

  • Audio Podcast - audio-only presentation without slides or video
  • Narrated Presentation - slides with audio narration
  • Lectures, Stories, & Interviews — video of an instructor or guest speaker
  • Multi-Source Video - Video with multiple sources (ex. slides and instructor video, or screencast)

video types


  • Cognitive load - the amount of working memory used to learn
  • Judgment of learning - the amount of learning students perceived they have learned
  • Transfer of learning - the application of skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes that were learned in one situation to another learning situation
  • Recall - the ability to access information covered at a later time

Benefits of Video

The use of videos benefits students and teachers in several ways:

  1. They give students more time to process information and can have them come to class prepared to discuss and put their learning into practice;
  2. Teachers can better maximize class time for higher-order, student-centered, collaborative learning activities;
  3. Videos help teachers standardize content for core and required classes;
  4. Students can view and review videos at their own pace and during times convenient to them;
  5. The use of videos can provide teachers with an appropriate way to incorporate audio and visuals into the learning process and
  6. These approaches speak the language of a digital generation (Sweat & Alford, 2019).

Length of Video Content

Several articles have studied the ideal length of a video. The ideal length of engagement drew from several factors, including cognitive load, attention span, learning outcomes, and student preferences. The research confirms the recommendation based on the Danforth, Schumacher, & Ma article that found students prefer video content limited to 4-6 minutes (Danforth, Schumacher, & Ma, 2012). Guo, Kim, and Rubin confirmed that video length is the most significant indicator of student engagement, with the highest level of engagement being between 1-3 minutes, the median engagement time around 6 minutes, and engagement dropping off after 6 minutes. Studying engagement levels of video with the instructor, they found that engagement dropped off after 6-9 minutes, compared to 3-6 minutes with narrated presentations (Guo, Kim, and Rubin, 2014). Pi and Hong found that students who viewed video content with a length of between 4-6 minutes had the best learning scores after watching the video. They also confirmed that mental fatigue begins at 10 minutes and worsens after 22 minutes (Pi & Hong, 2016). Guo, Kim, and Rubin also found that students watching a video in which the instructor was seated at a desk with a closer focus on their face engaged twice as long (6-12 minutes) than they did when they watched a lecture capture video (3-6 minutes). Both formats found engagement levels deteriorating after 12 minutes (Guo, Kim, & Rubin 2014).

Student Outcomes

The research identified several student factors for video content around outcomes such as general interest, satisfaction, enjoyment, learning, length of watching, behaviors after watching, cognitive load, students' judgment of learning, and feelings toward seeing the instructor. Wilson et al. studied three video delivery formats (audio podcast, narrated presentation, and multi-source video). Of these three formats, the study found that students reported multi-source video as the format from which they learned the best, enjoyed the most, and preferred the most. It is important to note, however, that students' perception of their level of learning was not confirmed by comprehension tests in this study, which found no difference in comprehension among any of the three formats. Looking at presentations with videos of the instructor further, the study found that students reported this format had the least effort in attention, the greatest enjoyment, facilitated the most significant amount of learning, the greatest likelihood of watching the entire video, the highest judgment of learning, and interestingly, the lowest likelihood of dropping a course that used this format regularly (Wilson et al., 2018). Wang, Antonenko, and Dawson expanded on this research by making distinctions between the formats used and the degree of the topic's difficulty. The study focused on videos without an instructor's presence (narrated presentations) and multi-source videos (presentations with videos of an instructor). The study found that students expressed greater satisfaction and situational interest in multi-source videos regardless of the topic's difficulty level. It also found that the multi-source video provided more significant judgment of learning for complex topics than narrated presentations. Easy topics saw no difference in the judgment of learning for either format. Additionally, multi-source video reduced the cognitive load of challenging topics, suggesting that students benefited from the visual cues from seeing the instructor. Describing their subjective feelings about the multi-source videos (with both easy and challenging topics), they used terms like helpful, entertaining, useful, and engaging. It is important to note, however, that concerning the transfer of learning and retention, the study found no difference between narrated presentations and multi-source videos (Wang, Antonenko, & Dawson,2020). The research shows different conclusions on this point, however. Pi and Hong found that multi-source videos did show greater recall and transfer compared to narrated presentations (Pi and Hong, 2016). However, Kizilcec, Papadopoulus, and Sritanyaratna found no significant difference in learning outcomes between narrated presentations and multi-source videos (Kizilcec, Papadopoulus, and Sritanyaratna, 2014). Therefore, the research doesn't provide any conclusive guidance on formats related to learning outcomes.

Format Recommendations

Research suggests that you keep videos between 6-9 minutes to ensure the most significant student engagement level and reduce cognitive load. While research shows that multi-source video has some significant benefits, it also involves greater production effort. Starting with a narrated presentation or simple webcam recording is recommended first, with a migration to a multi-source video once content has stabilized and you have greater experience with creating video later.

Technology Recommendations

Narrated Presentation

With regard to the creation of narrated presentations (screen-captured slides with audio narration), the recommended tools are Microsoft PowerPoint for creating a narrated presentation to deliver content to students, Kaltura for storing the content, and Canvas for providing content to students. Kaltura Machine Captioning is also available to make recorded content accessible. Kaltura Interactive Quiz Video can be used to insert questions into presentations. This approach might help increase recall and transfer of learning. Be aware, however, that Canvas grade book integration to quiz results is not entirely reliable. Guides can be found for creating narrated presentations for Mac and Windows users.

Lectures, Stories, & Interviews

There are a few tools for capturing lectures, stories, and interviews. Online conferencing tools like Zoom allow for capturing conversations of one or more people. Kaltura WebCam and Canvas Media Record tools can be used for short response videos. Kaltura Machine Captioning is also available to make recorded content accessible.

Multi-Source Video

With regard to the creation of multi-source videos, the recommended tool is Camtasia. This tool allows for screen capture, integration of PowerPoint slides, and video of an instructor talking. Camtasia is a stand-alone software you download from the Campus Software Library and install on your computer. Best practices would recommend the purchase of a secondary microphone to enhance the quality of the audio — something like the Snowball ICE. Kaltura Machine Captioning is also available to make recorded content accessible.


  • VIEW — Danforth, S., Cullen, R., and  Ma Y.J. "Evaluating Format Preferences and Effectiveness of Video Podcasts Related to Nutrition Education and Recipe Demonstrations." Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, (2012). 112, A19.
  • VIEW — Guo, Philip, Juho Kim, and Rob Rubin. "How Video Production Affects Student Engagement: An Empirical Study of MOOC Videos." In Proceedings of the First ACM Conference on Learning@Scale Conference. (2014). pp. 41-50.
  • VIEW — Kizilcec, René. Kathryn Papadopoulus and Lalida Sritanyaratana. "Showing Face in Video Instruction: Effects on Information Retention, Visual Attention, and Affect." Proceedings of The SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (2014). pp. 2095-2102.
  • VIEW — Pi, Zhongling, and Jianzhong Hong. "Learning Process and Learning Outcomes of Video Podcasts Including the Instructor and PPT Slides: A Chinese Case." Innovations in Education and Teaching International. (2016) 53(2). pp. 135-144.
  • VIEW — Sweat, Anthony, and Kenneth Alford. "Getting Started with Blended Learning Videos." Faculty Focus. June 2019.
  • VIEW — Wang, Jiahui, Pavlo Antonenko, and Kara Dawson. "Does Visual Attention to the Instructor in Online Video Affect Learning and Learning Perceptions? An Eye-Tracking Analysis." Computers and Education (2020) 146. 103779).
  • VIEW — Wilson, Kristen, et al. "Instructor Presence Effect: Liking Does Not Always Lead to Learning." Computers and Education. (2018) (122). pp.205-220.

Keywordsvideo, format, length, engagement, toolsDoc ID103763
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-08 13:07:42Updated2024-04-17 12:28:56
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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