Instructional Video Styles: Choose Your Own | LearnWorlds Blog

Before you even begin creating your instructional video, you will need to consider your lecture style. Are you going to use a white-board, do a selfie-style video or an animation?

Choosing your instructional video style is essential, as this will inform your lesson plan, dialogue and editing of your video. Excellent video recording won’t happen by chance. To put forth the performance, you need to use specific directing strategies you will choose beforehand.

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You, as the presenter, will know how to appear in your video and in which way you interact with the presented material.

Nowadays, there is a growing number of organizations that offer video-based learning, such as Coursera, Udacity, EdX, Khan Academy, FutureLearn, and Iversity. Across those platforms, the instructional videos range from direct classroom recordings to highly elaborate video post-production.

The Instructor’s Presence

A question that arises and concerns video production is how the instructor’s presence is deciphered in the various lecture styles. To understand how presence is constructed in lectures we must first refer here the terms agency and intersubjectivity.


Agency and intersubjectivity make researchers consider lecturing as an “embodied” form of activity. Embodiment refers to how meaning is negotiated and concentrated on the body and its demeanor posture, movements, and gestures.

Indeed, students do not perceive what might be in the head of the lecturer, but what they concretely perceive is their vocal, gestural, and positioned physical performance of concepts. The level of the human embodiment varies widely between video lecture formats from full shots that include the audience heads to screen capturing of the tip of the pen.

The Speaker or the Board?

Based on the concept of embodiment, researchers (Espino et al., 2016) have classified lectures into two main categories: Speaker-centric and board-centric, according to where the emphasis is being put (e.g., to the speaker or the slides and animations?). These two terms can be generalized to the broader notions of “human embodiment” and “instructional media” respectively.

In this article, we are using those terms to characterize several lecture styles we met on YouTube. Also, we provide a list of styles that focus on these two factors. However, we have to mention that the speaker is not always in competition with the instructional media for the attention of the learner. The two of them can be complementary dimensions.

The taxonomy will help you choose which instructional video production style best suits your course and also possibly give you some ideas to create a new one. So, here are present 12 different ways you can use to create your video lectures.

We begin our taxonomy with the styles that are more board-centric and finish with those who are more speaker-centric. Let’s see each one of them:

Animated lectures

Animated video lectures are becoming more and more popular, allowing students to learn in a fun and relaxing way. Animations are very similar to the cartoons we used to watch in our youngest age and maybe that is what makes them so engaging.

In this type of lectures, the main protagonist is the media presented while the instructor plays an assistive role with a voice over (most of the times). Most popular tools to create animations are Animaker and VYond.

Simple Slides Presentations

Slides presentations are one of the most popular and easy to create lecture styles. The presenter is either absent or present with their voice. In each case, the lecture is board-centric.

Slides presentations can become very engaging if you put a lot of work into designing each of the slides carefully. There is a variety of tools out there you can use to create such presentations and add a voiceover.

Hands writing boards

In this type of lectures, the viewer sees the words being written at the moment of speech. The presenter is absent, however, agency is strong, especially when a writing hand appears. In this category, we can also include whiteboard animations (which are available on most video animation platforms). The instructor can choose if a hand will be visible or not.

Screencasting

Screen-casts, also known as a video screen capture, are the most suitable means to teach a computer software. They consist of “the capture all of the action on a computer screen” format and often contain audio narration.

Creating a screencast helps technical instructors show off their work. Instructors can also create screencasts to demonstrate the proper procedure to solve a problem. There is a variety of free apps and tools you can use to create screencasts easily.

The screen movement can either be static or dynamic (follow the cursor). A screencast is essentially a movie of the changes over time that a user sees on a computer screen, enhanced with audio narration, so the agency is quite strong.

Presence overlapping the slides presentation

Again, this lecture style is board-centric: The instructor is present, however, learners’ attention focuses on the slides presentation. Appropriate screencast tools, now allow instructors to create such videos that show not only their slides but also their presence in the footage, usually in a frame and at varying positions in the background sequence.

In other cases, the narrator might appear in a window in various positions adjacent to the sequence of slides presentation or the narrator, and the slide sequence can be presented simultaneously and in adjacent frames.

Presence in a Split Screen

Split screen gives the illusion that instructors are in the same room with the presentation. Again the presented material outmatches the instructor in the viewing experience. Instructors use a white backdrop or a green screen in the background and afterward add these shootings over their slides presentation.

This way, they can present themselves talking simultaneously with their slides and in adjacent frames. Intersubjectivity is achieved when at certain points the footage focuses on either the slides or the presenter only.

Using a light board

In lightboard video shoots the lecturer writes on plexiglass. The camera is facing into a mirror and filming through it, so the text that is written on the plexiglass gets reversed. The same time the instructor’s background must be black for the letters to be visible. In this type of videos again the material is more important than the instructor because it is standing between the viewer and the presenter.

Presence active on a whiteboard

In this type of lectures, the narrator moves in front of the content and acts upon it (ex. on a whiteboard) or direct recording of the narrator in traditional lecture context. The video creates a room sense of the two.

Here, the two factors, the instructor’s presence, and instructional media complement each other as learners tend to split their focus to each of those components equally. The advantage of whiteboard presentations is that they are easy to create and don’t require any particular expertise in video editing.

Acting on whiteboard videos can also be combined with animations and other side effects that create a finer intersubjectivity.

Presence in full screen

Most of the video lectures you can find now online are in this category. Videos with the presenter directly speaking to the audience are natural, help learners familiarize with the instructor and therefore build a strong rapport with them.

Full-screen presence can be recorded using the green screen technique, with the instructor can place themselves anywhere (even superimposed to another presentation). Home scene in a well pre-designed place (ex. office) is equally efficient.

Contrary to the previous styles, there is no agency here and the material is speaker-centric. Very common is the use of cueing technique. Cueing refers to the adornment of a lecture with necessary key-words or phrases instructors want to emphasize on.

Those key-words (easily added by any video editing tool) can either overlap the presenter or appear next to them. In each case, instructors must decide in the pre-recording stage where they will put their phrases. Other components added in full-screen presentations are slides, other videos, photos or animations, which enrich the video’s intersubjectivity.

Selfie Videos

Selfie videos are much more lively and engaging, and they make the background much more interesting for the viewer. Selfie videos can serve numerous purposes from traditional lectures with the presence in full screen to extensive field trips. Selfie videos are speaker-centric and the instructional media plays an assistive role. The presenter may be interspersed with slides, animations, other video, images etc.

Autobiographical footage

Autobiographical footages are variant to selfie videos. They are also spontaneous and fun but intent to describe a specific experience in something (usually the presenter’s). The instructor explains the way they achieved something and provides clear steps. Embodiment in the last two categories is similar and can vary.

Conversation

Creating videos where two or more people discuss a topic and export valuable conclusions is a very engaging and authentic way to convey essential messages. At the same time, it is the most effective way to emphasize the people of a lecture video.

Just make sure the conversation is substantial and has something great to offer. Instructional material are usually absent, however the footage may sometimes be adorned with slides or key-words. In this case the speakers usually do not show any intersubjectivity with the material.

Conclusions

Although previous studies have provided many insights about several video styles, the different styles are not comparable in regard to the learning effects because they do not have a common ground. Using the existing styles you can even create a brand new one, that will provide a certain dynamicity between the human embodiment and the instructional media, manifesting the desired degree of agency and intersubjectivity.

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Anthea Papadopoulou
Course Designer & Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.

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