Why educators should appear on-screen for instructional videos

Instructional videos have become a core part of online learning over the past year, and their importance will only continue to grow moving forward. In hybrid learning and the post-pandemic world, teachers will likely flip their classrooms more to take full advantage of face-to-face class time. But not all instructional videos are created equal, and for distance or even hybrid learning to be viable, it’s crucial to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to video-based learning. A recent peer-reviewed study featured on EdSurge (Jan, 2021) looked more closely at the effectiveness of appearing on-screen — read on for insights and tips. 

What works: Creating a connection with students 

When exploring the “theory of embodied instruction” in their study, the researchers found support for higher engagement and better learning when the teacher looks directly at the camera. By making virtual  “eye contact,” the instructor creates a feeling of social partnership, which helps the students feel more invested in the material. 

Additionally, seeing the teachers serves to maintain the important ‘teacher presence’ that can be lost in voice-over screen-share videos and live stream classrooms.

What works: Focusing student attention in the video

As in the physical classroom, the teacher is there to guide the learning by helping to focus student attention on key points, selected imagery, or data. The ability to do so while remaining on-screen with the content using gestures and body language, whether in a recorded video or live stream, serves to maintain engagement and enhance the learning. 

What doesn’t work: Looking away or pulling focus  

Simply being on camera isn’t enough, though. If you’re busy reading off your notes or a nearby whiteboard, then your students miss out on the benefits of facial cues and may end up feeling disconnected or disinterested. Similarly, if you simply screen share a text-heavy slide, eye contact and facial cues are lost, along with “teacher presence.”

The study also tested having the educator stand behind a transparent whiteboard while they wrote notes. However, because the face naturally draws our attention, this ended up being distracting and pulled focus away from the material. 

Stay connected while you work remotely with Prezi Video

The solution: Prezi Video 

Ultimately, the study’s preliminary findings indicate that effective use of instructional videos can make a clear difference in online learning. To help you juggle presenting your class material while also engaging your students, you should use a tool like Prezi Video. With Prezi Video, you bring your content next to you in real time, so you can interact with the content without losing that human connection. This can be done in both recorded videos and in video conference class sessions.

Watch this Prezi video from Paul Teske, our Teacher in Residence, for a closer look at the factors that make instructional videos successful:

For even more inspiration, check out these great instructional videos from other educators. And to get started with Prezi Video, be sure to dive into our educator resources for more information.

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