Recorded lectures have become an essential part of online learning environments. They’re also important for maintaining collaboration and connection among classroom community members—even more so for Generation Z students.

Instructors may worry they won’t be able to connect with their students the same way with online recorded lectures. There might be (or, rather, there will be) technical glitches. But recorded lectures have benefits, too—not least of which is the ability to adapt to the needs of students juggling part-time work, family care responsibilities and other commitments.

We’ve put together some best practices to help you create engaging recorded lectures. Done well, this is a powerful way to meet your course requirements and encourage student interaction and participation at a time when it’s needed most. By building in time and activities for students reflection and to apply learnings, recorded lectures also offer plenty of opportunities to make learning more active.

1. Incorporate multimedia elements

Recorded lecture presentations should include more than just a video capture of the instructor talking. Supporting images, GIFs and videos help augment learning, adding the variety students crave. Instructors can embed videos from other sources or their own pre-recorded videos in course modules, homework assignments, interactive digital textbooks, and by interspersing video segments within PowerPoint slides. This is the best way to help students digest learning material by coming at key concepts in different ways.

Studies suggest that learners only retain 10 to 20 percent of spoken or written information after three days. However, they retain nearly 65 percent of visual images. Combining words and text together allows learners to retain up to 83 percent of the information they learn, so instructors should be sure to include these elements in their recorded lectures.

2. Break recorded lectures up into smaller pieces

Make sure you’re not simply recording an hour-long continuous lecture stream. The reason: chunking. Chunking is a learning science strategy that breaks down lecture content into smaller pieces. The brain needs this assistance because our memories can only hold a limited amount of information at a time. It’s best to keep video segments to 10 to 15 minutes in length for this reason. It is also important that video content is organized in a logical and intuitive way to make it easier for students to navigate in your learning management system (LMS). Encapsulating video alongside other related content helps to create deeper and more meaningful connections and makes it easier for learners to find and digest this content.

3. Plan ahead

When recording a lecture, keep the information simple. While it’s helpful to include slideshows, animations and other elements in your Zoom call or online course, too many of these elements can be counterproductive.

Planning video content ahead of time helps maximize the student learning experience. Create a brief outline for each video, including the learning objectives you will cover, along with opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned. This ensures that your course material is presented in a logical manner and will help you determine which course concepts fit best within a particular medium. You should also plan to incorporate breaks between your recorded lecture videos to allow students the opportunity to assess what they’ve learned or apply the information using discussion questions or problem-solving exercises.

4. Try to keep on-screen text to a minimum

While it is true that people learn better from words and pictures than they do from graphics alone, it’s also true that they learn better from slides that include just pictures. Where possible, any textual information should actually be spoken instead of written on the screen.

Here’s why: too much visual information can overload the learner. When text and pictures appear on the screen at the same time, our brains have to work that much harder to take in both, which can be mentally taxing for some students. Therefore, it’s better to show videos, photos or illustrations of the material and then back those visual elements up with a talk track in your lecture recording.

5. Use pre-recorded videos to build community

It’s not surprising that students learning online often contend with feelings of isolation. In an online class environment, it can be difficult for students to ask questions, collaborate and otherwise communicate with their instructor and peers. For this reason, it’s important to be authentic in your videos. Record them once. Small mistakes are okay—they’ll help students relate to you. You can also encourage students to share their own video presentations through their webcams or smartphones to help to create connections between peers.

When considering lecture capture and audio recording software, check with your institution. There’s a good chance they have a system already in place that makes recording lectures easier. These pre-designed systems may also come with a screen recorder or screen capture function. This allows you to record your slides, on-screen animations and other multimedia elements in one fell swoop.

Putting time and thought into your recorded lectures will pay dividends. By making your presentations more engaging, and following some simple best practices, students will be more engaged, more invested in your course and more likely to succeed.

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