Month: April 2017

One Way to Make a Lecture Video On Your Own

Having written about conceptual and creative issues relating to lecture video creation, I’m devoting this entry to the technical process of creating videos. As before, I’ll note that I’ve taken one of many possible approaches to creating lecture videos, and not necessarily one that jibes with your teaching style. Ideally, this entry will inspire you to move from thought to action, from having conversations about what you’d like a video lecture to be to actually making one.

I’ll focus mostly on visual elements and assume that you have already written the lecture script. I haven’t tried to write a lecture script as I create visual elements to go with it, though I’d imagine you could do both at the same time. Having the script in place before you start assembling visuals ensures that some of the big questions about how to teach a lesson – what concepts are to be covered, what the structure of the lecture will be – have already been answered. This lets you focus on deciding what visuals best represent your concepts in an engaging fashion.

I’ll discuss three stages of the video-making process: creating visual, recording visuals, and editing. In the table below, I provide a few examples of software you can use for each of these stages. Software, as you probably already know, varies in terms of the ease with which you can access and use it. It’s wise to spend a little time trying out several software options before settling on a combination that works best for you.

Finding visuals Chrome, Google Images, YouTube
Creating visuals Powerpoint, Prezi, Powtoon
Recording visuals Jing, Camtasia, Snagit, Screen-Cast-O-Matic
Editing visuals Camtasia, iMovie, Adobe Premier


My software roster – Google Chrome, Google Images, YouTube, Powerpoint, and Camtasia – is the result of my existing familiarity and comfort with Google software and Powerpoint, and the generosity of my college, which owns a license that allows faculty to use Camtasia.[1]

A screen capture of Camtasia for Windows

When I’m ready to start, I’ll open Camtasia and select “record ”. This allows me to use the web camera attached to my computer to record myself speaking and/or record anything on my computer’s screen. I tend to use the video-recording ability of the web camera sparingly. Many teachers prefer to record videos of themselves lecturing and include a “picture-in-picture” (PIP) video in the corner of the screen throughout the video. While this may make abstract material easier to relate to and provide a “human touch” to the often-impersonal world of online learning, I feel as though the writing style of the lecture and the recorded voice present enough of a personality for the purposes of my course. As with so many things, it depends on what you’re teaching and on your personal teaching style.

This is how “picture in picture” (PIP) looks.

Once the audio track is recorded, I switch over to either YouTube (for lecture passages that would best be accompanied by an existing video clip) or Powerpoint (when I want to create a visual from scratch). If I have an existing YouTube clip in mind, I’ll cue up the clip, start recording my screen using Camtasia, and then play the YouTube clip. I typically use only part of the YouTube videos I find, starting the recording a bit before the section in the video I intend to use and stopping the recording a bit after it ends; you can always clip the ends off of your recording when you edit. Once the clip is recorded, I’ll line it up with a particular spot in the audio lecture, trimming as necessary (see video below).

In cases in which I want to design my own visual, I’ll go to Powerpoint and create a new blank slide to which I’ll add elements – text, shapes, or pictures. When I just want to create a static picture of these elements, I’ll save a slide and import it directly to Camtasia. But when I want to animate the elements so as to engage the viewer and/or to make a point clearer, I use Powerpoint’s animation feature (see video below).

Once I’ve created the Powerpoint animation, I’ll start recording my screen using Camtasia and then play the animation in Powerpoint. This yields a clip that I can then edit and arrange alongside the audio lecture track. These three elements – the audio lecture track, animated Powerpoint slides, and video clips – are the basic material that makes up my video lectures.

This description only scratches the surface of what you can do with this software. As I mentioned before, one often feels overwhelmed by all of the options presented by digital tools. The best way to avoid being overwhelmed is to think back to your original vision for the video lectures, and your original vision as an educator. You may not end up with precisely what you wanted to create when you set out, but having a vision that is anchored in sound pedagogical principles will make the hundreds of little decisions you have to make along the way easier.

There are many ways to convey ideas to students online. You can create a slide-deck, or a podcast, or a text document. But instead you chose to create a video. What can you do with this tool that you can’t do with any other tool? When I watch many of the more popular educational videos, I get the sense that educators aren’t using the medium to its full potential. There are entertaining videos that aren’t pedagogically sound. There are videos that are made by individuals who are clearly experts in their fields that are dreadfully boring. That’s what makes the act of creating a lecture video at this time so exciting – the work you’re doing is helping to answer that as-yet-unanswered question: what does a great lecture video in your area of expertise look like?

[1.] The Innovation Team is also able to make Camtasia available to faculty who are developing material for online courses offered as part of Bama By Distance degree programs.  Contact the Innovation Team at or 205-348-3984 for more information.