Success with Course Videos

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Chuck Ghilani teaches courses in surveying engineering at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. A few years back, a publisher asked him to produce some videos to accompany a textbook he had written. Realizing that these videos could aid his students, he started developing videos of his class notes. The following semester, he and colleague Thomas Seybert piloted the videos in their own classes; when students' exam scores increased compared with those from the previous year, Chuck knew he was onto something powerful.

Since then, he's produced about 140 videos, typically about 15 minutes long. In each video, he animates PowerPoint slides so students can revisit lecture material whenever they find the need. All the while, he's providing narration that explains the concepts. "This allows students to go back when doing homework," Chuck says. "Student satisfaction went up, as well as their understanding of the topic. And they're doing it on their own, in a format they're very familiar with." (See one of the videos by clicking here.)

In addition, he reports in a paper co-written with Thomas Seybert that students continue coming to class--it seems they're using the videos mainly to review unclear concepts. His latest videos involve information on how to use the software and hardware to perform a GNSS survey in the practical field exercises. Students can access these short videos (less than 5 minutes) using their smartphones via a QR code. This allows the students to get help from Chuck even when he's on the other side of his 52-acre campus.

In the two years since Chuck started making videos, his process has evolved. Early on, when trying to edit out mistakes, he got good at editing out single words. Then he realized it was easier to redo a sentence rather than a single word. Now he redoes the entire narrative for a slide if he's unhappy with the results. (He uses the software Camtasia Studio for the recording and editing.)

Making good course videos requires a large time commitment, but remember that every Penn State location has a Media Commons installation where faculty can get support in making quality digital products. If you're interested, start out small, with a single video....

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