How and why to use asynchronous videos in your online courses

While Zoom was the “it” word during the pivot to online learning throughout COVID-19, it is high time to consider alternatives to synchronous online classes that benefit student learning. After all, “zoom fatigue” has real effects on cognitive processing (Waldbieser, 2021). While people will continue to zoom in for a while, taking the time to create, produce, and implement asynchronous videos or asynchronous video assignments for your online course can bring multiple benefits.

Asynchronous videos get an A

One of the main benefits of using asynchronous videos in your online course is that the videos provide a sense of intimacy in the classroom, which leads to increased instructor presence. Online courses tend to have higher attrition rates than face-to-face teaching, so instructors need to cultivate a sense of “connectedness and a decreased sense of isolation among online learners” (Collins et al., 2020, p. 53). Students can interact with each other through asynchronous video assignments. Instructors can create prompts in programs, such as VoiceThread and Flipgrid, that require students to interact through asynchronous videos.

According to the online environment interactivity/community process model of Lear et al. (2010), student engagement increases when students interact and feel part of a learning community. Similarly, social interaction leads to the construction of knowledge via the community of inquiry framework (Garrison et al., 2000). Both frameworks emphasize that interaction within a learning community leads to the co-construction of knowledge.

Asynchronous video assignments provide a means of student-student interaction in which individuals do not need to coordinate meeting times. The flexibility is especially beneficial for mature students located in multiple time zones. In addition, asynchronous videos allow “to improve collaboration and the feeling of “trust” of the members of the group” (West, 2021, p. 4). Introverted students, who often disengage in synchronous meetings, may take as long as necessary to create content or respond to their fellow students. In fact, asynchronous videos give all students time to think before interacting (Lowenthal et al., 2020, p. 368).

Asynchronous videos can also increase instructor-student interactions and instructor social presence (Collins et al., 2019). To do this, the instructors record videos to leave comments on the students’ work. This is particularly useful when instructors can film and point out places in a student’s submission on which feedback is based (Lowenthal et al., 2020; Martin & Bollinger, 2018).

Instructors can also increase their social presence in online classes by recording brief, informal video announcements to:

  • summarize recent discussions or lectures
  • provide answers to common questions
  • raise common issues
  • give encouragement
  • remind students of upcoming projects or deadlines

If done consistently, these weekly update videos can become a regular part of the weekly assignments for online students. Students are also regularly exposed to the instructor and learn about their personalities. In their survey-based study, Martin and Bollinger (2018) found that online students prefer regular announcements from their instructors.

Tips for creating asynchronous videos

Creating asynchronous videos for your online course doesn’t have to be a big production. Instructors only need a smartphone and learning objectives to start preparing for recording.

Castillo et al. (2021) provide a comprehensive guide and workflow for creating asynchronous videos for your classroom. Although there are many factors to consider, starting with a lens, script, microphone and lighting is a great start!

First, instructors need to decide on the purpose of their video to decide what type of video to record. For example, if you want to use slides with pictures to reinforce learning about a topic, you can create a talking head screencast or video. On the contrary, if you wish to invite a guest speaker, you can follow the interview recording protocol. (Interviews are also a good way to break down the number of lesson videos used in online courses.)

Once you’ve decided on your goal, you need to create a script for your video. You don’t have to write everything down word for word; however, if you do, it will be easier to use a teleprompter. In addition to free website offers, such as https://cueprompter.com/, there are a few apps that let you turn your phone or computer into a teleprompter. Having a script also makes it easy to create a transcript with a video to post with the uploaded recording. Try not to read the script, if possible, to sound more natural and engaging in your recording.

Castillo et al. (2021) claim that it is better to create a low quality video with good sound than a video with all the hard-to-hear bells and whistles. There are several affordable microphones available at low cost, the most common being USB microphones or lapel microphones. Reducing background noise can result in higher quality audio recordings. Stay away from the fridge or other appliances and consider recording in a closet if your face isn’t on screen.

When lighting your video, consistency is key. Use natural light if you don’t have a lighting budget. If you have an incandescent light or other lighting setup, make sure the light is behind the phone or camera you’re using.

Recording asynchronous video doesn’t have to be a big production!

Finally, once you’ve recorded your video, you can add special features using websites like Canva or Camtasia or other video editing software.

Due to the time and effort required for asynchronous video production, videos should be kept short. Additionally, shorter videos will be less likely to overwhelm students’ short-term memory and will be a useful learning product to use in future iterations of your course.


Kimberly Rehak is an instructional designer in the College of General Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Rehak is also a doctoral candidate in education in the study and teaching program at Indiana University in Pennsylvania. Rehak’s research interests are curriculum development and evaluation and inclusive instructional design. He taught English language to adults for 20 years, while also working as a foreign language test developer.

References

Castillo, Calvitti, K., Shoup, J., Rice, M., Lubbock, H. and Oliver, KH (2021). Production process for creating educational videos. CBE Teaching Life Sciences, 20(2), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-06-0120

Collins, K., Groff, S., Mathena, C. and Kupczynski, L. (2019). Asynchronous video and developing instructor social presence and student engagement. The Online Turkish Journal of Distance Education, 20(1), 53–70. https://doi.org/10.17718/tojde.522378

Garrison, D., Anderson, T. & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: a retrospective. Internet and higher education, 13(1-2), 5-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.003

Lear, J., Ansorge, CY Steckelberg, A. (2010). Interactivity/community process model for online education environment. Online Learning and Teaching Journal, 6(1), 71-77.

Lowenthal, P., Borup, J., West, RE and Archambault, L. (2020). Thinking Beyond Zoom: Using Asynchronous Video to Maintain Connection and Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 28(2), 161–169.

Martin, F. & Bollinger, D. (2018). Engagement matters: Students’ perceptions of the importance of engagement strategies in the online learning environment. Online learning, 22(1), 205-222.

Waldbieser, J. (2021). Science just confirmed what you already knew: zoom fatigue is real. Atlassian. https://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/science-just-confirmed-what-you-already-knew-zoom-fatigue-is-real

West, RE (2021). Understand how asynchronous video can be critical to learning success. In RE West & J. Borup (Eds.), Teaching with Asynchronous Video. EdTech books. https://edtechbooks.org/asynchronous_video/unbounded_by_time



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