There are a variety of options for delivering your lecture content in a digital environment. However, before diving in and recording a lecture, take some time to consider the following.

Avoid Large Files and Long Recordings 

It is essential for both technical and pedagogical reasons to keep any multimedia recordings as short as possible. In general, your video files should be smaller than 500 MB, and should be 5-10 minutes maximum. Students may have limited access to high speed internet and downloading large files could take hours. It's also important because viewing a lecture online is not the same as listening to one in-person. Research shows that many students don’t make it all the way through longer videos in one sitting, and often disengage as early as 5 minutes into a video lecture. If you must include a longer video lecture, consider segmenting your lecture into a series of shorter videos that are meaningfully separated by topic. 


Narrated Powerpoint: allows you to embed audio files on each slide, so students can hear your instruction on each of your slides. As a general principle, it’s helpful and appreciated by students if you include your talking points or course notes in addition to the audio recordings.

Screencasts allow you to walk students through a process (e.g., demo software or how to work through a calculation) or talk through a slide presentation. This method creates a video recording of your computer screen with audio.

Consider the Layout

Student attention and engagement online functions a little differently than in the lecture hall. Including a video recording of an instructor on screen (e.g., ‘talking head’) is not necessarily the best option. In fact, research shows that videos that include visuals of the instructor are a source of distraction and can actually impair learning

If you like being on screen and part of your instructional magic comes from your charismatic nature, then consider creating a short introductory video to the week’s lesson/topic and/or a short concluding video where you can appear in full. This can work well to build rapport and convey a sense of your personality. However, when it comes to the essential lecture materials, it is typically preferable for students to focus on the content rather than on the presenter. You may want to consider these options to create some variety:

  • Break things up between your lecture content and reading. For example, present a 5-minute video introduction to a topic, then have students do the required reading, then perhaps introduce a short activity (e.g., answer a concept check question) before presenting another short video segment wrapping up the topic.
  • Build a text-only version of an existing power-point presentation. You can add your speaking notes to your presentation, saving the file as a PDF and posting to LEARN. Students can then read your presentation at their own pace.
  • Create an audio presentation from your slides. You can record an audio-only version of your presentation and upload it to LEARN alongside your power-point presentation slides. Signal to students in your audio which slide you are on so they can follow along. Alternatively, create a narrated Powerpoint using your favourite tool.
  • Simply write your lecture as prose instead or include your detailed course notes. You can create text-based content pages in LEARN or convert your text document to a PDF and upload it to LEARN. If you wish, you can also include any visuals you would normally show in a lecture. If posting your course notes, please be sure that they can be fully understood on their own or in conjunction with visuals or examples you have provided, and include all the ideas that you would have shared verbally during your lecture. Text-based content is often preferred by students as they can read them at their own pace, and they can easily use search to find and review key concepts when they need to study.

Note: In a face-to-face class, students can ask questions at any point in a lecture, and instructors can modify their lectures on the fly according to their sense of whether students are understanding the material. An online lecture, in contrast, is less "flexible": it delivers course content in a single, undeviating way. Students can, of course, pose questions about the online lecture's content after they watch it, via email or in a discussion group -- but this isn't the same as being able to ask questions as the lecture is being delivered. Accordingly, it's a good idea to supplement online lectures with materials that provide alternative ways of explaining the same content -- for example, a document or a link to a YouTube or Khan Academy video that explains it from a different angle, or provides additional, relevant examples. 

Lecture Less without Cutting Content

An online environment can often create the opportunity for lecturing less without any reduction in the type, amount, and quality of the content that students encounter. To reduce the amount of lecture content that you need to create for your course, you could:

  • Link to existing online material. This can include things like open textbooks and other open educational resources, as well as existing publicly available multi-media that covers your topic.

  • Substitute an extra reading. Perhaps there is a good article that could be assigned in lieu students watching a lecture recording.
  • Emphasize existing course readings. Point out the important sections of the reading, and add comments and clarifications with minimal repetition or summary of the content. You can also combine readings with a simple comprehension activity to help make sure that students have mastered the material.

Student Video Submissions 

Consider requiring students to submit a presentation or other project by creating a video individually or in a group. Students should submit videos using Bongo, the video assignment tool in LEARN rather than Dropbox. You should also offer alternative audio- or text-only methods of completing the assignment for any students who have difficulty creating or uploading a video for technical or accessibility reasons.

If using a LEARN Dropbox for video submissions, there is a limit to the file size a student can upload.


  • Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2016). Effects of observing the instructor draw diagrams on learning from multimedia messages. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(4), 528.
  • Kim, J., Guo, P. J., Seaton, D. T., Mitros, P., Gajos, K. Z., & Miller, R. C. (2014). Understanding in-video dropouts and interaction peaks inonline lecture videos. Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 31–40).
  • Wilson, K. E., Martinez, M., Mills, C., D'Mello, S., Smilek, D., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Instructor presence effect: Liking does not always lead to learning. Computers & Education122, 205-220.