Video Lectures Aren’t Easy

When you’re watching a (possibly very boring) YouTube video that your instructor has made, you might not realize the amount of labor that has gone into those 10 minutes.

For me, at least, here’s how it generally breaks down:

  • 5 minutes deciding that a particular topic requires a video lecture.
  • 45-60 minutes creating a 12-15 slide PowerPoint or Prezi. This includes finding reusable images, memorable quotes, and good examples. This also is quick for me, as I typically agonize over every font choice.
  • About 30 minutes recording a screen-capture video with my audio. I use Camtasia, and I don’t include my own talking head in the corner because I usually just let the recording go, coughing and mistakes and meowing cats. If there’s a huge interruption, like a screaming child, I do hit pause. Sometimes I do the same “take” four times in a row until I get the pacing and intonation just right.
  • Alternatively, when I’m doing a video showing how to set formatting in Word or search library databases, I just start recording and talk my way through things. This eliminates the needs for a PowerPoint, but the recording takes longer.
  • Because I do just record until I hit the final slide, it takes me another 45-60 minutes to edit the 30 minutes down to 10-15 usable minutes. I remove my pauses and my audible deep breaths. I choose the best take out of the multiple ones. Sometimes I have to rearrange huge chunks of video because I remember two minutes after the fact that I needed to say something about the slide three views back. This is generally what my Camtasia editing panel looks like, with lots of tiny chunks.
  • 10 minutes exporting the video to mp4 format.
  • 5 minutes or so to upload the video to one of my class YouTube channels.

Below, you can see a lecture that started from two recordings: a master one on the left and an introduction / title slide on the right. Across the bottom are a few dozen video/audio chunks; I have removed something in between. All together, they cover about 2 minutes. When I say I (have to) do a lot of editing, I’m not kidding.

Screen capture of Camtasia video editing software

So on the low side, it take me 140 minutes (2 hours and 20 minutes) to execute a 10-15 minute video lecture. On the high side, it runs closer to 3 hours.

Do I have to spend so much time editing? Well, the lectures certainly SOUND better and more professional without me sneezing. And I doubt students want to suffer through 30 minutes of rambling. I try to keep them under 15 minutes because that’s a reasonable amount of time for someone to pay attention. I have distilled what could have been 2 to 3 times as long into a sleeker, more confident delivery. It’s like the best parts of a lecture, with all the filler and lame jokes conveniently chopped.

Could I get better at recording things in one take? I actually AM better than I was two years ago, but as a perfectionist, I don’t think I will ever do a 10-minute lecture in 12 minutes.

But if you’re wondering, “is it easier to do video lectures than a 50-minute classroom session?” the answer, for me, is a clear and definitive NO. I don’t do them because they are less work for me. I do them for my online classes so students experience simultaneous visual and audio assistance and hopefully, more success on their assignments.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to editing some video 🙂




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