Video Production Best Practices for Online Courses

Computer screen showing a video with other video links on the side

Video production is not what it used to be! In high school, I used to sit in a dimly lit room, with multiple TV monitors, splicing tape with a razor blade to make edits. Back then, tape was expensive, editing video was manual labor, and few resources were shared between hundreds of students. Sadly, when brought up to faculty, making a video often conjures up this antiquated idea of video production. Well, good news! Nowadays, making a video is as simple as ever and all you need is a cellphone and/or a laptop webcam.

Learn more about creating “Effective Online Videos” via Vanderbilt’s website.

The first step for incorporating videos into your online course is simply picking up the phone and pressing record. You can use the camera application on your phone, press record, and upload it to your LMS (learning management system). For Canvas users, the Canvas Teacher’s application (iPhone and Android) can be used to add video prompts to discussion posts, give feedback to a student’s assignment, or add a short video lecture to an assignment(s).

Now that the technology is out of the way let’s take another small step to make your video really stand out (i.e. more professional). Below is a list of small, free steps, that you can take to help make your videos more watchable.


  • Keep the video’s short, relevant, and related. Shorter videos are easier to digest and help keep student’s attention. When in doubt, keep your videos around 5-10 minutes long as a best practice.

Using Visuals

  • Use a tripod or lean your phone/camera on a solid surface when filming to prevent shaky video.
  • Film your videos in different locations, spaces, and places. Switching up the background can help prevent viewer fatigue and lowers the chance that students accidentally miss/skip a video.
  • Panopto offers a simple way to show images, PowerPoint slides, and your computer screen as well as your face in a video.
  • Bring in images, historical items, props, and other visual references, when you can, to help students visualize the material.
  • Hold your phone in a landscape (horizontal) orientation to avoid filming vertical videos.


  • Locate the microphone(s) on your camera or phone. Make sure the microphones are not obstructed by a phone case, your hands, and/or a tripod clamp.
  • Purchase or check out a lavalier microphone, commonly known as a lapel microphone, to capture clearer voice audio and prevent external noises from impacting your video.


  • Open the window blinds to let daylight in. Even better, record your videos outside for optimal sunlight.
  • Make a 10 second practice video to test a locations lighting. Bad lighting can make your videos dark and hard to watch.


  • Write out a script for your video. Even though writing a script seems tedious, scripts are a wonderful way to prevent rambling and refine the videos subject matter.
  • Bulleted lists, with pivotal key points, can be used to keep you on track when you don’t have time to write out a script.
  • You do not have follow the script 100% of the time! It is important to improvise as it helps add emotion and helps build teaching presence.

The first step to successful online videos is making videos. The second step is making small changes to make your video a little bit better. Simply put, video is iterative process and should be an extension of your teaching and not an obstacle. We hope these simple video tips will help you in your online courses.