Use YouTube in Class, Minus the Distraction

Written by the Instructional Design Team

You may sometimes find a good video from YouTube that you would like to share with your students. Or you may want to share a video you produced yourself with your students. It can be annoying to go to YouTube, search for the video and find that you have to wait with your class for the advertisement to finish before the real video starts. You will also be seeing “similar videos” alongside the video you would like to show, and some of these videos are irrelevant or even inappropriate. It is therefore much more desirable to embed the video in your OpenClass site directly. David Christianson of the Adams Center created a video that shows you how to embed a video in your class site:

Here are some additional tips for embedding videos:

  • You can also embed videos from Vimeo or many other sources into your OpenClass sites, as long as the site has an embed code for you to copy. The methods are similar to the procedure David described.

  • You can create and embed a “playlist” in your course as well. A playlist will show a series of videos you have created for a particular content area (as shown below).  However, to reduce cognitive overload, you might choose to embed videos one at a time in your course modules.

  • YouTube also allows you to create automatic closed captioning which you can then edit. This feature is helpful when you want to create alternative text representations of your videos for a variety of reasons, such as ADA compliance. It should also help new international students whose native language is not English.

Please contact the Adams Center Instructional Design team if you need help using videos in your course.

Teaching from Your Screen: Screencasting for Your Class

I don’t know about you, but whenever something at home breaks and I am not aware of a good solution, I go to YouTube to see if someone can show me how to do it.  My children do this too, going to YouTube when they practice their musical instruments to see how others play a particular piece.

Instructional videos can help learners to spend extra time on learning something, and such extended time on task has the potential to improve learning outcomes. This is one of the many reasons professors are increasingly “flipping” their classrooms to post instructional videos online while reserving classroom time for group work, interaction, discussions and other such activities.

You have probably seen many of your peers using something called “screencasting” to teach. Screencasting allows you to record what is going on on your screen which you would like to show to students. For instance, you can go through your PowerPoint slides, demonstrate the navigation of your class sites, or show how to use a software your major requires students to learn.

Here are a few options for producing screencast sessions:

  • Camtasia is a professional screencasting software which you can use to record. It has really powerful tools for editing. It is not free, but we still have a few licenses left if anyone is interested in using it.

  • Jing is a free application which you can use to record screen sessions for up to five minutes. One great benefits of this software is that instantly generates a URL that you can copy and share with students. You can use it to document a problem you encounter and share it with the Adams Center or IT. It may be more efficient than describing the problem in text. We found it to be the most convenient way to record quick demo videos you do not intend to reuse anyway.

  • Screencast-o-matic is another free web-based application that you can use to record up to 15 minutes of content. Its strong advantage is its ability for you to add a video of you talking alongside to add a personal touch. It also offers some basic tools for editing. Its disadvantage is that it is not yet possible to use with Google Chrome. Screencast sessions produced with Screencast-o-matic can then be published to YouTube or downloaded to use locally.

  • Quicktime player also has the option for you to record screen sessions. Videos thus produced can be downloaded locally or uploaded to a host of web storage sites. This is an application you can use right now, as you probably have the software on your computer.


  • Consider limiting the length of your videos. Many screencast services provide free recording for a limited time, such as five minutes or fifteen minutes. However, it is desirable to break down long lectures into shorter units anyway for reasons related to attention span and possibility of technical issues when longer sessions are produced.

  • Focus on producing sessions around concrete concepts or activities. This will help you to index, categorize and reuse some of these sessions, and help your students to search and retrieve them if you tag or name them based on the content you have discussed. Though this does not seem to be a big deal at the beginning of your use of screencasting sessions, you will soon find that your content adds up and you do not want yourself or your students to get lost when trying to find a particular screencast video you have previously recorded.

  • Find the time and space for recording. Interruptions during recording can be annoying. Try to do so when you have a quiet environment, or find a time when few people are around, or put a note on your office door saying that you are recording.

  • Test before you record. You do not want to get in a situation when you found that the entire 10 minutes of your recording was done while you have not turned your audio or video on. Always start by recording a short test video, and play back to make sure everything works before you record the real video.

  • Prepare your computer for recording. It is a good idea that you stay focused on your recording with minimal distraction from your computer. Before recording, make sure you organize your desktop to move items away from the recording screen. Keep a clean desktop. Move items to a folder that cannot be viewed directly and try to use a clean, non-distracting background. Before recording, you should also close programs that may show pop-up content such as calendars reminders, mail notice and any other programs that may push notifications to your recording screen.

  • Make your video “timeless”. If you intend to produce a high-quality video that will be re-used semester after semester, try to avoid references that are specific to only the current semester, references like “last week we discussed…” “tomorrow we will cover…”. Recording a good video takes time and lots of preparation and such investment will bring greater return if you can reuse them in future semesters.

Do you have any other suggestions for screencasting?  We’d love to hear them.  Share your experience in the comments!