Advice to teachers creating content for online delivery

macbook pro on brown wooden table

As a professional video producer in a department at Utah Valley University that deals with developing online and hybrid classes I felt it might be useful to provide some advice to teachers and professors who are now having to create digital content for some online model.

It seems that in just over a week the entire world has begun to come to stand still. I hope that everyone is taking the proper precautions that are needed for everyone to stay safe.

WELCOME! You’re here because you’re trying to for suggestions on how to be effective in this remarkably interesting time in the world. First, take a deep breath and realize everything is going to be okay and I hope that what I’m going to offer is only just a few tools in the toolbox.

What Do You Need Accomplished?

I know that this hasn’t ever happened and many of you are being asked to step out of your comfort zone to try something that you’ve never tried before. Stop and think about what you need to do.

The first thing you need to do is think about what your teaching, how you teach and what assignments are left in the semester/year. Once you’ve taken inventory you need to then consider:

  • Do you need the students to be “present” with you when you teach?
  • Where can you be flexible?
  • What tools do you have available?

Taking some time to consider those questions will not only help in the effectiveness of how the rest of the semester goes but also make the following decisions easier.

Asynchronous vs Synchronous

There are two paradigms you must understand when it comes to what tools to use. First is do you need students to be synchronous meaning present when teaching or could the material you present be made into something like a video that can be consumed or done asynchronously meaning at any time that is convenient for the student?

To be the most effective I’m going to use one example and share ways to adapt it in both forms. Sharing tools that can be effective in each method. We are going to assume you need to do a lecture and then have some group activity.

Let’s talk discuss synchronous options:


The rise in teleconferencing tools has been big the last several years. You’ve got Zoom, which has offered access to k-12 schools during the covid quarantine. Microsoft teams, this is a tool like Slack, but has a lot more conferencing tools and can be integrated into Canvas depending on your institution. Plus, many more.

For now, I’m going to use Zoom as the choice, but you’d just have to ask your institution what tool they prefer you use.

First, you’d need to let students know that you’d be meeting at either the same time as you normally do OR at an altered time. You’d have to schedule that meeting in zoom, which would spit out a link and a number to the meeting. Zoom is great because it allows individuals to call if they don’t have a computer available. You’d just have to ensure that that you record your live meeting, more on that later.

Now that you have that scheduled, you’ll need to plan. You’d want to do this by testing the software with a friend or family member so that you are comfortable on where and what tools you’ll need to accomplish your teaching. This includes how to share your screen, have chat open, if the software has it quizzes/polls, muting attendees, etc.

Many but not all have some sort of level of break out or at least can create smaller groups. Note: This is where you might have to be flexible some of them make it difficult to create groups prior to your meeting but make it easier to auto fill groups at random.

You should know that if you decide to go the live remote class that you’ll need to plan an additional 10-15 minutes of troubleshooting the first two times. I don’t care how prepared you are it’s going to happen. Something isn’t going to work, and you’ll have to do some google-fu-ing to figure out what’s wrong. Therefore, I recommend you try it a few times before you do it with your students.

Okay, one other thing you’ll have to do is plan to record the session for the inevitable fact that there will be people who can’t or are unable to make it for whatever reason. This will depend on the program you’re using so do your research and then test it.

Even though it’s great for playback for anyone who couldn’t make it but as a video producer I can tell you this is a terrible viewing experience as a student. The recording is long and makes it difficult to finish it, but it is good enough and right now that’s all that matters.

Splendid video by my friend and former college professor Drew Tyler on how to use OBS to make better videos.


Now let’s look how you can use the internet to work in your benefit.

Tools you could use is canvas, if you’re on a mac quicktime recording, loom, camtasia, if available kaltura capture, or even powerpoint.  All these tools have a spectrum of difficult if you’re on a windows computer I’d suggest loom if you’re on a mac I’d recommend QuickTime. If you have it available in your institution, I’d really recommend Kaltura capture.

For now, I’m going to say you use loom. To use loom, you’ll either need to download the extension or desktop application and login using your Gmail account. Note: PowerPoint is also a great option but if it’s any longer than 6 minutes you’re really going to have to wait a long time for it to export.

Here you’d want to prep your lecture with a small bullet point or full script. This will help you stay on topic and even cut your presentation to be shorter. You’d then want to embed that into canvas or whatever learning management platform you are using via an assignment, page, discussion board, or announcement.

Students would then be able to view this video whenever they can.

You’d then want to create a discussion board for each group and let them connect and chat for a day. This allows you to jump in throughout the day and comment on each groups discussion and help move thing along.

Final Thoughts

Each class and need are different, but I encourage you to really take some time to think about not only the needs of your students but yourself. Both synchronous and asynchronous options have pros and cons to them and even though synchronous may feel like only choice take some time and test out the other side, this goes for both sides. You might be surprised what you find.

Feel free to find me on twitter and tweet me your personal questions. I’ll try to help as best as I can.

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