7. Professional Online Lectures


An important factor for high quality online learning is equivalency. Equivalency means that the student will have an equivalent learning experience online as they would face-to-face (f2f). This does not mean the same learning experience, it just means equivalent. If there were important lectures in the f2f course on complex topics, then  the same learning opportunities should be afforded the online student. The instructor can host a synchronous (real time) online lecture or an asynchronous (everyone on their own time) online lecture. In a flipped learning (blended learning) situation, the content in this chapter can be used to create high quality lectures for students to view outside class, so that class time can be focused on interactive group exercises. Following we will cover some information, approaches, and best practices related to all of these types of online lectures.


After reading and reviewing this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Understand the difference between synchronous and asynchronous online lectures.
  2. Know when one type of online lecture is best suited to the learning needs over another.
  3. Be able to list the best practices and considerations to keep in mind when designing and hosting an online lecture.
  4. Have an understanding of various tools to use for different types of online lectures.


Section 1: Introduction

Online lecture, videos, or screencasts created by an instructor can have a positive impact on students’ attitudes towards their learning experience. Students may believe that they comprehend the content better due to hearing their instructor’s voice. Students also believe they can work at their own pace because of the ability replay the recorded video. Guerrero, Baumgartel, and Zobott (2013) developed a study comparing experiences of two sections of students within a transformation of pedagogy setting that had similar traits to flipped learning. Section 1 did not view screencasts and Section 2 did view screencasts. Guerrero et al. state “Findings from instructor insights reflect many of the positive comments made by students regarding the use of online notes. Students in Section 2 seemed more aware of the content being covered each day and came to class prepared to engage with group members on the content.” The screencasts allowed students to view the lecture outside of class. Students were able to gain an initial understanding and went to class prepared with questions along with applicable knowledge for the face-to-face activities. Guerrero et al. (2013) explained that students from Section 1 received more “conventional” education in which students took notes during class with hands-on learning integrated throughout the face-to-face meetings.” Students from Section 1 asked more definition-based and procedural questions while students from Section 2 asked more application-oriented and conceptual questions. When students ask more application-oriented questions this is indicative of progressing towards higher order thinking skills such as applying and analyzing.

Screencasts can be utilized to explain complex concepts or for introductions. Screencasts can include a webcam that features the instructor’s face along with audio commentary. Instructor presence is integral for all learning environments, but the challenges regarding interaction within online learning can be met with screencasts. Jones, Kolloff, and Kolloff, (2006) state “The introductory video can aid in communicating the organization and expectations to the students […] Teachers provide intellectual leadership and share their knowledge of the subject matter with their students. The instructors must be able to communicate the intellectual climate of the course and serve as a model for their students” (pp. 1253-1254). Jones et al. (2006) harp on the significance of instructor-created videos because of the equivalency that can be fostered from the presence that is exuded. Instructor made videos such as screencasts humanizes the learning experience. Jones et al. (2006) state “Being able to hear the instructor’s tone, humor, and see their body language helps to make the information real for the students. The participants report that they felt as if the introductory video gave them a sense of “being in class” and provided them a familiar feeling of “communicating face-to-face.”

Whether a course is blended or fully online, screencasted videos created by the instructor can enhance student engagement because of the audio and visual components. Hearing and seeing the instructor on a regular basis creates a community of learners that connects students to instructors while legitimizing an educational experience that may occur globally or locally.

Tweet Chat: #virtuolearn

Why is it important for the student to see or hear the instructor’s voice in an online course? What other ways can be used to build connections in the virtual classroom?

Section 2: Asynchronous Lectures

Video:       How to make Video with PowerPoint

Link: https://youtu.be/CSHD3mrB3JI

Asynchronous lectures are online lectures that are done on the participant’s own time. The instructor and student do not need to be present at the same time. This is a good type of online lecture for fully asynchronous online courses in which students are not required to attend any real-time sessions.

Effective Recorded Lectures for Online Courses

Recorded lectures for online courses provide the opportunity for explicit explanations of a concept. Instructors can use screencasting software or web conferencing software to record microlectures. Brown, Luterbach, and Sugar (2009) state “Wouter, Paas, & Merrienboer (2008) observe that the instructional methods of modeling and vicarious learning, in which experts perform problem-solving tasks for learners while explaining their actions are a good fit with teaching task performance.” Screencasting offers the opportunity for instructors to record a video that captures the task performance along with audio commentary explaining the process. Brown et al. (2009) state “Screencasting technology fits well with this instructional approach in that it presents digital video of the expert’s actions for the learner to see while simultaneously presenting the expert’s audio commentary on his/her actions.” Screencasting also supports Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML). The CTML states that students learn better from words (spoken or typed) and graphics, rather than just words alone (Mayer, 2005). Screencasting provides the combination of graphics and words that encompasses the practical vision of the CTML. The words can be in the form of audio commentary or added as callouts to highlight key points during the screencast.

Recording a screencast entails structural elements and instructional strategies that can impact student learning. Sugar, Brown, and Luterbach (2010) state “Structural elements are those that describe the format of a screencast in terms of sectioning, screen recording, and general narrative elements.” Sugar et al. (2010) identified three structural elements after analyzing 37 screencasts. The structural elements include bumpers, screen movement, and narration.

Bumpers are considered the introductory and concluding statements for the screencast. They identify the beginning and the ending of the screencast. Bumpers can also be utilized to provide a brief introduction of the topic being presented in the screencast.

Screen movement during a screencast can be considered static or dynamic. Dynamic screen movement follows the cursor and may zoom in to focus on particular images or text. This can be helpful when identifying key points on a document with a small font size. Static movement is when the screen does not follow the cursor. This is evident when simply presenting the content for a slideshow presentation.

Narration is the audio commentary for the screencast which can be explicit or implicit. Explicit narration explains each step such as “Click on the edit button in order to edit the site.” Implicit narration could be “Edit the page then click save.” Notice the implicit narration does not explain where the edit button is located because of the implication that the student already knows where the “edit” button is located. Explicit and implicit narration depends on the background knowledge for the students. A student that has limited experience with the topic will require explicit instructions compared to someone with significant experience may only need implicit instructions.

Best Practices for Creating Recorded Online Lectures 

  1. Scripts: Write a script of what you want to say, to make sure the most important things are covered. This can then be used as the transcript in the video to attend to ADA compliance.
  2. Storyboards: Design a story board, which is just a plan of what will be said, shown, and described. This helps guide the project to make sure it covers the needed material.
  3. Learning Nuggets: Break the topics down into bite-sized ’learning nuggets’. Keep narrated lecture videos to 15 minutes or less, with 10 minutes being the optimal time. People will not sit through longer video lectures.
  4. Colors: Think about text and content colors to make sure they are easy on the eyes. For example, light Orange text can be hard to read.
  5. Avoid Fluff: Keep the content tight and to the point. People are busy and do not want to waste their time. So stick to short learning videos on key topics.
  1. Images: Choose images that are specific to the topics and that support the learning rather than are just there to grab attention but do not add value to the lecture content.
  2. Copyright: Make sure to get permission to use all images, content, video, and music that are not your own to avoid violating copyright laws. Give credit where credit is due, and source all facts and information. Use Creative Commons free images and music where possible (see the resource list at the end of this Chapter).
  3. Content Sustainability: Making an online video lecture or audio narrated PowerPoint lecture takes time. You want to be sure you can reuse it repeatedly. Therefore, choose sustainable topics and content that will not change. When possible, choose the foundational concepts and knowledge base that will be the same year after year and make the online lectures about those concepts.
  4. Quality Audio: Use a headset or microphone so that the audio is clear and professional. Choose a room with little background and ambient noise. High quality audio recordings ensures the students can hear everything that is said.
  5. Shelf-Life: Avoid mentioning things like ’this week’s assignment’ or mentioning current events or other things that may change so as to push out the video’s expiration date.

Video:       Editing a Video in Movie Maker

By  Andrew  McIntosh,  SUNY Delhi, Video:                         Link:         https://youtu.be/7kZHgJfGo_A

Best Practices Related to Visuals in Online Lectures

  1. Less is More: Too much text and photos on the same slide can overwhelm students and be hard to read. The less per slide the better.
    • The rule of thumb: 6-8 words per line, and 5-8 lines of text for each slide maximum.
  2. Font Matters: Choose fonts that are easy to read on computer screens, such as Arial, Verdana and Tahoma.
  3. Font Size: Try to use font size of at least 24 point size if possible, so that it is easier for participants to view and read.
  4. Color: Choose colors that are easy to view and read. For example, do not use dark red on a black background, as this strains the eyes to view.
  5. Landscape: using the landscape layout fits better on participant computer screens.

Tweet Chat: #virtuolearn

Tweet about one of the best practices listed and how it would apply to creating a high quality asynchronous lecture for students.

Section 3: Synchronous Online Lectures

In some virtual classes students can benefit greatly from synchronous chat sessions, office hours, or lectures with the instructor and other students. In some courses the instructor has online synchronous office hours in which students can contact them to ask specific questions real-time about content they are having trouble with. In other cases, the instructor can host online lectures covering the same material they would in a face-to-face (f2f) classroom. Some instructors host online group work and activities for students. There are many ways that a synchronous lecture session can be utilized to give online students the equivalent learning opportunities they would have in a f2f setting.

Best Practices for Hosting Online Synchronous Lectures

  1. Prepare: Have the slides ready to share, have a list of the video links to show, and have handouts ready to email out. This way lecture time is not wasted searching about in Google trying to find that link for sharing.
  2. Check for Attention: Make sure people are still with you. In an online lecture it can be easy to lose people and not know it. About every 10 minutes stop the lecture and do something to engage the students, such as complete a poll or ask a question. Alternatively ask them to type something in the chat box, or ’raise their hand’ to contribute. This helps to keep their attention on the lecture.
  3. Check for Understanding: About every 10 minutes, ask people if they understand the concepts so far by either clicking on the green check mark (as found in some online webinar and lecture tools), or putting a smiley face in the chat box, or some other tactic to check that they are still with you.
  4. Group Work: Many webinar and online lecture tools have what is called ’breakout rooms’. These are sub- rooms in the online lecture room to funnel students into for smaller group work. Instructors can lecture for 15 minutes, and then put students into small-group breakout rooms for a discussion amongst themselves and then they come back to the main room to present their ideas to everyone. Having students take on some presenting and discussion management roles can increase their engagement with the online lecture process and content.
  5. Whiteboard: Write clearly and largely on the whiteboard, to make sure that all symbols are clear to the students.
  6. Encourage Interactivity: Where possible encourage the students to interact with the lecture content, to ask questions, or to complete mini-exercises. This keeps them engaged.
  7. Outlining Visuals: If you will be pointing to key features on a graphic then use the annotation tools found in most webinar and online lecture software tools to make marks, circle things, or point to specific areas. This way the instructor is sure participants know what specifically they are talking about.

Visuals Best Practices: See the section above and the best practices related to visuals.

Tweet Chat: #virtuolearn

Tweet about one of the best practices listed and how it would apply to creating a high quality synchronous lecture for students.

Section 4: Flipped Learning

Video:       The Fizz Method for Flipped Learning

Flipped learning is, essentially, blended learning. It is a course that utilizes both in-class time and online time for student learning. The focus of a flipped learning approach is to take the lectures out of the classroom time and put them online for students to view on their own time prior to class, and then using the in-class time for in-person activities that better utilize the face-to-face (f2f) time than lectures would.

Some of the benefits and reasons to move to a flipped-learning environment are:

  1. Limited class time: There is only so much f2f time with students. Why waste it droning on about lecture topics they could easily read or view prior to coming to class? Instead put the lectures online, and use limited class time for doing interactive student group work on the lecture materials.
  2. Checking for Understanding: This one is very important! If you lecture for an hour, students take notes, and then leave. But how do you know they actually correctly understood the content? How do you catch misconceptions? If you put the lecture online for the students to view prior to class, then you may use limited class time to check for student understanding and application of the learning content, which in turn takes the student to a higher order of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  3. Teach Self-Efficacy: In the modern world we must become responsible for our own progress and success. We have to learn to organize our time, and take control of our learning. A flipped learning environment teaches students to plan ahead and review content prior to coming to class. Though we do suggest a quiz at the start of class to be sure they actually viewed the lectures before coming.
  4. Better Learning Design: Split the class up into learning that works well online, and that which is best suited to the in-person environment, so that students are getting the best use of learning time with the instructor.

Following are some tips and tools to support a flipped learning or even fully online classroom environment:

  1. Online Presentations as Lectures: You can create online lectures using a presentation you normally use in a f2f course. However, note that taking a PowerPoint presentation and throwing it into an online course with out notes or audio to go with it is akin to standing in the back of a classroom and flipping through the slides without saying anything to the students. Throwing a PowerPoint into an online course is not providing a suitable online lecture material to students that is the equivalent to what they would get in a f2f course. Remember, it is about equivalency. Here are some online presentation tools you could use, and then screencast yourself speaking about each slide or image in them, and then provide that screencast of your audio lecture on the presentation as an online lecture for students.
  2. Screencasted Lectures: There is now easy access to many different types of screencasting tools online. This makes it easy to video record a lecture or screencast a tutorial online and then load those in the online portion of the course for students to access on their own time. Then classroom time can used instead for checking understanding on those concepts.
  1. Digital Learning Objects (DLOs) as Lectures: Online lectures can take many forms. They do not need  to be videos or screencasts. There are tons of online Web 2.0 tools that can be used to create interactive learning resources, lectures, and study materials online. In using them to create the online learning and lecture content, the instructor can then use the limited in-class time for learning experiences better suited to in-person connections.

Tweet Chat: #virtuolearn

What tool, resource, or tip would support flipped learning?

End-of-Chapter Resources


  1. What are methods that can be utilized to increase connections between the students and instructor in a synchronous online lecture? What about asynchronous?
  2. How do design considerations apply to creating online lectures that are compliant with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA)?
  3. List three ways that the instructor can check for understanding during a synchronous lecture? What about after an asynchronous lecture?
  4. What is equivalency and how does it affect designing online lectures?
  5. Why is just taking some PowerPoint lecture slides normally used in a face-to-face course and loading them into an online course NOT a sufficient equivalent replacement for classroom lectures? What can be done with them to make them equivalent?


Chapter Task

Choose a tool, and create an online digital learning object, screencast, video lecture, or other lecture learning object. This could be as simple as setting up a video camera in front of a whiteboard, and walking through a lecture, or as simple as screencasting yourself talking about each slide of a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation.

Complete the following steps:

  1. Decide on the topic and subject of the video. It should align with a learning unit in a course you will teach.
  2. Create even a simple and short story board that outlines what the video, screencast, or digital learning object will include.
  3. Write up the script for any audio you will lecture. If you will be creating a screencast of a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, then write up the notes for each slide.
  4. Develop the prototype.
  5. Finalize based on feedback.
  6. You have now created an online lecture!


Brown, A., Luterbach, K. & Sugar, W. (2009). The current state of screencast technology and what is known about its instructional effectiveness. In I. Gibson et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2009 (pp. 1748-1753). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Guerrero, S., Baumgartel,  D. & Zobott,  M. (2013).  The use of screencasting to transform traditional pedagogy in a preservice mathematics content course. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 32(2), 173-193. Chesapeake, VA: Association forthe Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Jones, Kolloff, & Kolloff, (2006). Humanizing and establishing presence in an online course: the role of introductory videos in distance learning In T. Reeves S. Yamashita (Eds.), Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E- Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2006 (pp. 1247-1254). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Sugar, W., Brown, A. & Luterbach, K. (2010). Examining the anatomy of a screencast: Uncovering common elements and instructional strategies. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(3), 1-20. Athabasca University Press