How to make asynchronous recordings engaging and interactive

Pre-recorded asynchronous content has become a key factor in delivering courses and enabling the best learning experience for students at Aberystwyth University. There are several strategies that lecturers can use to make these recordings both engaging and interactive.

The benefits of asynchronous pre-recorded lectures are manifold, and most students – as the so-called YouTube generation – know this mode of learning extremely well (Scagnoli, Choo & Tian, 2019). Benefits include that students control their engagement with the content and value the convenience and flexibility that asynchronous recordings provide them with, in particular regarding the pace of their learning, and the repeatability of their engagement (Dale & Pymm, 2009; Ramlogan et al., 2014; Scagnoli, Choo & Tian, 2019). It is therefore essential that staff outline what is expected of students in terms of engaging with learning materials, both in pre-recorded videos and in-person sessions.

Scagnoli, Choo and Tian (2019) found that more than half of undergraduate students are less likely to engage with asynchronous recorded content if they felt that it did not directly relate to activities in sessions or to assignments. Making explicit links between different elements of a module, both in pre-recorded content and in-person sessions, is therefore extremely important.

Students value social and teaching presence, and are more likely to be cognitively present themselves (i.e. making a conscious choice to only engage with the recorded lecture, rather than trying to multitask), if they feel connected to a learning community. Simply put: your presence in recorded materials is essential. If possible, show your face, look at the camera, and be present in the recording . Especially since students are likely to only know the top half of your face, if at all, being able to engage with lecturers as people is a key way that your recorded content can be more engaging.

Consider that students are very likely engage with recorded lectures on their own. The videos are therefore a direct, one-to-one conversation. Adjust your delivery to this more direct address, rather than how you might deliver to a lecture theatre of 100 students.

When engaging with videos, “chunking” is essential. It is not enough to record a lecture and split it in two. Including a task every 5 to 10 minutes breaks up the lecture, places responsibility for learning with the students, and increases interactivity. This might include

• Quizzes (these can be added in Panopto, and set to pause the recording until completed; link here)
• Quick writes (giving students 2-3 minutes to jot down existing knowledge, or summarise their understanding of a topic so far)
• Using the Notes and Discussion functions in Panopto (these could be used for Quick Writes; links in English only)
• Interactive polls (the results can then form the basis of a face-to-face discussion)

Equally, there are parallel activities you can include for your students, such as questions on the subject, provided as a digital copy in advance, that students can answer as they engage with the lecture (or they may choose to use them as structure for a Quick Write task). Challenging students to bring questions that have arisen during the asynchronous lecture to an in-person session is another way to invite active engagement with recorded content.

Other strategies for increasing engagement may include

• Making explicitly clear what students will take away from the session
• Using clear, simple, and graphic slides (think accessibility)
• Storyboarding and/or script your content if necessary to maintain a clear through line
• Finishing by reminding students of the key points and what is expected of them in terms of independent activities before the next session

We recommend our guidance on how to best use your voice when recording (bi-lingual subtitles in the linked video) and invite you to join any pertinent CPD training sessions (link to sessions here).

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