Last semester I was approached by the associate chair of the math department to help train our college’s mathematics instructors. She had been involved in a pilot that sought to improve the success rate in developmental math courses while decreasing the amount of time and non-credit courses needed to achieve college readiness.
If you don’t care about the math course, jump to the part about making great YouTube training videos.
The course she teaches is pretty amazing. Using a flipped classroom approach, she assigns a series of short, original YouTube videos as homework along with a problem set. During class (which meets for 90 minutes twice per week) students discuss their homework together and work out any problems they encountered while watching the videos. This eliminates most lectures from the classroom and results in students understanding the basic concepts of math instead of memorizing a series of formulas.
The best part about the course: it combines Math 091 (elementary algebra) with Math 105 (introduction to college algebra) into one 4-credit course. Taken in the traditional sequence, Math 091 would be a 3-credit non-degree course and Math 105 would be a 3-credit degree course. Barring a satisfactory placement test score, these courses are taken before a student has the option to take the required math course for the general degree requirements. Many of our students test into Math 091, so it takes them at least three semesters to meet their mathematics requirement (assuming they pass each class; the failure rate is actually quite staggering). The pass rate in the combined 091/105 course is much higher.
Which brings me to my task: get students to take the Math 091/105 combined course. It seems simple: save time, money and have a better chance of passing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy.
I examined some institutional road blocks and had a discussion with the associate chair. It became clear that I could help her and her colleagues, but I was double-booked. The day of her training, I was scheduled to be at a conference that I had helped plan. So, I decided to take my cue from the mathematics instructors and train them using YouTube.
Delivering effective training via pre-recorded video is not as easy as you might think. I received a lot of positive feedback from the training, and I believe it’s because I employed the following techniques:
- Maintain eye contact. Yes, you can maintain eye contact with an audience you can’t see. The key is to look right into the lens of your web cam. This is hard for many people to do, as they’re used to looking at the image that appears on their monitor. Resist the urge to look at yourself (or your chat buddy, if you’re chatting live) and look at the camera. That is the eye of your audience.
- Outline your message. You’ll want to outline your main points and determine where natural breaks exist. To get a great video, you need to make it from break point to break point in one take. You can then cut to a different take, but cutting in the middle of a topic makes for a roughly edited video.
- Supplement video with text. I made my video with iMovie, and I really don’t like the text options available. However, I made it work. I reinforced the key points of my message with text, which allowed the audience to absorb my message with more than one of their senses.
- Maintain a conversational tone. This is what I received the most feedback about. The audience felt like I was in the room with them. That was not an accident! When pre-recording video, force yourself to act as if you’re presenting to an audience. For me, that means keeping a smile on my face, taking pauses at the appropriate moments, and speaking only from an outline, not a script. The beauty of video is you can try alternate delivery methods; watch what you’ve done, then judge if it will resonate with the audience.
Have you ever recorded training for YouTube? What other advice do you have for people just starting out?