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“It’s not going to be comfortable…and that’s okay”

Late last quarter I had the opportunity to chat with EvCC’s Penny Perka about a series of short, informal introductory videos she had created for her College Success courses. Penny’s goal was to increase what is sometimes called “instructor presence” or “social presence” in online class environments, where students can sometimes feel less connected to each other and their instructor than they do in face-to-face classroom settings.

Penny was kind (and brave!) enough to let me film our conversation, a few highlights of which are included in this short video, along with a few clips from some of the videos Penny created:

Although we covered a number of topics, Penny’s emphasis on trying new things and putting herself in the position of her students was particularly inspiring to me.

Though not included in the video, Penny also shared a few important lessons she had learned when creating short videos for her course:

  1. “It’s a beast”: creating video can take a lot of time, especially if you’re new to the process, so be sure to give yourself enough time to make videos. Also, be prepared for the inevitable challenges that arise in the process of storing, converting, and transferring video files.
  2. The two take rule: Penny realized that it’s sometimes tempting to re-shoot the same video many times until you feel it’s perfect. That might make sense in some settings, but it’s not necessary for these types of casual videos. To fight that tendency, Penny developed this simple rule: allow yourself just two takes, then just pick the best one. It’s probably good enough, and if you follow this rule you’ll save yourself all of the headaches that come with trying to get that one perfect take.
  3. Keep it simple: Whether it’s your smartphone or a basic webcam, the tools you already have access to are probably good enough for creating a short video of this type. Higher production values do make a difference when you’re using video for instructional purposes, but for a quick course introduction you don’t need fancy lighting or microphones.
  4. Keep it short: You don’t need a long video if your goal is simply to introduce yourself or a new unit of the course. One or two minutes is usually plenty of time to say what you need.

These are great tips to keep in mind if you’re embarking on a video project like Penny’s. And if you’re looking for more information about establishing instructor presence in online courses, or if you want to know more about some of the research that supports what we know about it, I recommend the Community College Research Center’s brief publication “Creating an Effective Online Instructor Presence” (2013).

Thank you, Penny, for taking the time to talk and for being willing to share what you learned!