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Instructional Videos: Scripted and Unscripted

Mon Jun 14, 2021 at 07:30 AM

The use of instructional video in higher education has been steadily on the rise, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. For instructors who teach synchronous online classes, recording and posting live lecture sessions has many benefits, including making it easier for students who were present to revisit material and allowing any students who missed the session to get caught up. For instructors who teach asynchronous classes, adding video content to their course material is often just as important. 

Like synchronous instructional videos, asynchronous instructional videos allow students the flexibility to revisit the material multiple times on their own schedule (with any related due dates in mind). In addition, asynchronous instructional videos can increase the sense of instructor presence, engage students in presented concepts visually and audibly, as well as add variety to otherwise text-based course content. Some common examples of asynchronous instructional video material include instructor welcome videos, weekly lectures, and assignment preparation or feedback summaries. 

Instructional video/lecture capture software, such as YuJa and Panopto, allows instructors to create instructional videos and post them for students in their Moodle courses. When starting to record and post videos for the first time, many instructors wonder whether it is better to record scripted or unscripted instructional video. In truth, there are benefits to both instructional video styles and the best method is subject to the individual instructor’s style and preferences. Review the sample instructional video of both styles below, as well as their benefits and best practices. 

Scripted Instructional Videos

The potential benefits of writing and using a script when recording videos include:

  • The instructor is less likely to forget any important information.
  • The instructor is less likely to misspeak or get off-topic.
  • The instructional video will tend to be shorter and more concise.
  • Some instructors feel less nervous and more confident using a script.
  • The script can easily be uploaded as a video transcript for purposes of digital accessibility.

This video provides an example of an instructional video where the instructor IS using a script.

Recommendations for Scripted Instructional Videos

  • Write your script ahead of time using a script template.
  • Practice the script ahead of time to avoid sounding robotic or unnatural.
  • Ensure the script is conveniently visible during recording, using a printed version or reading from an alternative device.
  • Provide your script as a transcript for the instructional video to increase digital accessibility. 
  • Speak clearly, intonating words and phrases, reading with an even, unhurried pace.
  • Speak directly to your audience, pausing occasionally to prompt students with reflective questions.
  • Consider whether it would be appropriate to only record your presentation or screenshare, leaving out your face if it doesn’t add anything to the learning outcomes. 
  • Don’t worry too much about making mistakes. The occasional tongue twist or cough is part of sounding like a real human--just keep going. If you make a more significant error, pause a moment, and restart the word or sentence. If needed, the recording can be edited out of the video later on platforms like YuJa.

Unscripted Instructional Videos

The potential benefits of recording unscripted instructional videos include:

  • The instructor will often display more of their personality to students in the instructional video, which can help students make connections to their instructor as a person and increase their sense of community in the course. 
  • If the instructor makes any small mistakes in their instructional video, such as saying, “um” or mispronouncing a word, leaving these mistakes will help students feel more comfortable making their own mistakes in front of their instructor and peers.
  • The instructional video may sound more organic and authentic in overall structure and presentation, since this is most like presenting to students in face-to-face courses. 

This video provides an example of an instructional video where the instructor is NOT using a script.

Recommendations for Unscripted Instructional Videos

  • Write some brief notes ahead of time to help you stay on-topic.
  • Ensure your notes are conveniently visible during recording by printing them out or referencing them on an alternative device.
  • Speak naturally and clearly with an unhurried pace; be yourself.
  • Speak directly to your audience, pausing occasionally to prompt students with reflective questions.
  • Don’t worry too much about making mistakes. Any long pauses or unusable sections can be edited out of the video later on platforms like YuJa.
  • Record or upload your video to a platform that will auto-caption the video, such as YuJa or YouTube, to increase digital accessibility.

Adding Captions and Transcripts to Instructional Videos

Whether your instructional videos are scripted or unscripted, adding captions and providing transcripts is essential to increasing digital accessibility for all students. Ideally, any videos added to your course need to be captioned and include a full descriptive transcript. Learn more about digitally accessible video captions and transcripts with this e-LIS help document of best practices

YuJa, Panopto, and YouTube all have the ability to auto-caption videos that are created or uploaded to their platforms. While these free captioning services caption with a fairly high level of accuracy, they are not perfect. Thus, each of these platforms also allow instructors to edit the auto-captions in an editor. After editing the captions for accuracy, the captions can be downloaded or copied into a Word document to serve as a transcript file. If the video was scripted, the script can also serve as a transcript. The instructor should then provide the transcript to students in a way that is easy for them to access, such as posting the transcript file along with the video in a Moodle Page resource

Adding Interactivity to Instructional Videos

Whether your instructional videos are scripted or unscripted, instructors can also add interactivity, like Check Your Knowledge questions, when posting to Moodle to increase student engagement. Use YuJa Video Quizzing for videos uploaded to YuJa or the H5P Interactive Video as a Moodle H5P Activity for videos uploaded to YouTube

For more information on how to get started with creating instructional videos in your Moodle courses, make a 1-on-1 appointment with the e-LIS Instructional Design team (calendar link at the bottom of the page) or contact us at [email protected]. View the original Lecture Recordings: Scripted vs. Unscripted help document at the e-LIS Help Library.

References and Resources 

See the e-LIS Help Library for the Moodle-based tools described here and more. The Help Library includes text and video guides.

The unscripted video example is by Karen Costa, author of 99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos. She has a 15-video playlist expanding on tips offered in the book.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

About the Author

Jess Tess-Navarro is an Instructional Designer with e-LIS and has previously worked at OU in Student Affairs and as a Special Lecturer. She co-facilitates the e-LIS Quality Online Teaching Certification Course. Jess earned a Master of Arts from Michigan State in 2014 and Post Master's Certificate in Higher Education from OU in 2017. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.View all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips. Follow these and more on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.