In the hustle of putting together course materials for the coming semester, creating an introductory video might feel like an unnecessary use of time and energy.

It’s not. 

In teaching synchronous and asynchronous classes, I’ve found that orientation videos save both me and my students time, and can foster a greater sense of engagement and enjoyment in a course—if they are designed from a user experience (UX) framework.

What is UX?

If you’ve only heard of UX as a buzzword that is tossed in to tech conversations and product specs, you might think that UX is mostly about how easy something is to use. Actually, that’s usability (an important part of UX). Usability prioritizes how well a “thing” enables a user to correctly complete a task; UX expands the evaluation beyond just being able to get something done, emphasizing qualitative dimensions such as enjoyment. Furthermore, while usability often narrowly defines the target user (which can lead to the needs of people with disabilities to not be met), UX makes accessibility a necessary component.

Peter Morville depicts UX as an interlocking honeycomb with seven qualities. UX means evaluating the extent to which a product, process, or interface is:

  • useful (responding to a want or need),
  • usable (designed for ease of use),
  • desirable (providing enjoyment or satisfaction),
  • findable (both as in able to be found and in using intuitive navigation and structure),
  • accessible (designed so that all users can make use of the content),
  • credible (encouraging trust), and
  • valuable (contributing to the overall perceived worth).

The Evaluation Stage

While I had read articles touting the usefulness of course intro videos, especially for online learning, I still did some very informal analysis before I even began storyboarding. I asked a series of questions related to UX.

Will the students benefit from this resource?

If students watch the video, they will benefit by understanding the scope of the course, how it’s organized in Blackboard, and how they can make use of the materials available.

Is it easy for students to use the information in this video?

Through demonstration using screen captures, the video should make it easy for students to follow along.

Where should it be located?

For optimum findability, the video link should be sent in a class email as well as be on the course entry page in Blackboard.

Does the video demonstrate skill in the subject area?

Honestly, this was possibly my biggest hesitation. I felt a lot of pressure to make a “perfect” video, because if I’m the teacher, I have to demonstrate my skills. Perfect is near impossible given time constraints and budget. Instead, I settled for demonstrating that I was able to use the tools to create a video that aligned with recommended best practices.

Would students enjoy watching this video?

By keeping the video relatively short and with visuals that neither raced past nor lingered too long (except for one segment—my personal critique), the video should be interesting and (hopefully) enjoyable. In addition, I am trying to begin a bit of connection/ laying the foundations for a learning community. The voiceover and invitation to follow up with me is a step (although tiny) towards humanizing what could otherwise feel like a digital correspondence course.

Will the video positively affect students’ perceptions of this class?

The video is a type of “trailer” for the course.  By showcasing the range of resources that the students will create, the goal is to generate excitement, while simultaneously alleviating concerns (especially for those who are hesitant with technology).

Have I met the needs of students with disabilities?

In storyboarding, I aimed to ensure that essential visual elements were high contrast, that the voiceover/ transcript/ subtitles alone would convey meaning, and that the information would also be provided in different media. 

Worth the Investment of Time

What I have learned is that course intro/orientation videos take a bit more time at the onset, but save a lot of time overall. First, students are more likely to watch a brief video than read an overview. Honestly, I don’t blame them. A lot of information is thrown at students in the first week of a course, with lengthy syllabi and many policies and procedures and then the reality that each instructor sets things up a bit differently. Cognitive overload comes in the form of pages of reading material that is only tangentially related to the course subject matter. I’ve found that the video cuts down on time that my students spend looking, and that I spend answering. It also cuts down on some of the “surprises.” Students have a better way to frame what they will be striving for and accomplishing in the course. Finally, in teaching an asynchronous class, I believe that a video is a positive reminder that there’s a real, live human being who is wanting students to not only learn the material, but be able to use it to benefit themselves and others. 

From the preceding paragraph, you might wonder what happened with my UX focus. I didn’t go off track. UX is as much about understanding the conditions under which resources are being used as understanding that the focus is on users above all. Users are people. Consider where they are coming from, and anticipate not only what they need, but what will inspire them to keep striving.