3.9 Content Format, Multimedia, Video

Content is provided in a variety of media formats to meet the needs of all students. Each content item does not have to have multiple formats. However, throughout the course, a variety of content items should be used to include, text, images, video, simulations, web-based content, interactive elements, etc.

Points: 2 (Very Important)

QM Alignment: 4.5


When you curate new content, it may help to consider variety and format.  How can you engage your students with a variety? How can you promote active learning?


  • Try to offer a variety of types of content in your course, instead of for example only using chapters or only articles or only videos. Varying your types of assessments is recommended, too.
  • When feasible, offer content in multiple formats to support accessibility and universal design for learning. For example, perhaps share a video as well as an article. Or consider finding or recording audio narration describing a resource. Or flip it and give students multiple options for submitting content in text or video or audio formats.
  • Just presenting or sharing content such as a reading or a video doesn’t ensure students will actually learn from it. See below for many tips on getting students to do the reading or watch videos, but at a basic level you can link your content to Canvas quizzes, assignments, or discussions. If you do so, it is recommended that you link directly to the readings or videos from the activity so that it is easier for students to find, and because sometimes students will jump directly to graded activities via the Canvas to-do list.
  • The same goes for the content in your syllabus and orientation module. Consider adding an orientation or syllabus quiz to ensure students understand important information about your course (see standard 1.7 for examples).
  • Create Weekly Introduction Videos to Facilitate Successful Course Navigation


Content formats for a course could include:

  • Textbook and OER Readings
  • Digital, Web, and Publisher Content
  • Audio & Video​
  • Multimedia​
  • Interactive Simulations


1. Getting Students to Do the Reading

See if any of these resources might be helpful with ideas for getting students to do the reading in your courses:

Active Reading Using Annotation Tools

These annotation tools can be used in conjunction with readings to help improve student participation and engagement with the materials by allowing you and/or your students to embed prompts, discussion questions, and other annotations in texts.

  • Canvas now supports annotation assignments in which students add annotations to a document you upload.
  • Hypothesis – a free, open source social web & document annotation tool.  Use this tool more for articles and web pages, whereas Perusall leans more for toward textbooks.
  • Perusall – a free social ebook reader – “No annoying quizzes; no repetitive forums or email lists — Perusall keeps students focused on the text, aided by modern communication methods.  Only 20-30% of students in the average classroom do assigned reading; in Perusall classes, >90% consistently do the reading.”  Perusall can integrate with Canvas.  Although Perusall asks you to select a textbook you are using, you can just upload your own documents instead.
  • ActivelyLearn – embed prompts and other scaffolds in texts

For more on annotation, see:

Getting Students to do the Reading in STEM Courses

Other Resources on Teaching Reading Skills

2. Enhancing Learning from Videos

Pedagogical Uses for Videos

Via Tony Bates, Teaching in a Digital Age:

  • Demonstrate experiments or phenomena
  • Illustrate principles involving dynamic change or movement
  • Illustrate principles involving 3D space
  • Illustrate abstract principles with physical models
  • Substitute for a field visit
  • Bring students primary resource or case study material
  • Demonstrate how abstract principles or concepts apply to real-world problems
  • Demonstrate decision-making processes
  • Demonstrate correct procedures for using tools or equipment
  • Demonstrate methods or techniques of performance
  • Record and archive events important to topics in a course

Interactive Video Quizzes

Pedagogical Tips for Videos

See also the article: Developing a Framework for Creating Effective Instructional Video Podcasts.

Don’t just make a video
  • Recording lessons is only the first step. The next step is replacing class time or your online course with more interactive activities. If one only records lectures and does nothing else, the pedagogical benefits will likely not be that significant.
Sequencing – Should students watch video lectures before or after active learning experiences?
  • Counter-intuitively, several research studies show that lectures are more effective after students have done some exploratory learning activity (like a lab, simulation, game, data analysis, etc.). When lecturing on the topic before students have had a chance to explore it or try it for themselves, students are more likely to tune out of the lecture and not retain much, because they do not see the need for learning it, or why the concepts are important, and what problems they solve. After students have had a chance to explore (and maybe fail) at something, they have more of a need to know. They have developed questions in their mind, they have run into problems that they couldn’t solve. A lecture at that point helps them see the concepts and links between their experiences, and one can also connect the concepts covered in a lecture to the previous experiences the students have had.
  • See research on productive failure and a “time for telling.”
  • You can make videos that are open-ended instead of just explanatory lectures that give students the “answers.” You can ask students to watch a video that asks some open-ended inquiries and have students think or work on them before and during class.
Target misconceptions rather than only showing the “correct” answers
Dialogue better than monologue
  • Like in the above video, there is a lot of research (e.g., 1, 2) showing students learning more by watching a dialogue between multiple people from different perspectives rather than just a single person monologue.
Embed questions in or around your videos
  • As mentioned in the previous section, one suggestion is to not show the “answer” in a video, but ask open-ended questions of the students, and have students do the work and the learning.
  • And as mentioned in the above Interactive Video Quizzes section, you might consider embedding questions in or around your videos.  This can have the dual effect of spurring your students to think more deeply about the concepts in the video and holding them accountable for watching the videos with something like a quiz.
  • See also From Passive Viewing to Active Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos.
Let students create the videos
  • Students enjoy making screencasts and teaching each other (and the world) topics they have learned.
  • They could either use their phones and the Youtube app to record and share videos, or you might use a video discussion board like Microsoft Flip, which integrates with Canvas.
  • Here’s just one study showing the benefits of student-generated videos: Video Made the Calculus Star

Technological Tips for Videos

Keep your videos short
Good audio is key
  • It is much harder to pay attention to and understand a video when the audio is not clear or is muffled or there is background noise.
  • Find a nice quiet place to record your screencasts.
  • You can use a USB headset, for example, or a Blue microphone for even better quality.
Don’t worry about making your videos “perfect”
  • Your videos may not have the polish and editing that professionally-made videos have, but they can still be effective for learning. Even editing your own videos is often unnecessary if you plan appropriately.
  • Plan ahead – create a bulleted list of items you want to cover (or even a script or storyboard if you so desire) so that you do not miss something important, and so that you can pace yourself. Prepare the items you want to show in advance so students don’t have to wait while your software program launches or while you search for some file or resource.
  • Start the video on your opening slide or some resource that signifies the topic of the video. If using a whiteboard or drawing software, draw the “title” of the topic at the beginning (or before the video starts). This is so that you don’t have to edit the video later to insert a title sequence.
  • If you find yourself losing track of your place or you have to cough or something like that, just pause the recording, and then unpause again when you are ready. That way you don’t have to start all over. If you make a mistake that is not too major, just explain it and fix it while still recording. If you made a mistake, most likely some of your students will, too, and it helps pedagogically to discuss common mistakes.
  • Your first video or two, however, may take two or more takes. It takes practice to become comfortable speaking in a timed video. Go back and listen to your videos – are you speaking too fast? Is the audio loud enough? You might record a very short practice video first just to make sure everything is coming out okay.
Use HD Quality
  • In order to see the text or other small details in a screencast, you should record to HD quality video, and also during the video you might recommend to students that they press the full-screen button (on the bottom right of the video player if using Youtube) and/or switch to the HD quality version of the video (if it is on Youtube – see the gear icon for changing video quality).
  • Screencast-o-Matic has a “Medium HD” option for screencasts. Canvas Studio uses Screencast-o-Matic under the hood for recording screencasts.
Zoom in, select, or annotate to focus the viewer’s attention
  • Even with HD quality videos, you can better help focus viewers’ attention by selecting, highlighting, marking, or even zooming into a particular aspect of the screen. Use your mouse as your pointer or as a way to provide gestures to focus attention. Many screencast tools will add a halo or circle around where the mouse is.


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HCC Online Course High Quality Standards by Hillsborough Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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