How to get started making videos for your classes

Video-savvy accounting faculty offer words of advice.
By Cheryl Meyer

If you’re moving your courses online due to the coronavirus, consider recording videos as a means of instruction that can complement virtual classes.

Educational videos don’t have to be too elaborate: Many simply display a syllabus, graphics, spreadsheet, PowerPoint slides, or other images, with instructors' voices in the background. Some professors who make them show their faces or use music or movie clips to pique viewers' interest.

We asked five video-savvy accounting professors why they use video, and to share their best advice for creating videos and incorporating them into their classes. Here’s what they had to say.  

Why video?

Video can be a boon to accounting faculty, in particular, who often have “so much material to cover that we can't possibly do it in all the class time that we have," said YouTube video aficionado Veronica Paz, CPA/CITP/CFF, CGMA, DBA, associate professor of accounting at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "Dr. Veronica Paz,” as she is known on YouTube, has posted on topics such as fraud, financial statements, and managerial accounting.

By allowing students to watch video lectures outside of class, instructors can use in-person or virtual course time for more real-world activity, such as working on case studies or group presentations, said Mansour Farhat, CPA, CGMA, assistant professor of accounting at the Community College of Philadelphia and West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and CEO and founder of Farhat Accounting Lectures. Farhat uploads his free accounting videos (about 1,600 in total) on YouTube, and currently has about 83,000 subscribers across the globe. Each video is related to a course, and he keeps them to 10 to 15 minutes in length.

"If students view the videos before class, they can ask more interesting questions and take the discussions further," he said. "If they view them after class, they will understand the material better. The benefits are endless to the students."

Using videos can benefit students who prefer to learn on their own time. "Students need flexible ways to learn and not all the students learn in class," said Eva Ström, D.Sc. (Econ.), a lecturer in accounting at the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland, who presented about creating videos at the 2019 Conference on Teaching and Learning in Accounting in San Francisco. “Some students want to review and learn from home, at another point in time. Videos fill these needs."

Tips for making and deploying videos

View what's already out there. Spend time on YouTube and examine the content already available to students. Try to make your videos unique and ask yourself what value you can provide your students over and above what can be found freely on the Internet,” advised Brandis Phillips, CPA, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro.

Tap campus or outside resources. If you've never made a video, check out your school’s teaching and learning center, suggested A. Faye Borthick, DBA, CPA (inactive), professor of accountancy at Georgia State University in Atlanta. (Many institutions’ teaching and learning centers have online resources on topics such as creating videos.)

Other ways to learn include asking colleagues for help or using the free online tutorials that video editing programs such as Camtasia offer.

Take an inexpensive course on a site such as Udemy.com, Paz suggested.

Investing the time and the small startup costs will reap many benefits later on, for both you and your students. "This is leveraging technology to everyone's advantage," Farhat said.

Address a learning problem. Use videos as a way to instruct on subjects that are difficult for students to learn. Ask yourself these questions: "Is there something that you are tired of explaining over and over again for the students?" said Strom. "Would a video where the students would hear you explaining the problem/illustrating a solution enable them to learn?"

Prepare and rehearse. Write your video script and rehearse it once or twice before recording. "Don't try to wing it," Borthick advised.

Borthick does not use YouTube, but instead creates each video with Camtasia and then uploads the MP4 into a learning management system, setting it up to be released at a certain date "or after students have submitted an assignment that prepares them for the video content," she said. "I want more control as to when students have access to it." She records her videos mostly at home.

Be yourself. When recording videos, speak as you normally would in class. That may mean occasionally stumbling or pausing when speaking, or even making a mistake or two. "A lot of time professors want to be perfect," noted Paz. "A video is not a commercial; it is a way to convey information to your students."

Strom had similar advice: "Be kind to yourself," she said. "Don't be overly critical."

Keep things short. No matter the format of your videos, keep them short, ideally 10 to 20 minutes or less. "Limit your content to very specific objectives," Phillips advised. "Don't have a broad lecture on a bunch of different things.” Many students have short attention spans, and by creating shorter videos, professors can "focus on a single topic and get to the point, which cuts out the rambling clutter from a long lecture," he said.

Ensure students actually watch the videos. One way to make sure that students watch the videos outside of class is by requiring them to take notes with a pen and paper, and then scan them and upload them into your learning management system, Farhat said. He gives students extra credit for doing so.

He requires handwritten notes so that students don't simply cut and paste copy from the internet, claiming they have heard the lectures. "I want to make sure they have listened to the recordings and took notes," he said.

Alternatively, you can give them a short follow-up quiz about the video lecture. Farhat mentions passwords at certain points during his videos, which students need to unlock his quizzes.

Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in California. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, senior editor, at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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