YouTube videos

In my classical literature class in the Fall, I wondered when to introduce a new author or genre to students: at the end of class before they did the reading or at the beginning of class after they read it.  Over winter break, I talked with one of my teacher friends and she made me realize there was another option: at home right before the read it.  After all, this is the digital age with YouTube, twitter and all sorts of possibilities. 

With that in mind, for my Spring classical literature class, I tried to find YouTube videos that I could use to introduce the authors or a genre.  After a little searching, I realized none was short enough, clear enough, accurate enough, or available.  Therefore, throughout the semester, I created a few YouTube videos for students to watch at home before they began reading a new genre so that they had some context in order to better understand the reading.

How I usually did it

  1. First, I wrote a script for the video so that I would not ramble and so that I included all the material that I wanted to include.  The script should only be about 1.5 pages of text for a 5-6 minute video.  If the video is longer, it becomes hard to continue to pay attention to.
  2. Second, I made a PowerPoint to go along with the script.
  3. Third, I took screenshots of the PowerPoint presentation.
  4. I imported the screenshots into iPhoto. From iPhoto I imported them into iMovie.
  5. I recorded the voiceover in iMovie.
  6. I adjusted the time for the images of the slides so that they showed for the relevant part of the script and so that they were not on the screen for too long.
  7. I uploaded the finished video to YouTube.  At the beginning of the semester, I put them on BlackBoard so that they were more private; but I moved them to YouTube which is a better viewing platform and so that more teachers could use them if they want.
  8. In total, the process takes about 2 hours/video once all the kinks are worked out.


  • YouTube videos seen from home save class time that might have been used introducing an author or genre.
  • Videos can be used class after class, year after year.
  • Videos connect with students in a way that may be more stimulating to them.
  • Videos can cover a lot of material quickly, visually, and orally.  One student commented that he liked how the videos reinforced the audio with images.
  • You have more control over what internet sources students use. My YouTube channel contains favorites of several good, reliable videos about classical topics.
  • Students can re-watch the material and rewind.
  • Students can watch it whenever best suits them. 


  • Students can watch it whenever best suits them.  This may not be before the class for which you want the movie to be watched; but it is usually before the relevant exam.  More videos will be watched if they are a regular part of coursework.
  • 2 hours may be seem like an excessive amount of time to prepare for each video.  However, given their nature, you can prepare them during the summer as you plan your course.
  • Video editing software has a learning curve.
  • Students are probably less likely to take notes on a video unless prompted.

Sample Video


Additional Things to Consider

What is the purpose of your videos? For my classical literature classes, the videos tended to introduce a genre, author, or provide detailed information quickly and effectively in order to contextualize their readings.  For my upcoming Latin class, I will create videos about Latin grammar concepts both to explain them for the first time and for students to re-watch them in order to help refresh their memory throughout the course and in the future.  The Khan Academy videos, available here, provide a lot of information about an archaeological monument or object but they do not all present much context for the monument. Additionally, some people create videos for an online course or to completely flip a classroom.

How do you want to present the material? Most of my videos are lecture-like. I also plan to make several featuring a puppet.  The Khan Academy presents the material in a conversation.  Fellow graduate students and I made podcasts that were primarily conversations or a more active presentation.  As another comparison, this video on the life of Edgar Allan Poe is accompanied by a quiz.  Just like in a classroom, material should be presented dynamically but also clearly. 

How accessible are the videos? At first, I posted the videos on BlackBoard as quicktime files, but not every student was able to watch them.  YouTube is a much more commonly available viewing platform for students.

How many videos do you want to make? The more videos you make and the more they are incorporated into the class, the more likely the students will watch them.  However, since they do take a significant investment of time, you may want to cover several topics in one video rather than one video for each topic.    

8 thoughts on “YouTube videos

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