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How to create a pre-recorded video lesson for your students

Learn how screen recording tools like Dropbox Capture make it easy to create impactful learning content that engages your students.

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​​A teacher records a video lesson for students from their desktop computer

Teachers have a tough job and, right now, it’s tougher than ever. With bigger classes, lower budgets, and the increasing impact of external factors on classrooms, there’s a lot to stay on top of.

Just as global factors have changed the way we work, shifting us towards remote and hybrid ways of working, they have also changed the way our children learn in schools. Through pre-recorded video lessons and feedback, teachers can support students outside of scheduled facetime and classes.

In this guide, we’ll be exploring how you can be there for your students—even when you can’t be physically—and engage them in new ways with pre-recorded video lessons.

We’ll also show how Dropbox Capture and other features of Dropbox are an ideal solution for teachers and academic institutions to easily create, store, and share pre-recorded lessons for students.

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Why use video as a learning tool?

Did you know that 4 in 5 people say digital video helps them learn new things? Or that 74% of corporate trainers surveyed in the US said they use video as part of their training delivery?

Before we dig into the details of pre-recorded lessons, let’s take a moment to review why video is considered an effective learning tool by so many.

Breathe life into your lessons by making them more engaging

Video allows you to present information in new ways, pairing voiceovers with ideal on-screen examples to fully communicate key concepts.

Help students to learn, providing easier access to resources

Extracurricular materials are a key part of learning. Video provides a resource that students can access independently to aid their studies.

You can’t rewind a class

If a student missed something they may not feel like they can interrupt you, and ask you to repeat yourself. Video resources are ideal for students who learn or absorb information in different ways. Some might benefit from captions or other visual cues, for example, to fully understand something.

A student uses pre-recorded video lessons at home to support her independent learning

What is a pre-recorded video lesson?

A pre-recorded video lesson is a form of asynchronous learning, meaning students don’t need to be present at the time of the lesson and can instead access the content when they need it.

It usually consists of a screen recording, often sharing lesson materials, paired with a voice-over talking through the on-screen information. Pre-recorded lessons and instructional videos can sometimes also feature a webcam recording to further enhance the voiceover narration.

Ways you can use pre-recorded videos as a teacher

There are a number of practical applications for pre-recorded video that teachers can benefit from right away, for example:

  • Provide quick feedback on work—speed up those late-night marking sessions!
  • Quick summaries—create 5-minute explainer videos for key concepts, which can be shared with students having difficulty
  • Fully-asynchronous learning—deliver complete lessons for students that were unable to attend

What technology do you need to make a pre-recorded video?

To make a pre-recorded video lesson for students, you’ll need both hardware and software that’s up to the task.

Hardware for pre-recorded video

At this stage, you might be wondering whether you’ll need a streaming setup that would rival your students’ favorite Twitch streamers, but fear not!

In reality, if you have the hardware to make a video call via Zoom or similar platforms, you will likely have all the tech you need to create a pre-recorded lesson.

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • A laptop—you’ll need a computer to capture the video and create the final edit
  • A microphone—to record your voice-over, this could be an integrated microphone built into your laptop, or a separate USB microphone
  • A camera—if you want to record yourself on video, this could either be an integrated webcam built into your laptop, or a separate USB camera

Software for pre-recorded video

Getting the necessary equipment might be an important foundation, but you’ll need the right software to start creating your own pre-recorded lessons, feedback, and instructional videos.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Screen recording software—you’ll need a way to record your screen. Dropbox Capture simplifies this by making it easy to create a screen recording or GIF, and record a video simultaneously.
  • Video editing software (optional)—you may want to use video editing software to make any final tweaks to your video or edit your screen recording and voice-over together. Dropbox Capture allows you to record your screen and voice-over simultaneously.
  • File storage and sharing software—you’ll need a way to store and share your videos securely. The file sharing features built into Dropbox Capture give you complete control over who can access your pre-recorded lessons.
A demonstration of the steps to record your screen, microphone, and webcam simultaneously with Dropbox Capture

Common mistakes to avoid when making a pre-recorded video lesson

While pre-recorded videos are a great way to engage with your students, they can quickly become an inefficient use of your time when not done correctly.

Here are a few things you should avoid when planning to record video lessons:

  • Over-preparing and perfectionism—don’t fall into this time-wasting trap. Your video doesn’t always need to be perfect, providing it does the job it needs to and communicates clear messages to students.
  • Not thinking about your audience—tailor your videos to your class and engage them in a way that you know will resonate.
  • Assuming your equipment isn’t good enough—if you can make a video call via Zoom, you have everything you need to create a pre-recorded video that will benefit your students.

How to record video lessons for students in 7 steps

Now that we’ve covered the theory, let’s move into our practical exercise: creating your first pre-recorded lesson.

In this section we’ll cover everything you need to know—from planning your lesson, to recording it, editing it, and finally sharing it with your students.

1) Decide on your lesson topic and the intended audience

Before you do anything else, the first step is to think about your lesson plan.

You likely already have an idea of what you’ll want to cover in your pre-recorded lesson, but it can help to formally get this down on paper:

  • Lesson aim—what do you want students to understand by the end of the video?
  • Lesson approach—broadly, what will you cover to help them understand this concept?
  • Lesson materials—what examples or resources will you be able to share to illustrate the key concepts?
  • Lesson format—how long does the video need to be, and what format should it follow? Should it be a full lesson, for example, or a bite-sized video on a smaller topic?

2) Create a storyboard or script

Once you have your aim and audience plan mapped out, you can start to think about your video structure in detail.

While you might have a great idea, turning this into a fully realized video can sometimes feel like a daunting leap. This is where storyboards can help.

A storyboard is a sort of visual outline, commonly used in video and film production to map out the key narrative and visual elements of a piece of video content.

While creating a complete storyboard for your pre-recorded lesson might be a little much, the principle behind the process can still help you to find the flow for your session. This could be a simple as noting down the key points you want to make, with a rough idea of what you want to show on-screen alongside each.

3) Gather your materials

Before you hit record, you’ll need to make sure you have all the materials you’ll need to share during the lesson.

This might be a slide presentation, examples of texts in PDF of online formats, or simply a whiteboard application on your device.

With Dropbox cloud storage, it’s easy to have all the documents you’re planning on sharing organized and ready, all in one place.

4) Record your video, screen, and voiceover

With your storyboard and materials at the ready, it’s time to create your lesson.

With Dropbox Capture, you can record your screen, webcam, and microphone simultaneously. This makes it quick and simple to create your pre-recorded video lesson in one take.

If you do find yourself slipping up, don’t worry—Dropbox Capture lets you trim out any awkward or unwanted moments once you finish recording. You can even automatically cut those pesky “ums” and “ahs”, if you find yourself prone to filling mid-sentence pauses.

The tools don’t stop there either. Dropbox Capture makes it possible to draw on the screen and make annotations while you record—no need for a separate whiteboard app! You can even automatically generate closed captions, making your video more accessible for students.

All these features are particularly helpful if you don’t fancy yourself as a video editor, or don’t have access to video editing software.

Recording your lesson with Dropbox Capture, including recording your voice and webcam, is as simple as the following steps:

  1. Open Dropbox Capture
  2. Click Screen recording & camera
  3. Choose which part of your screen you’d like to capture
  4. Click the Record icon to start recording, click it again to stop recording
  5. Click the Pause icon in the side panel while recording to pause or resume recording
  6. Click the Draw icon in the side panel while recording to draw on your recording

This is just an example of what’s possible. You can find detailed instructions on how to record your screen with Dropbox Capture in our Help Center.

5) Edit your video

If you’re something of a one-take wonder, you might be happy with your video recording already.

Otherwise, you can use video editing software to apply any finishing touches to your video and help it really stand out.

Common edits might include:

  • If you decided to record your video and audio separately, you can edit your screen recording and voiceover together—of course, with Dropbox Capture you can do this at the time of recording, without the need to use editing software at this stage
  • Adding text overlays to emphasize key points of video sections
  • Additional flair and visual elements

6) Share it with your students

Once you’re happy with the final edit, you’ll need a way for your students to access your finished pre-recorded lesson.

Luckily, with Dropbox Capture, it’s easy to share your recorded files with anyone, just by copying a link.

When it comes to sharing your wider lesson materials—file sharing used to be a hassle, particularly for video, wrestling with file size limits for attachments and glacial upload speeds. Not anymore—with Dropbox link sharing, you can provide secure access to files in your cloud storage without having to send large videos, PDFs, or other documents separately.

This means you can copy and paste a link into an email for all your students in just a few clicks. If you want to share a library of pre-recorded lessons, you can share a link to a folder instead—easy!

7) Check who has seen it and control access

Of course, sharing files online also comes with security considerations.

With multiple classes of students to manage, or if you’re creating personalized feedback for one student, you may want further control over who can access what. In these cases, Dropbox makes it easy, with full sharing permissions, sharing link expiration, password protection, and more.

Better yet, with Dropbox, you can see who has opened your shared file and when—making it easy to keep track of your students’ progress.

Captivate your students with Dropbox Capture

Elevate your lesson plan and engage your students on a new level, with Dropbox.

With Dropbox Capture, it’s never been easier to get your message across with screenshots, GIFs or simple videos recorded right there on your screen. So you can clearly say what you mean without scheduling anything.

Capture your students’ attention.

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