When recording videos for your class, polish matters less than you think. Learn why and how to let go of the idea of a “perfect” video and embrace some jankiness in your teaching.

If you’re tentative about making videos for your students, this post is for you.

When I started making videos for my classes, I felt like I had to be “perfect” on camera. I was convinced that I needed to be a YouTube star to be a successful teacher.

More than a decade later, I am reflecting on just how wrong I was. You do not need to be a YouTube star to make great videos that help your students learn.

You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment. You can use whatever you have lying around, including your phone.

You don’t need editing wizardry. You can make great videos while barely using any software at all.

You don’t need to be charismatic. You can make engaging videos even if you’re not comfortable in front of a camera.

You don’t need to be flawless in your recording. You can make mistakes and be human.

If any of these have held you back from recording videos, you’re in good company. I want to encourage you, though, to let your reservations go and create some janky videos. I expect you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much of a positive change those videos can make.

Why Record Your Own Teaching Videos?

To understand why you don’t need to create polished videos, we need to explore the question, Why record your own teaching videos in the first place?

One common answer here is meeting students where they’re at: 95% of 18-29 year olds use YouTube, with more than half of those using it at least once a day (Pew Research Center, 2021).

This reason is at best only a part of the picture, though. If we were to always align our teaching methods with student media consumption, we would all have TikToks now, and no one wants that.

Instead, let’s consider three other reasons:

  • Videos help my students connect with me as a teacher and a human being
  • Videos are more engaging than text or other media
  • Videos help my students learn more efficiently or more effectively

Together, these three reasons account for the wide variety of teaching videos: welcome videos, course tours, weekly announcements, module introductions, reading discussions, content lectures, assignment feedback, and more.

When we think of our teaching videos as meeting students’ YouTube cravings, we inevitably will end up comparing ourselves to the myriad of professionally produced educational content on YouTube. This comparison never ends well.

Instead, when we think of our teaching videos as working to connect, engage, and teach, it’s easier to realize that we as teachers are already talented at doing those three things. We just have to translate that into video.

So What Do I Need?

If you don’t need fancy equipment, technical mastery, charisma, or video experience, what do you need to record great videos for your course? 

I encourage you to infuse all your videos with the 4 P’s: 

  • Preparation: Prepare for your video with a quick outline or a script. This will help you ensure that you don’t ramble or wander into irrelevant territory. 
  • Purpose: Every video should have a why. Writing this out and even saying it in the video can help you hone in on what’s important and what’s not. 
  • Passion: Let your enthusiasm for your teaching and your subject shine.  This will help students connect with you and encourage them to engage with the topic at hand. 
  • Personality: Be a human being. Make mistakes and don’t re-record. Have a sloppy Zoom background or an intrusive pet. These all help humanize you and help your students connect with you. 

Consider this example video I recorded. This isn’t a “polished” video, but it does help connect, engage, and teach.

(This video included 2 minutes of preparation – jotting down notes on a pad – and was recorded in one take with a phone and no additional equipment. It was not edited in any way.) 

Want to know more about how to make videos? While this article didn’t have space for that, we will be exploring that more on this blog down the road. Subscribe below to get updated on new blog posts.

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Have examples of videos you’ve recorded? We encourage you to share them in the comments below.


Auxier, B., & Anderson, M. (2021, April 7). Social Media Use in 2021. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/ 

  • Eva Grouling Snider

    Eva joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning in 2021. Previously, she taught professional writing courses in the English Department, including graphic design and web development. She launched Jacket Copy Creative (now known as Compass Creative), an immersive learning course in which students helped market the English Department (and now the entire College of Sciences and Humanities). She also served as a director of advertising at a social media advertising agency in Muncie. Her interests include UDL, digital accessibility, and design. She’s often busy “hacking” Canvas to do cool things.