“Start Small, but Dream Big”: Michael Wesch and Viji Sathy Explore How to Record Effective Microlectures


“I think video is a huge piece of our experience as professors,” Michael Wesch said in the webinar, “Recording Effective Microlectures.” Wesch joined his fellow expert Viji Sathy and moderator Kim Middleton in the fifth installment of ACUE’s Effective Online Instruction webinar series, presented in collaboration with the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), and the National Association of System Heads (NASH).

As part of his presentation, Wesch shared a short, prerecorded video on how to make a microlecture, appropriately enough, including tips such as how he uses duct tape to hold the camera steady. He also had his wife and sons join him onscreen, noting, “The more you can build a social presence, the better the learning.” Approachability, he said, is crucial, and showing students elements of your life and surroundings will “humanize” you as an instructor.

To that end, he urged instructors to “try connecting rather than performing.” 

“You have to give 125% when you do this,” he added, noting inherent barriers to delivering microlectures, rather than teaching in person. He suggested keeping the five Rs in mind: reason, relevance, resonance, and rhythm.

Sathy encouraged instructors to keep the purpose of the microlecture in mind when creating the video. “Ask yourself, ‘Is a video necessary?’ What are you trying to accomplish?”

You don’t have to make everything yourself, she continued; moreover, you can choose a different format from a video, such as a podcast, if the material is best suited to one. You also don’t have to appear on the screen; Sathy noted this can prevent some faculty from making videos at all.

If you do decide to make a video, Sathy said, keep them short — no longer than 4-5 minutes. “It’s important to think about the connection this fosters with students,” she said. She, for example, shares a short, 3-minute clip about standard deviation and annotates over the slides during the video. That way, students can see how she’s working through the problem and learn from it. Sathy also embeds pretest and practice questions in the video to give students a chance to interact with it.

Microlectures, Sathy noted, are a great way to unload content you don’t particularly enjoy teaching. “I hate calculating standard deviation,” she said. “This way, I’ll never have to do it again.”

Some participants wondered if microlectures have different applications and benefits depending on the discipline. Sathy said that it’s certainly helpful in math courses — students benefit from being able to watch their instructors work through problems. It’s also an “opportunity to give our knowledge and lens and which we see the world to others” if you make that content available to the wider public.

Wesch, who teaches anthropology, agreed that “there’s a real opportunity here to educate the public and share ideas more broadly.” For example, one effective video he made broached the topic of cultural racism. In it, Wesch walked around Kansas City and discussed the history of the Troost Wall. “It turned out to be an important, controversial video that sparked conversation.”

“Start small, but dream big,” Wesch advised faculty. Sathy added, “Be kind to yourself as you’re making these videos. It’s exhausting to do this work. Give yourself permission to feel tired.”

Watch the complete recorded webinar, read a full transcript, access resources, and join the conversation via our Recording Effective Microlectures page. For faculty looking to delve further into online learning strategies, check out ACUE’s micro-credential courses.

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