Building Online Instructor Presence with Camtasia

Tracy SchaelenToday’s guest post is brought to you by Tracy Schaelen. Tracy is the Distance Education Faculty Coordinator at Southwestern College. Her 20-year career at the college has included designing and teaching English courses on campus and online as well as coordinating the campus writing center.

Tracy trains faculty throughout California as an instructor and trainer for @ONE, and she is involved in the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative as a lead course reviewer.

Check out her Camtasia Tackk and resource website for online faculty, and you can also find her on Twitter: .

College students live in a text-heavy world: they read textbooks, annotate articles, and write papers throughout the semester. For online students, even discussions are in text, as are most communications with the instructor. Imagine, then, how it feels to enter an online course and find a video of a moving, talking, smiling human being welcoming students to the class. I have found using Camtasia to be a truly transformative experience—for me and for my students.

I first experienced the power of instructional videos as a student. While taking courses as part of the @ONE Online Teaching Certification Program, I discovered that my memories of instructors who used video stayed with me far beyond the course. Those teachers were real people to me, and I could easily recall what they had taught me because I could remember the facial expressions and tone of voice that had accompanied the words. I was shocked to discover that I felt a personal connection with these teachers—as if we had met face-to-face and had conversations—simply because I had experienced watching their videos. I knew that I had to bring this experience to my students, and thus began my adventures in video!

In the two years I have been making instructional videos, I have been rewarded with improved student performance and reduced student anxiety. I have watched as learners take risks of their own in using technology creatively, and I have benefited tremendously from the trust and rapport that video builds in my class. It has been an excellent investment of my time and energy, and creating videos with Camtasia is so much fun! Here are a few of my favorite ways to use video in my online courses:

Course Tour

A video tour of your course is an engaging way to show students how to navigate their virtual classroom. No two online courses are alike, so a tour is helpful for both new and experienced online learners. Giving students the grand tour is also an opportunity to emphasize what’s important and show learners how to complete and submit work. In this example, I used Camtasia for Mac’s editing tools to spotlight areas, point to buttons, and guide students through multi-step procedures. And yes, I also drew faces to keep my viewers entertained!

English 231 Course Tour

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube!

Welcome to a New Week

I love generating enthusiasm for the new week by introducing it with video. I don’t do this every week, so I hope that it feels like a special event when I do. As you will see in this video, I set the tone with a peppy tune (“Coast to Coast” from the pre-loaded library in Camtasia Studio) and an animated title slide. I use this video to congratulate students on surviving the first week of a new semester, highlight (literally!) important materials, and show them where to find what they will need to get started.
If you, too, want fireworks to go off when you speak, then you are ready to go Hollywood with a green screen! Camtasia’s “remove a color” tool is amazingly easy to use, and it lets you put an image or a video behind you. This is one of my favorite parts of video creation.

Week 2 Introduction

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube!


Instead of giving students slideshow presentations to click through on their own, consider guiding them through the material with video. This video repurposes PowerPoint slides to create a video lecture for students. They see me at various points in the video, and they are also invited to look closely at the images on the slides as I discuss them. Not only does this motivate students to explore the content on their own, but it also provides a bit of familiarity for students who are used to traditional face-to-face lectures. Keep these mini-lectures short, though! Attention tends to wander after five minutes. If you have more to say, put it in a second video.

Intro to Modernism

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube!

How-To Guide

If you find yourself answering the same questions over and over, you will love this one. I create how-to videos walking students through important processes in my course, especially complicated, multi-step procedures. These videos teach students how to submit assignments, how to participate in online discussions, how to access grades and feedback, and more. My inbox is much quieter these days!

Essay 1 Feedback Guide

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube!

What do Students Think about Instructional Videos?

In anonymous surveys conducted every semester, my students repeatedly tell me that video is one of their favorite parts of the course. For example, when last semester’s students were asked, “Did you like the use of instructor-created videos in this course?” 100% said yes. When asked if those videos helped them “learn course concepts and improve skills,” 95% said “definitely.” What about the other 5%? They said “somewhat.” Nobody said “not really” or “not at all.” These numbers have been consistent semester to semester, making video the highest-ranked tool I have ever used with students.

If you don’t relish the idea of seeing and hearing yourself on a screen, listen to one more message from my students. Students really don’t care if I make a mistake, have a bad hair day, or sneeze on video. They want to see me—the real person, not a professional spokesperson. Have you ever noticed that making a silly mistake, telling a dumb joke, or stumbling over a chair in a face-to-face classroom endears you to your students? They see you as a fellow human being, and they love you for it. Don’t tell my students, but I intentionally build these “human” elements into my videos to nurture this connection. I have even been known to provide a blooper reel at the end of videos, as I did in the first video I ever made for my students:

Website Introduction

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube!

Are You Ready to Get Started?

For more ideas on building online instructor presence, check out my resource collection housed in Tackk. You will see the videos I have discussed here as well as a few others, and you will also find helpful tools and guides for making your own instructional videos.

So, share yourself with your students. Allow yourself to aim for real instead of perfect. Begin your own adventures in video!