Video is one component within the design of a course, balanced with other step types.
Videos engage learners, amplify the voice of the educator, and humanise content. They give a face to the content and can present other people, places, and things involved in the course.
Videos styles or formats include straight-to-camera pieces by educators, interviews, panel discussions, slideshows, clips of existing media, or a combination of all of the above. You may even produce video at home while working remotely.
Videos can: introduce a topic; motivate the learner; show complex dynamic processes or rich visual scenes; explain causal or time-ordered processes, show not tell through demonstrations, tell stories and provoke conversation and establish an emotional connection.
Top tips for designing video steps
1. Plan pre-production, production, and post-production (see below).
Produce a course outline and share a sample script or storyboard with us. Select the best people to deliver the content on camera and script to their strengths. Our Media Specialists can provide feedback before you film. Download our template script at bottom of this page.
2. Ask yourself. Does this really need to be a video?
Video content is not compulsory, it can be time-consuming and costly. Consider an audio step instead. Learning should be enhanced by the use of video format. Video-heavy courses can be successful but too much passive content can limit learner interaction. Courses with very little video can be equally as successful. Whilst producing videos, the richness of content and how engaging it is, is more important than the quality of the video footage but aiming for high quality standards is advised. See Build Video Steps for video specifications.
3. Always include instructions or questions below any video
The video alone should never be the only thing on the step. There should always be text within the step below the video. Possibilities include key points for learners to watch out for, questions they should try to answer in the comments or an overview of the key points (for learners with low bandwidth). Include related calls to action or social prompts to encourage learners to reflect and comment. Follow our editorial guidance on writing instructions.
4. Familiarise yourself with FutureLearn Terminology before you produce video!
We don’t have units and modules, we have weeks, activities, and steps. We don’t have a forum we have comments and discussions. We don’t have lecturers we have educators.
5. Videos must be 5 minutes or less in length (never more than 10 minutes).
The attention span of a learner sitting in front of a computer or phone is shorter than a student in a lecture theatre. Long videos remain unfinished and lead to low engagement and completion rates. After six or seven minutes, we have found that learners are more likely to lose focus, stop paying attention and skip ahead (or worse, close their browser tab and end their learning session). If your piece is longer than this, find a way to chunk it up thematically and deliver it over separate steps. See the graph at the bottom of this page.
6. Accessibility is paramount
For every video either upload an accessible PDF transcript or upload a VTT file of accurate subtitles in English (and in the language of the speaker). See our subtitle and transcript guidance. Partners can gain a discount using our account with 3Play. Subtitles specifically are compulsory for trailers.
Other ways to make your content accessible: For the hearing impaired, indicate if there is no sound in a video or animation. Provide PDFs of slides that feature in videos to download. Offer MP4 downloads for every audio and video clip in the course for those unable to stream due to bandwidth constrictions. See our Accessibility QA criteria. See our video branding guidelines.pdf for minimum font sizes, for font appearing on screen. Ensure core content of the video does not appear in the lower third of the screen, it will be covered by subtitles.
Stages of video production
There are three stages to video production:
- Pre-production and planning
- Post-production and uploading
Production, post-production, and uploading are all covered on our Build Video Steps page, including technical guidance and assets.
Pre-production and planning
Ideas flow in the planning phase. Take the time to consider all of the below. Make key decisions and secure resources to positively impact the rest of production.
Consider your intentions
- Where and how does video fit into the course?
- Can you convey what you wish to say in a maximum of 5 minutes (10 minutes for demonstrations or screenshare videos)? It is often best to focus on 3-5 key messages per video
- Remain authentic. It is easy for ideas to build. But don’t over-engineer the fact it’s on video or blow your budget on things that don’t enhance the learning experience.
- Produce a course outline and share a sample script or storyboard with us. Our Media Specialists can provide feedback.
Get the best out of your experts
The key to any video is storytelling. In the content you’re scripting and the way the content is presented. The delivery of the content is how you enthuse and engage your audience.
- Think carefully about the presenter or interviewer you choose to be in front of the camera. Experts and academics do not necessarily feel comfortable in front of a camera. Work with a presenter who is comfortable talking straight to camera or an interviewer who can adlib with contributors not just read off a list of questions.
- Choose contributors or interviewees who can talk passionately and energetically about the subject matter.
- Perhaps your expert is a great speaker but looks nervous on camera or your contributors are not that animated to watch. Devise an audio step for their content instead. It is also a lot easier to edit less confident speakers to sound great in audio steps.
- If you’re interviewing contributors about a sensitive subject, consider just including their voiceover on top of stock footage or animations or even changing the video to audio. They might feel more comfortable giving a more detailed interview.
- Create your script to best enable your presenters and contributors - can they use autocue (there’s more of a skill to it than you might think) or will they be better working off bullet point notes?
- Consider who will write the script?
- Keep on point – all videos need to be clear how they align to the course. We advise sticking to 3-5 points per video.
- Separate your script into sections that ensures a flow from one scene to the next. Keep in mind three elements; the key point to get across, the words you’ll use to do this, and the visuals (such as stock footage, animation, diagrams or on-screen graphics) that will help highlight this point. Adapt our script template to help you craft your script.
- Write how you speak, not how you write! Make sure you’re reading your script aloud and alter the wording to suit the presenter/contributors speech pattern.
- Pace the videos accordingly (130 WPM and slower at 100 WPM for demo videos) with pauses, breathes and opportunities for the learners to pause, reflect and follow.
- Write in short sentences and read the script aloud to test it. Time yourself so you know it will fit into the video. 130 words per min average speaking speed.
- Secure your presenters and contributors with as much notice as possible and if possible, have backups for contingency
- Ensure you have the rights to film in the location you are thinking of and remember if there are paintings/pictures in the background, the artist may have cause to request permission for it to be included in your video
- Filming budgets can expand quickly! Talk in-depth about what you would like to film beforehand with your videographer/production company so you can discuss the most cost-efficient way to plan the shoots
- Ensure everyone seen on camera who speaks completes a legal/release form (see below).
- Prepare for delays, interruptions, and mistakes. Decide how you would deal with these if they arise.
Using third-party media content
Copyright and Legality
Copyright is a legal requirement. It is your responsibility, as a partner, to ensure that all permissions and credits are added. See FutureLearn’s Copyright Guidance.
FutureLearn does not screen content for permissions as part of Quality Assurance.
Only film or record what you’re allowed to show. Get licences and waivers from the people involved and consider your duty of care of course contributors. Use our sample individual release form as a starting point. Don’t use third-party content without permission.
Embedded YouTube content
YouTube is not universally accessible worldwide. YouTube videos can be embedded within steps as supplementary course content only.
Where video content is core to the course, it should not be linked to or embedded. It should instead be uploaded directly into the platform as a video step. It is possible to contact the owner of the YouTube video and request permission to use their video in your course. If this is granted, ask them for the original video file so you can upload the file as a video step.
If the Youtube video does not automatically feature subtitles or a transcript, you must provide this in PDF format, having first ensured you have relevant permissions. You may need to request permission from the YouTube channel owner to upload a transcript to FutureLearn on the grounds of accessibility.
Embedded video should meet all copyright and legal requirements.
Re-using existing video
Re-using existing video is always a possibility, but comes with the risk of quality, duration, permission, and suitability for a new audience, so do bear this in mind. It’s essential that you have the rights to use the media content in your course from the copyright owner of the existing content.
Learn more about utilising video in the step ‘Plan your media’ in week 1 of How to Create a Great FutureLearn Course. Ask your Partnership Manager for access.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary