Colleen van Lent, Lecturer, School of Information

Editor’s Note: Colleen van Lent has developed several MOOCs available in Michigan Online. We asked her to share her tips for successful online learning materials. In the below video she highlights five key tips she has learned along the way — 1. Make New Materials 2. Keep it Modular and Keep it Short 3. Keep it Accessible 4. Find What Works for You 5. Be Brave. Watch the video as she goes in depth on each of her tips. Colleen also offered her valuable insight on just what it took to record her new video from the comfort of her own home. As we all work to adapt to working from home and juggling work and family responsibilities, Colleen guides you through her process and how it is imperfect and messy even when the final product is polished. And that part of the process is it will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be incredibly valuable to your students.

Colleen van Lent
Colleen van Lent

Recently, the Center for Academic Innovation released a video where I give handy tips and tricks I learned while making my MOOCs and taping lectures during the winter term. The goal was to encourage faculty to jump in and start the process and learn how to be more comfortable delivering courses online, so it was important to look somewhat effortless in my presentation.

It took me two days to make an 11 minute video. Real life, it seemed, was bound to get in the way. The first day, my kids kept moving around and making noise. Or someone would flush the toilet. Or, oh yeah, that take went really well until I realized that I forgot to turn on the microphone. At the end of the first day, I had a video that looked OK and everyone was pretty enthusiastic about it. However, I looked at it later and realized I had about as much energy as a fish. Maybe it was because I had camped out in the backyard the night before with my 5th grader. Maybe it was because I was trying so hard to seem “relaxed.” Regardless, I asked for another try.

teddy bear propped behind web cam
Teddy bear propped behind camera as a reminder to smile.

On day two, I was determined. I spent time actually trying to style my hair. I gave myself three pep talks. I positioned a stuffed animal on top of the camera as a reminder to smile. Then I remembered I don’t “do” hair and put mine back into a ponytail. I kicked the kids and the dog out of the house to get rid of all the background noise. (My husband only ruined three takes that day, but I feel guilty about kicking him out.) After about four or five takes I felt better about the video, only to realize that the stripes on my shirt came out wavy in the recording and the effect made me a little ill. I sent it to CAI anyway.

Toys on floor below bookcase
The toys on the floor just out of frame of my final video.

So while I hope that my tips make your taping go better than mine, please know that this process is a lot of work. Also know that you are going to get some things wrong and need to put out something that falls between perfect and nauseating, and that’s OK. And, most important of all, please know that the clean, well-organized bookshelves in the background of my video are a lie. You can see the reality of my basement in the photo below. Real life, it seems, is always strategically right outside of frame.