Making videos

If an economics instructor requires students to submit work using PowerPoint, they can reasonably expect that those students will either possess the skillset required to do so, or recognise the need to develop it. And student’s wouldn’t feel that the choice of format is a source of disadvantage. In a few years time the same will apply to the creation of a video. We all need to become capable of producing videos with ease.

I see 4 options to create simple content:

  1. Normal video – the most obvious route is to use the video feature on a standard smartphone. Here’s an example. This can be done in a single shot without any additional resources. Here are some tips. This is the simplest way to record yourself, but I find it a little awkward when done as a lecture. If it’s more informal it’s more engaging, but slightly more complicated to plan. Using a light board is possibly the best way to do this. Social media platforms now have great video functionality. I like TikTok (here’s an example). Some important advice is (i) shoot the way you want it viewed (i.e. portrait for purely mobile content, but landscape for YouTube); (ii) upload directly from your phone (going back and forth via software like Photos can compress the file and reduce quality)
  2. Powerpoint with voiceover – this is probably the simplest, and I have several examples. I use Camtasia to narrate over a PowerPoint screen record. Here’s another example. It also allows relatively easy editing but it’s not cheap and I’m sure there’s plenty of other options. Here’s some instructions for screen recording on a Mac. Quicktime has a very simple audio + screen capture device and it’s baked into Mac OS. See Tom’s Guide for some more. It’s important to be careful about whether to put the slides online as well, since this can reduce the likelihood of students watching the video.
  3. Short video software – for shorter videos I like to use Adobe Express (previously known as “Spark”) that perform the same function as powerpoint with voiceover, but slightly slicker. The best part is you record the audio per slide, so much less pressure to make a mistake.
  4. Dual video and slides – this is a great way to convey detailed content but in a personalised way (e.g. Andy Field). I’m keen to find simple software that allows a presentation recording, webcam footage, and note space. In other words I want to know what these guys use. But here are some different options:
    • Loom – best for people who want a free solution that is intuitive and easy to use
    • Dropbox Capture – this is a new service intended to compete with Loom for very simple desktop based video. See a discussion of Dropbox vs Loom here.
    • ManyCam – best for people with a license, and willing to learn how to use it
    • OBS Studio – best for people who want a free, open source option that is slightly more complicated to use but allows a lot more functionality (here’s a tutorial)
    • Zoom – best for people that are used to using Zoom
  5. Interactive powerpoint – for my EMIB course we had an interactive green screen. This puts the presenter inside the screen and permits interaction (e.g. drawing directly on the screen). It’s basically reading the weather. It’s harder to plan but the final result can be quite effective. For lecturing, I don’t think that a green screen adds much value over a plain background. A virtual set though, may be worth investing in!
  6. RapidMooc – this is integrated camera and software that serves as a “plug and play” method. Our setup at ESCP is a green screen so you need to prepare lecture slides to serve as a background. It’s similar to the above, but requires a clicker and good quality audio.

Finally, it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. I think there’s value added in giving students content that you’ve created, since it generates a student-teacher bond. But I also utilise high quality videos created by others.

Excellent sources for economics related videos are TED Talks, the St Louis Fed, Planet Money Shorts, and Learn Liberty.