ES.333 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Producing Educational Videos


Final Video

Create a 6–10 minute educational video, focusing on and explaining a topic of your choosing. The topic should ideally be based on some aspect of your MIT academic expertise, but we encourage you to consider a wide range of specificity and characteristics (anything from “Newton’s law” to “how to decorate a dorm room”). Ultimately, your video will be published online and presented at a public viewing. Your hairy arm and lie videos should be on the same topic and may be included in your final video if you so choose.

Several examples of final videos from students in the course are linked on the Student Projects page.

The video will be due in stages throughout the semester:

Preliminary Brainstorming – Due Week 2

Begin with some time pressure brainstorming: Take 10 minutes, a writing implement & medium (pen and paper, keyboard and word processor, etc.), and write down all the ideas you can come up with for topics about which you might produce an educational video. The rules are: You must write down all ideas (no editing / excluding ideas) and you cannot stop writing down more ideas (you may not run out of ideas and you may not feel sorry for yourself until the ten minutes is up). Ultimately, the intention is for these topics to be based on your MIT academic expertise. Topics are encouraged to span a wide range of specificity and characteristics; examples might well include: “how to decorate a dorm room,” “physics,” “Newton’s law,” and “carabiner.”

Then sleep on it. See if insight will strike. Review the time pressure brainstorm list of topics. Add to it in a deliberate, unhurried manner.

Pick the top five contenders for topics and explain why these have been selected as the top five. The explanation may be informal (such as a bulleted list). Submit the list and your explanation.

Topic Selection & Pitch Prep – Due Week 3, Session 1

Idea Selection

  • Fill out the Idea Selection Table (PDF) with your five potential projects in the leftmost column and at least three selection criteria of your choosing in the top row.
  • Determine the importance of each of the selection criteria for you.
  • In the box at the intersection of each potential project and each selection criteria, indicate whether the project satisfies this criterion better (+), similarly (x), or more poorly (-) than the baseline project. There is no consensus regarding a baseline educational video—we suggest a Khan Academy style video, but you may choose a different one if you prefer.
  • Determine the weighted “wholesomeness” of the projects. You are under no obligation to pick the most wholesome project, but if the most wholesome project differs from the one you want to pick, you need to justify this.

Justifying Your Choice

  • Fill out the Proposal Rating Table (PDF). Doing so should provide you with a plethora of content and a number of plausible structures for pitching your video.
  • Sketch out an image you can (will_ draw on the blackboard and use to support your pitch).
  • Prepare an informal oral presentation for your fellow ES.333 students that explains what you are planning as a semester project. Your purpose is twofold:
    • To inform the audience so they can respond, and
    • to solicit this response, asking explicitly for the feedback you need most.

Preparing Your Pitch

  • Prepare an image you can sketch on a 3’x3’ piece of blackboard in <3 minutes (think back of envelope / cocktail napkin) and a pitch you can deliver based on the blackboard image. Your audience is your classmates and instructors. Your purpose is to make them understand the project you are planning enough that they can provide you with useful feedback.
  • Be blunt about the feedback that you desire most. Be prepared Not to be defensive when confronted with feedback.
  • Plan on (fewer than) 10 minutes total for your pitch and the response; this time does not include the time to draw on the blackboard (~3 minutes). Leave at least half of the 10 minutes for feedback and discussion.

Educational Literature Review – Due Week 3, Session 2

  1. Find at least two scholarly articles that identify best practices and / or identify difficulties encountered when teaching / learning aspects of the topic you are planning to propose. (Google Scholar and the MIT Libraries’ VERA database will be your friends.)
  2. Find at least one article about how teaching and / or learning work in general. Again, focus on best practices and challenges.
  3. Read these documents for information that will help you design your video. (There is no need to address higher reading levels, revealing though such an analysis might be.)
  4. Read these three documents for information that will help you design your video. (There is no need to address higher reading levels, revealing as such an analysis might be.)
  5. Briefly revisit last week’s reading.
  6. Write a 1250–word white paper / literature review that explains how the education literature guides the design of your video. The sections Research-based Framework for Video Design, Identifying Multidisciplinary Themes, and Choosing Concepts for the Videos in last week’s reading, Using Video to Tie Engineering Themes to Foundational Concepts, would be a reasonable model for how such a review might “sound.” Your audience is anyone who would want to make educational videos about your chosen topic. Your purpose is to use the expertise you have acquired by your recent reading and any other related reading that you have done in the distant past. Cite your sources appropriately. I recommend against structuring the paper around the three articles; instead structure it around the concerns of video producers grappling with your topic.

Capture Teaching in the Wild – Due Week 4, Session 1

Prepare and informally teach the content (or a subset thereof) you plan to use in your video to a live audience. Record a video of this teaching event; this teaching in the wild (TW) video footage will Not become part of your semester video project. Use the TW video and your impression of the event to hone your semester video proposal and ultimately its script & storyboard. The kernel of this exercise is to observe live learners as they are exposed to your material.

  1. Identify the audience, message, and purpose for the living teaching event. In a perfect world, these elements would be identical to those you have identified for your final video project. The closer the elements of the teaching event align with the elements of your final video, the better.
  2. Entice and schedule an audience of “student(s).” If you need chocolate or other inexpensive, legal bribes, funding can be covered. Each member of this audience will need to sign a waiver that permits the use of the video footage.
  3. Prepare to teach your material to your audience. This teaching session can be informal and interacting with your audience may be more insight producing than straight-up “lecturing.” More preparation is good, but the objective is to better understand your audience rather than perfect your teaching. Try to keep the duration of the instruction on the order of the length of the video you are planning—if things are going well, your audience will be responsive and thus add run-time. For the sake of your own time management, try to keep the total video / instruction time under 15 minutes.
  4. Teach your material to your audience. Record this event with a video camera; do not concern yourself with videography beyond being able to see and hear what transpires—that said, a few moments of thought into camera positioning, lighting, room / venue choice, and background will give you an experience data point regarding these variables.
  5. Review the video footage of the teaching session. Identify:
    • What stimulates your audience?
    • What material seems most difficult for your audience to understand?
    • How long is the attention span of your audience?
    • What choices did you make in real time as the teaching event progressed?
    • What omissions do you see? What redundancies?
    • Does this instructional event reflect the educational literature?
  6. Based on the evidence in the video footage, your recollection of the experience, and educational literature, write an informal “white paper” (1 to 2 pages) to the producer of your video (you) that identifies the significant problems you foresee in producing such a video and how they might be overcome. A white paper is a technical essay, typically written by an expert, that guides the solution to a problem. Essentially, give yourself advice based on your teaching session.

Written Project Proposal – Due Week 4, Session 2

Based on your brainstorming, the feedback you have garnered from your pitch, and brainstorming activities in class, write a 4-page proposal of your semester project.

Your audience is the instructors, other members of ES.333, and your “GIR expert.” Your purpose is to convince this audience of the utility and feasibility of your project – and to convince yourself of these elements.


  • Articulate a problem. Start a draft with the words “In order to…”; what follows is constrained to be the problem you are solving.
  • Include information, and perhaps large chunks of text from your video assessment, pitch tables, and literature review papers. It is absolutely appropriate to do so and you do not need to cite yourself.
  • Describe your intended video, including: audience, purpose, message, story, title, topic, duration, structure, major sections, impact, novelty, challenges…
  • Situate the video in the framework(s) suggested by the week 1 reading (Using Video to Tie Engineering Themes to Foundational Concepts & Designing Digital Video for Learning and Assessment) and / or the in-class discussion of awesome video.
  • Identify potential “stories” that might “sustain” the video’ outline the action, character, motivation, and theme of these stories. Who will be the “narrator” of these stories, and what relationship will this narrator have with the viewer?
  • Identify the resources you will need for the project to succeed. From the ES.333 point of view, the budget must be $0, the video duration <10 minutes (5–7 minutes is a good target), and the work must be accomplished in the next 12 weeks.
  • Explain why you think you will succeed.
  • Define your success criteria.
  • Throughout, build credibility; show the value / impact of this project, to you and to “society.”
  • Cite sources formally.

Semester Project Script, First Draft – Due Week 6

Write a (nearly) complete and polished script for your major semester video project.

Write the script in a two-column format in which the script occupies a column that is roughly 2 / 3 the width of the page and comments; in the column that occupies the remaining 1 / 3 of the page, include storyboard panels, “stage directions,” and notes.

Semester Project Script, Revision – Due Week 8

Based on feedback and revisiting your first draft a week after you have written it, revise it to further meet the demands of your audience, purpose, and message.

Storyboard the revised script. A storyboard is a script that is annotated with a visual “sketch” of what image on the screen will accompany the spoken script. In the professional world, this sketch helps all the participants understand what the video is intended to “look like.” For ES.333, this exercise should help you envision the image content of your video. As an aside, the storyboard is a short step away from the “graphic novel” whose well-known sub-genre is the comic book. You are encouraged to sketchy the visual element with a writing implement and a piece of paper. You may turn in either the hardcopy or a scanned hardcopy according to the technology that most simplifies your life.

Project Plan – Due Week 8

  1. Using the Timeline & Task List Template (PDF), sketch out your project. Print out as many copies of template as needed to sketch out your entire video from start to finish.
  2. If you feel that a Gannt chart will be useful to you in planning your project, please include one with this assignment.
  3. Once you have completed your timeline & task list template, use the information on the template to complete the calendar of deliverables (attached). This calendar will become your guide for the remaining ES.333 homework assignments. You will be responsible for and graded on the deliverables each week that you outline on this calendar. Include the audience preview, the finished video, and the premiere event.

Video Draft – Due Week 11

Produce the video you have scripted, storyboarded, and planned in the previous assignments. Remember that the video should be no longer than 10 minutes long. Upload the video to YouTube and submit the URL.

Review of 2 Draft Videos – Due Week 12

  1. Carefully watch the two videos assigned to you in class on YouTube.
  2. For each of the two videos, create a numbered list of “action-able” items that are helpful to the producer of the video in creating a work that will be of excellent quality for the official premiere. Think carefully about what will be most useful to your reviewee. Action-able suggestions might include things like instructions about improving sound quality, animations, improving transitions, dealing with color corrections, adding or removing text overlay for clarity, etc. Be as detailed as you can. The objective here is to supply honest and specific information that will help improve the final product.
  3. Write a brief prose paragraph (or two) that outlines your overall view of each video. Discuss what you think works and what doesn’t. This is an opportunity for you to elucidate about action items from your numbered list if they merit further discussion.
  4. Finally, at the end of your review form you will find a list of topics (axes) taken from past ES.333 video reviews. For each action item in your numbered list, go back and add [at the end in brackets] the word that best describes the category for the change you are suggesting. If you do not find a work that fits, add your own.
  5. E-mail the action lists and the reviews to the video producer. A Video Review Form (PDF) is provided for you to use as a template.
  6. Submit the action lists and reviews.

Final Video – Due Week 13, Session 1

Submit your finished product!

 Along with the video, type up the relevant information that will accompany it when uploaded to YouTube. This data is quite important, as it will help viewers find and contextualize your video. This information might include:

  • The title of the video
  • Your name
  • The date the video was created
  • The general and specific purposes of the video
  • The intended audience for your video
  • Why the video was produced (i.e., as part of ES.333 Production of Educational Videos, pilot for a series, for use as instructional materials in a class you TA…)
  • Any links to supporting content on the internet that in some way amplifies your video by adding additional relevant information, or perhaps covers in greater depth issues that you did not cover in your video. Be sure to cite / promote videos when citation / promotion is deserved!
  • Information that further situations your video; for example, subjects offered at MIT for which this material might be relevant.
  • If your video is complex and divides into easily definable sections that cover specific subtopics, you can list these sections by giving them a title and the timing where this section begins; this allows viewers to easily find the specific information they want at a glance without watching the entire video.
  • Acknowledgements (this can be drawn mostly from your closing credits) that include visual elements used in your video with permission, music credits, expert support, etc. Please include this information in the video too, because the video can be separated from the underbar and live a life on its own.
  • A list of keywords. This should include up to 20 words that will help the internet find your video. Keywords from your video title, words, or short two or three word phrases that identify key concepts or subsections of your video would be good here.

Premiere Event – Due Week 13, Session 2

Craft, practice, and deliver a (less than) 50 second presentation that has two purposes:

  • To project the essence of yourself as the producer
  • To situate the video both in relation to yourself and to the audience (in the room)

The audience for your presentation will be your classmates and MIT community members with an interest in educational video production.

Consider starting with the Princess Bride structure. “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die”: Your name, the problem, what you have for the audience (which is your video):

  • Your name
  • Your MIT status: Year and major
  • The name of your video
  • The target audience for your video and why this audience needs / wants / would like to have this video
  • A few words that describe the important features of this video
  • A few sentences that connect you, your video, and the audience in the room, perhaps by answering the question “Why did you choose this subject matter as the basis for your video?”

We recommend that you test out your script on your classmates. And, though we have not emphasized this point, consider recording / videoing a take or two so you can see and hear the essence you are crafting.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Projects with Examples
Written Assignments
Media Assignments