Why Use Asynchronous Lecture Videos?

It is fair to ask why you would use asynchronous lecture videos in your teaching, which tend to take more time to create. Asynchronous, or pre-recorded, online lectures are usually more polished and succinct than synchronous lectures. A synchronous lecture will often incorporate additional material regarding course administration – such as reminders of upcoming due dates – or student participation, making them longer in duration.

Using asynchronous lecture videos in your teaching can allow you to dedicate synchronous class time – which should be reduced accordingly – to other activities like discussions, questions about the lecture material, group assignments, idea generating sessions, guest speakers and more.

If you are considering using asynchronous lecture videos in your teaching, remember that you do not have to create them all at once. You may decide to record two or three asynchronous lectures videos in advance of weeks that you know will be busy – for example, when you will be grading student assignments or writing conference papers – and then continue to build from there in future years if you find the practice valuable.

Planning Your Asynchronous Lecture Videos: Considerations

Creating asynchronous (pre-recorded) lecture videos often involves more planning than synchronous lectures. Because of the time it can take to script, design and film your asynchronous lecture videos, you will want to anticipate any issues that might result in having to re-record them!

Below are a few considerations to help guide the design of your asynchronous lecture videos:

Focus on one or two learning outcomes per asynchronous lecture video

As a different format from an in-person lecture, creating asynchronous lecture videos for teaching offers an opportunity for us to rethink how we communicate course content to our learners. Certainly, most of us would likely have trouble sitting through a three-hour lecture delivered over video (and, well, sometimes in person).

We likely have YouTube to thank for our short video attention spans but breaking down your lecture content – one or two learning objectives or one narrow topic per video – is consistent with recommended teaching practices as well. Having a small number of learning objectives will assist with being more concise, which is also easier to do when you plan out and script your asynchronous lecture videos in advance.

Identify logical breaks within the content you would typically teach in a synchronous lecture and bookend your asynchronous lecture videos, aiming to create videos around 10 to 20 minutes in length. Including an introduction to what will be discussed in the video and a summary can help reinforce student learning.

Encourage student participation

If you incorporate activities for students in your classroom teaching to keep them engaged, translating that experience to an asynchronous lecture environment is an appreciable challenge. But it is still possible to bring a participatory quality to video.

Address your learners directly and build in activities that they can do on their own. Ask them to reflect on their experiences, consider whether they agree with an argument or work through an example. Remember that they are likely to be viewing your video on a computer or a mobile phone – are there relevant online resources to which you can direct students? Some tools, like MacVideo and H5P, allow you to incorporate questions and other interactive elements as another way to encourage participation.

Put personality above professional-grade quality

Many instructors may be put off creating asynchronous lecture videos in thinking that the videos need to look highly professional. What is more important to students than flashy visuals, however, is the connection to you as the instructor. Sharing narratives from your own experience, using humour and being creative in your presentation of content will motivate students to watch and help them to remember lecture content.

Let your asynchronous lecture videos be an opportunity for your students to get to know you. You do not have to be on camera for all or any of the recording – in fact, you may not need to be on camera at all – but think about speaking in a natural tone and letting your personality show through.

There is one unforgivable issue with respect to the quality of your video, however: the fidelity of your audio. Poor quality audio can be jarring for students, distracting them from the learning experience, and can impact the accessibility of the video. Read more about recording great audio in the 10 Tips to Improve the Audio Quality in Your Video Recordings blog post.

Keep your lecture content evergreen

Although it may be tempting to speak to information relevant to the current offering of your course that you would normally have in synchronous lectures, doing so can easily outdate your asynchronous lecture videos. Put the information into video notes in Avenue or other ephemeral video content instead so that you can reuse your asynchronous lecture videos from year to year.

Omit from your asynchronous lecture videos:

  • Instructions on how to complete assignments, if you anticipate making changes to course assignments;
  • References to a chronological sequence (e.g. “Lecture 15”) and specific mentions of the lecture video’s relationship to other lecture videos (e.g. “In the previous lecture”), if there is the possibility that you may change the order of your lecture videos;
  • Examples drawn from current events, if there is the possibility that they may become less relevant in future years.

Leaving the above information out of your asynchronous lecture videos does not mean leaving it out of your course, but simply putting it in different formats like video notes or the textual descriptions related to items in Avenue.

Students spend longer watching asynchronous lecture videos than their actual runtime

When planning the amount of asynchronous lecture content in a week, keep in mind that (ideally) most students will not simply watch the video – they may pause to take notes or re-watch the video to clarify their understanding of course content. In their Time on Task resource, the Rochester Institute of Technology estimates an additional 5 minutes per 15 minutes of video.

Moreover, if you incorporate any learning or engagement activities into your asynchronous lecture videos, they will also take time to complete. Instructors frequently underestimate how long it takes students to work through activities; if possible, ask someone unfamiliar with the lecture material to review the lecture and give feedback on how long it takes them to perform the tasks asked of them.

Plan to create accessible video content from the outset

Asynchronous lecture videos can be more accessible for some students than synchronous lectures, but they are not inherently so: they need to be designed with accessibility in mind. To avoid having to re-record your asynchronous lecture videos after discovering that they contain unintended barriers for students, ensure that you are following accessibility recommended practices including:

  • Having adequate colour contrast between background and foreground information
  • Not using colour alone to convey information (i.e. for students who are colour-blind)
  • Using an easy-to-read font at a sufficiently large size
  • Minimizing the amount of visual information on a single slide
  • Describing aloud any images, diagrams or figures that are not merely decorative
  • Correcting automatically generated captions

For an explanation of the above practices and guidance on how to implement them, consult  Accessible Digital Content Training > Accessible Microsoft PowerPoint (if you will be using MS PowerPoint as the content for your asynchronous lecture videos), Remote Teaching and Captions and Accessible Presentations (follow the “General Presentation Techniques” link in the table of contents).

Use Creative Commons-licensed content where possible

While there are numerous copyright exceptions within Canadian Copyright Law you can make use of when creating asynchronous lecture videos that will be restricted to students enrolled in your Avenue course, using Creative Commons-licensed content takes the uncertainty out of using images, sound, video and other media in your asynchronous lecture videos.

Creative Commons-licensed materials are copyrighted works that the owner has given permission in advance for anyone to use, meaning that you don’t have to ask them directly – provided you follow the terms of the license. Typical license terms include attributing the work to the author and non-commercial use only.

When deciding upon images and other media assets you have not created yourself for use in your asynchronous lecture videos, ask yourself if you need that exact work or if another Creative Commons-licensed could be substituted. Determining whether your use of a copyrighted work falls under a copyright exception can be challenging, so it is “safer” to rely on Creative Commons-licensed works whenever you are able.<!– To read more about Creative Commons content, visit the Media Creation Skills: Video Made Easy module mentioned below in Ready to Get Started? (“Planning for Your Video” > “Finding Creative Commons-licensed materials for your videos”). Other copyright exceptions are described in “Copyright considerations in video creation” in the same module. –>

Integrate asynchronous lecture videos with other course activities

Because students can view asynchronous lecture videos on their own time, they may wind up binge watching them at the end of the course – which is not optimal from a pedagogical standpoint! Remove the temptation – and the stress – of cramming the asynchronous lecture videos by building other course activities around them.

Connecting asynchronous lecture video content to synchronous online classes, quizzes, or other course activities in the same week encourages students to stay on top of them relative to the course schedule. Or, you may wish to create a completely asynchronous online week of class if you are going to be unavailable for some reason.

Institutionally Supported Video Creation Tools

Once you have considered some of the broader aspects of your asynchronous lectures, it is time to start thinking about the tools. There are a dizzying number of options available for creating video; we have limited the list here to tools that are institutionally supported at McMaster University but there are still several to choose from! Each have different strengths and are more suitable for some use cases than others. If you need advice in choosing a tool, refer to the Have Questions? section.

Ultimately, your choice of tool will come down to two things: what will provide the functionality you need and what you can comfortably work with. The latter will require a bit of experimentation on your part, while the former will depend on both how you intend to put the video together (i.e. are you doing more than simply recording your screen in one take?) and the kinds of learning activities you would like to incorporate.

NB: Zoom is also an option for providing recordings of live presentations after the fact but excluded here because it is not a video creation tool per se. Furthermore, H5P – a tool for creating interactive asynchronous presentations – does not having video editing capabilities; you would create your video outside of H5P initially and import it to make use of H5P’s features.


Name Description Features Limitations More Info
MacVideo McMaster’s video portal, similar to YouTube, that allows for the upload and creation of video. MacVideo’s creation tools can record your screen and webcam image at the same time, which are available by downloading the Kaltura Capture software.
  • Integrated with Avenue (add with “Insert Stuff” or upload as content)
  • Ability to annotate while recording
  • Ability to adjust size of webcam and screen capture images
  • Basic editing functions, as well as quizzes
  • Has automatic captioning capabilities
  • Limited editing functionality (trimming front and end of video, cutting out sections of video)
  • Cannot combine multiple clips or add other media
MacVideo is supported by the MacPherson Institute; read more about it on the MacVideo knowledge base.
MS Stream Another institutionally supported video platform, Stream is where you access recordings that you make during an MS Teams meeting.
  • Integrated with MS Teams
  • Basic editing functions
  • Granular sharing permissions
  • Easy to use if already familiar with MS Teams
  • Less feature-rich than MacVideo
  • Lower quality video image
MS Teams and Stream is supported by University Technology Services; read more about it in Microsoft’s documentation.
Echo360 Dedicated lecture capture application that can be broadcast live to over 1000 learners and recorded. Normally, instructors would use Echo360 enabled classrooms but there is also software that can be downloaded and run from your computer (Echo360 Capture).
  • Integrated with Avenue
  • Basic video editing functions
  • Includes pedagogical features like note-taking, polling and searchable transcripts
  • As with MacVideo, limited editing functionality
  • Video editing interface is unintuitive
Echo360 is supported by the McMaster Library; read more about it on their information page.
Camtasia A desktop software application that, like many of the lecture capture tools, can record your screen and webcam.
  • Integrated with PowerPoint
  • More sophisticated editing functions available (working with multiple clips, adding images and effects, fading in and out, etc.)
  • Does not have automatic captioning capabilities (easier to upload finished video to MacVideo and caption there)
  • Less streamlined video creation process than other options
  • Steeper learning curve for instructors unfamiliar with video editing
  • Video files, which tend to be large, are saved on your own computer
Camtasia licenses are being made available to instructors; you can download the software at McMaster University’s Software Portal. Tutorials can be accessed on the website of Camtasia’s parent company, TechSmith.


In summary: MS Stream is likely your best bet if you are already familiar with MS Teams want a quick and easy tool to record your screen while lecturing. MacVideo and Echo360 offer basic editing capabilities in addition to interactive features that promote active learning. Camtasia has a steeper learning curve but offers a much wider range of editing tools, and the effort may be worthwhile if you will be creating a lot of videos.

Have Questions?

Speak to someone at the MacPherson Institute with lecture video creation experience; any one of us can assist with tool selection advice and strategies for using video in teaching:


Educational Developer Contact Information Areas of assistance
Chris Lombardo lombarcl@mcmaster.ca Camtasia; setting up your recording space
Devon Mordell mordelld@mcmaster.ca Camtasia; using H5P with video content; accessible video practices
Tony Hoang hoangtt@mcmaster.ca MacVideo; setting up your recording space



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Blended Teaching: A Guide for Applying Flexible Practices during COVID-19 Copyright © by Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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