Mini-lectures are brief, focused content presentations around five to fifteen minutes in length. Mini-lectures can serve a variety of functions, including the following:
- "to preview 'coming attractions' in the text, to restate and/or emphasize ideas, to introduce application exercises, to introduce theories not covered but related to those in the text, and to summarize and/or synthesize ideas" (Graham, 1997, p. 7)
- to introduce problems or case studies (also see problem-based learning and case studies)
- to convey information to students so that they can discuss or apply the information during the class session (also known as flipped instruction)
- Decide when students will review mini-lectures—before class (flipping) or during class (enhanced lecture).
- Find or create mini-lectures. Boiling down longer lectures may be difficult at first. Choose small topics from within longer lectures and create focused mini-lectures to scaffold learning. If you record the mini-lectures as a screencast, you may want to augment PowerPoint or Keynote slides by visiting applicable websites and/or using specific software applications that students will be asked to use.
- Prepare activities to intersperse with mini-lectures to help students reach specific learning outcomes, such as polling activities (with or without clickers), small group discussions, writing to learn activities, and/or classroom assessment techniques (e.g., one-minute paper).
- "[E]xplain to students that class time will be spent on activities designed to grapple with the most difficult concepts" (Walker et al., 2008). By explaining your active learning strategy and the value of mini-lectures combined with activities, students will be more receptive and successful.
- Mini-lectures can be used in conjunction with think-pair-share. Think - Students prepare a response to a question, problem, unsolved equation, or prompt provided at the end of a mini-lecture. Pair - Tell students turn to a neighbor and discuss their responses (e.g., why did they answer the way they did, compare how they solved the equation). Share – Solicit some of the pairs to give reports on what they decided together.
- A focused listing activity is another activity that can follow a mini-lecture during a class meeting. Ask students to take no more than two minutes to list five to seven points that the video or media demonstrates in relation to a specific topic. For example, "Based on the two videos we reviewed, list five to seven similarities between the American Revolution and the recent Arab Spring revolutionary demonstrations and protests." Then ask students to take only two minutes to find three items in common with a neighbor. Next, ask students to take only one minute to turn to another neighbor and find one item in common from the shorter lists. Take a couple minutes to see what the final items were and ask how many people had each reported response. This will help you filter what students got from the exercise of reviewing the media. You can also ask students to share items from their lists that were not mentioned to find outliers. Last, you can ask how many students had items you would have put on your list, so they know what you thought was important.
Creating Online Lectures
When was the last time you watched an hour-long YouTube video or TED talk? Most online videos are short, and for good reason. It can be difficult to capture listeners’ attention for long periods of time in real life, and it’s even harder to do online. When you create videos for students, keep them short (5-7 minutes is a good guideline). Remember that you can make more than video one for any given unit (and also integrate videos that already exist elsewhere), and you can also ask students to complete other learning activities in response to your minilecture videos.
Zoom and VoiceThread are two tools you can use to record videos within Camino. Check out this guide for recording with Zoom and this guide for recording with VoiceThread. Don’t worry about producing a perfectly polished video, but do keep in mind your learning objectives as you decide what you want to say during the video. You may want to begin the video with a quick overview of its goals and content and end the video with a summary and perhaps a question for reflection. For more tips on creating engaging minilecture videos, see this guide.
References and Additional Resources
Bligh, D. (2000). What’s the use of lectures? Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Conaway, T., & Schiefelbein, J. (2020). The human touch and your digital personality. Online Learning Consortium. https://secure.onlinelearningconsortium.org/effective_practices/human-touch-and-your-digital-personality
Graham, C.R. (1997). Mini-lectures…and some suggested uses. In Food for Thought: Active Lecturing (p. 7). Bowling Green, KY: Western Kentucky University - Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching.
Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2556325.2566239
Thaman, R.; Dhillon, S.; Saggar, S.; Gupta, M.; & Kaur, H. (2013). Promoting Active Learning in Respiratory Physiology – Positive Student Perception and Improved Outcomes. National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy & Pharmacology, 3(1), 27-34.
Walker, J.D.; Cotner, S.H.; Baepler, P.M.; & Decker, M.D. (2008, Winter). A Delicate Balance: Integrating Active Learning into a Large Lecture Course. CBE Life Sciences Education, 7(4), 361-367.
Dr. Kevin Kelly, Lecturer at San Francisco State University
Dr. Rachel Stumpf, SCU Faculty Development Program Manager
July 28, 2020