Examples from around OSU: Instructional Content Created on iPads

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When talking to folks about creating instructional or tutorial videos on iPad, the first question most ask is, “What can I do on an iPad that I couldn’t already do on a computer?” The answer is more a redirect: you could do the same thing, but it won’t be as easy or as quick. Essentially, computer software like iMovie and Final Cut is built to allow lots of options and operates like a computer, with uploading, exporting, file format conversion, and so on. The process is slower and the learning curve steeper. iPad applications, though, are built for easy mastery, quick import and export, and communicate easily with other applications on the device. Where computer software is built to be open-ended in order to allow the greatest amount of control and manipulation, iPad applications are built to be efficient and functional on a touch-basis. Further, iPad applications allow an additional layer of screen capture — your personal drawings, underlinings, scribblings, and so on. Applications like bContext and Explain Everything allow  you to mark up a PDF, draw a diagram, or underline key points in a document or presentation while verbally narrating everything — all through an intuitive format that, with a stylus, works just as how you might markup up a physical document or sketch something on a piece of paper.

Faculty and staff have been using iPads to create videos for classroom, flipped, and online teaching for a few semesters now. Looking at the work they created may be helpful in imagining what kind of video you’d find useful to create.

Nicole Kraft, School of Communication | videos created using Explain Everything

Justin DeBrosse,  Combined English as a Second Language Programs, Education & Human Ecology | video created using Explain Everything


The following videos were created for the Combined English a Second Language Program by Justin Debrosse, Gary Whitby, and Anna Wolf using both slides as well as on-screen writing. This feature can also be used without slides to demonstrate quick concepts using drawing, handwriting, and audio.

Example 1: Persuasive Essay Writing

Example 2: Reporting Verbs

Example 3: Basic Concepts of Introduction Writing with Examples

Example 4: Grammar Lesson over Noun Clauses

Another potential use is to provide feedback to students over their work via iPad. For privacy reasons, we can’t show examples that include names. This is done by importing a student’s assignment as a PDF and essentially walking through marking and commenting on the work.

Ready, Set, Record — General Guidelines on Creating Course Content via iPads


  1. Use the features available — circle, underline, draw, and scribble. One of the biggest pros to this type of creation, aside from the relative ease and accessibility of it, is that you can do things like draw a sketch of what you’re saying or circle the keywords as you bring them up. This helps students engage the audio with the visual. Without these elements, it’s essentially an audio recording to a picture slideshow.
  2. Avoid too much text. Keep in mind, students are very likely to view video content on a mobile device. A paragraph of large text becomes indecipherable on a small screen.
  3. Choose two modes of delivery at a time and avoid adding more. Visuals? Text? Illustrating? Audio? Choose two of those. If you want something that is text-centric with images, then perhaps a PDF handout would be more appropriate than a video. If you really want to explain something using your own voice to students, that’s great — choose one form of visuals to present at a time. If students have a screen of text and images to look at while you talk, they may find their eyes darting around attempting to sync your spoken words to what they’re seeing. But that shouldn’t be limiting — you can use multiple elements to explain a concept; just don’t show them all at once. Perhaps you first show the text definition of a concept while explaining it, then on the next screen you show a diagram, ending finally with a blank screen on which you illustrate a concept with a stylus. This approach would offer students multiple opportunities to understand at different levels without making the instruction confusing.
  4. Don’t think of instructional videos as lectures. The lecture format is linked to the idea of students receiving all of their information in two or three weekly, in-person chunks. Video content has no such structural obligations, and students generally consume the content in smaller chunks. Limit videos to ten minutes at most, if possible, and shorter is ideal. Keep in mind, these smaller bites of teaching can be as numerous as needed, and content doesn’t need to break up into any predesignated format.
  5. Keep your voice natural, conversational, and positive. Especially in the case of online classes, recorded content is one of the top ways students form an impression of an instructor and the course in general. When all else fails and you find your voice sounding sterile or monotone, smile while recording to add warmth.
  6. Acclimate yourself to pausing. Pausing as you record allows you to think, prepare, practice, and catch your breath. It will ultimately save you time by preventing the kind of gaps and gaffes that might need to be edited out.
  7. Keep in mind that you can redirect students to other materials in a video. Would you like the students to refer to a chart or set of textbook questions three minutes into the instruction? Add that in: “At this point, go to page 68 in  your textbook and walk through the checklist. Pause the video while you do this, then resume watching once you’ve completed it.” Or should students visit a specific assignment or course handout at the end? Just tell them where to go.

Would you like to learn how to use Explain Everything to create your own content on an iPad? Check out our tutorial. For more information on how these applications are being used across OSU and in the online general education content, contact Tara Koger (koger.13@osu.edu).



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