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Best Practices | Video in Arc


The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles guide educators to provide content using multiple means of representation (CAST, 2012). One popular modality for presenting instruction in an online course is through the use of video.

While there is increased enrollment in online courses with video instruction, not all students enrolled in these courses are viewing the videos, and even fewer are viewing videos in their entirety (Costley, 2017). So what makes a video worth watching from the student perspective? Studies show students want short, interactive videos that are in some way tied to the course grade.

One study examining how video production affects student engagement found students' median engagement time to be six minutes. This study also found the most engaging video types to be an instructor's talking head interspersed onto presentation slides, lectures prepared purposefully for online student use, and tablet drawing tutorials (Guo, 2014). Additionally, videos that incorporate elements of interaction are more likely to garner sustained viewing. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." Analytics reveal that a higher number of views occur when the video is in direct connection to a course assignment (Hibbert, 2014). Another study proposed holding students accountable by making video views mandatory and a factor in students' grades (similar to mandatory attendance or participation in a face-to-face course) (Costley, 2017). Offering instructional videos just-in-time (a few hours before an assessment or a face-to-face class) is another strategy to promote student engagement (Novak, 2011).

In Practice

Arc is a media platform offered within Canvas. Video and audio files and YouTube videos can be loaded to Arc and stored in a library, embedded within a course, or shared with others. A few features that can be leveraged to engage students include:

  • Commenting: Enabling the Arc commenting featuring is one way to provide opportunity for interactivity within a video. Instructors and students can ask questions or start a conversation by commenting directly on the video timeline.
  • Insights: These video analytics provide information on which videos students are playing, which parts they are playing, and for how long they are playing.
  • Captioning: Users can request automatically generated captions for files added to the Arc media library. Captions provide access to those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or for whom English is a second language. Captioning can be of benefit to all users by serving as an additional means of representation and allowing for text searchability to locate a specific point within the media.

The following case study employs some of the best practices for video in Arc.

An anatomy instructor creates a five-minute video on the abdominal cavity. The video contains the instructor's talking head interspersed onto presentation slides. Throughout the video recording the instructor poses questions like "What are some ways the abdominal cavity functions are similar to other major body cavity functions?". The instructor uploads the video file to Arc for storage in her media library. She requests for the system to generate captions. The instructor then embeds the video within a page in her Major Body Cavities module, enabling the commenting feature. The presentation file used in the video is also made available on this page. She includes text preceding the video that instructs students to answer one question using the commenting feature. In the syllabus and Start Here module, the instructor has outlined a points system for participation that includes responses to embedded questions within the video lectures. As students comment on the video, the instructor replies to the comments with feedback. The instructor also monitors video insights throughout the length of the module. In the instructions for the quiz at the end of the Module, the instructor reminds students that there will be questions from the content in the video and links back to the page containing the video.


Center for Applied Special Technology. (2012). What is universal design for learning. Retrieved from

Costley, J., Hughes, C., & Lange, C. (2017). The effects of instructional design on student engagement with video lectures at cyber universities. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 189- 207. Retrieved from

Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning at Scale. ACM, 2014.

Hibbert, M. (2014). What Makes an Online Instructional Video Compelling? EDUCAUSE. Retrieved from

Novak, G. (2011). Just-in-Time Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (128) p. 63-73, Wiley Online Library DOI: 10.1002/tl.469.