Creating videos for medical education

By: Victoria Brazil 

[view part Dr. Brazil’s post on  effectively using videos in medical education here]

Videos have become a popular medium to support health professional educational outcomes, inspired by examples like the Khan Academy, and made feasible by the consumer level technology available for filming, editing and distributing.

Videos in medical education may be used as a substitute for traditional lecture or seminar attendance, as a supplement (eg flipped classroom preparation), or as a stand alone resource eg video podcasting for continuing medical education.

Why use video?

Producing material that can be watched by many learners, over a number of iterations of an educational program, is an efficient delivery method when compared to in person lecturing. Online distribution platforms, whether institutionally based learning management systems or commercial providers like YouTube and vimeo, add accessibility across geographic boundaries, and allow asynchronous access. The effort involved in producing a video planned for multiple uses often adds consistency in quality. Some content areas such a physical exam or medical imaging topics will be more suitable and much clearer in visual presentation.

Approaches such as the ‘flipped classroom’ intend that the didactic material is presented in videos watched before coming to class, allowing the synchronous educational phase to be more interactive, applied, and focused on problem solving

Why not? Some cautions.

Despite the excellent technology now available, quality videos take time and resources to produce, and educators should evaluate whether their intended use justifies this. People can read faster than they can watch the same material in video format, and some content simply requires a ‘deep dive’ into the written word.

Videos won’t quite capture the ‘in person’ experience of an excellent teacher with an interactive and inspiring format.

What works?

Learning analytics from online platforms has allowed detailed understanding of learner behaviour. A study of over 6.9 million video watching sessions from almost 128,000 students on the edX platform (a MOOC), suggested that engagement was enhanced by

  • SHORT videos (less than 6 minutes)
  • Presenters ‘talking head’, interspersed with other images (not just voice over)
  • A fast speaking rate
  • Using animations and ‘developing’ the message (eg Khan academy, osmosis videos, give other medical examples)

Just using your iPhone to record your one hour lecture won’t quite cut it… J

This example may not be completely transferable to all our medical education contexts, but parallels reasonably well with learning neuroscience principles.

Where do I start?

(note Nil commercial disclosures with regard to products mentioned)

 Get help if this new! The options are overwhelming.

Friends and colleagues, and online tutorials are a good place to start. Many learning institutions also offer workshops or support to academics and clinical adjunct faculty via Offices of Learning and Teaching or similar. The University of California San Francisco offers creating video based education for free online.

Technically, filming is easier than ever, with smart phones having adequate specifications for most of our medical education needs, with digital video cameras as an alternative. Simply record on the device software or application, followed by cable or wireless upload to a laptop or other device that will allow editing. Many devices will do both (eg iOS devices with imovie) but sometimes there are compromises on individual functions when combined (think about the scissors on the Swiss army knife 🙂

Sound is generally more problematic than picture, and recording sound separately from the speaker(s) via a lapel or podcasting microphone is highly recommended.

Coaching the ‘talent’ (including yourself) as a talking head is tricky. Facial expression and body language tics can be hard to modify and generally become worse with the anxiety of filming. Accepted wisdom for presenting yourself on camera will help, as will practice J

Editing audio and visual material has become much easier, but has a learning curve. Software such as Camtasia, Adobe Captivate, and many other video capture software are available in price ranges from $50 – $1500. These allow a combination of video, audio, screen capture (including Powerpoint slides), voice over narration, and other media. Most of the software options have online tutorials for use. These software applications will usually have variety of output formats. Simple mp4 will fulfil most needs, unless there is a specific need for very high resolution.

VideoScribe, Pawtoon and many others offer animation based options eg drawings with voiceover etc.

Some great example of ‘stand alone’ video repositories for medical education include Osmosis and Lecturio,

Distribution and dissemination of your video will depend on your context. Uploading to an institution’s learning management system (LMS) may have a file size limit to keep in mind. Uploading to YouTube and vimeo will make videos easy to find via Internet search engines and accessible outside institutional affiliations. Simply using a public dropbox folder may be appropriate if the distribution list is small or the resources for a course or workshop includes non-video format items like text and/or pdf documents.


Video offers many opportunities for the clinician educator, with a few cautions. Creating video is now feasible and practical, but still requires a sound educational strategy to be effective.