Monday, May 14, 2007

Bleg: What are the ingredients of good video lectures?

I'm interested specifically in lectures in a classroom setting, and even more specifically in lectures that cover an entire course.

I can easily imagine the goodness of seminar talks carrying over to the video medium. I'm not able to put my finger on the exact reason for it, but I think the density of information may have something to do with it. Many TED talks are very good on video, probably because they are short, snappy and highly focused.

But, how about lectures in a classroom setting? Clearly, they cannot be delivered at the same pace and with the same information density as seminar talks. Would these lectures -- irrespective of how great the lecturer is -- retain their freshness and intimacy in the video format? Would it be better if the video is recorded in a studio in which the lecturer 'talks to' the cameras rather than students?

The reason I'm asking is because of a proposal to create video lectures of undergraduate level courses, with IITs, IISc and several other institutions getting the mandate. I am peripherally involved in this project, and I'm trying to learn as much as possible about the video medium for pedagogical purposes. [And, no, I'm not contemplating signing up for acting lessons!]

Any pointers -- intro stuff, HOW-TOs, FAQs, scholarly articles -- will be greatly appreciated.

Even better, if you know of examples of excellent classroom lectures on video (covering science or engineering subjects) please let me know. I should be able to use them to get an idea about what makes for a good lecture-on-video.

Many thanks in advance.


  1. Anonymous said...


    Some of Knuth's lectures and classroom sessions are available at this site. The one called "Aha" sessions are good--forgive my impetuosity--though, Knuth does not seem to be a great orator, the lectures work wonderfully because of the interactions that take place in the classroom, I think.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Check out the lectures.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Apologies for incomplete sentence above. Also check out lectures at

  4. Saurabh said...

    Good video lectures:

    1. Classroom setting preferred than studio. If questions of students in class can also be recorded, it makes the video all the more interesting.

    2. If the lecturer/professor has a good sense of humour which he uses while talking, it retains constant interest.

    3. Powerpoint v/s chalk-talk is a subjective matter. Both can be good. Examples: Prof Wuensch has a brilliant series of lectures on symmetry and structure in materials where he presents everything with a chalk and blackboard (the link is ), while on the other hand, there are some awesome powerpoint video lectures on

    4. Clever, clear and creative animation can do a world of good to understanding. Watch this short and fascinating video on the double slit experiment.

    Other sources you might want to check are:
    1. Feynman's video lectures:
    2. KITP Public lectures:
    3. A must watch lecture "how to make teaching come alive?" by Walter Lewin at

  5. Pratik Ray said...

    My favorite video lecture series, apart from the link posted by wanderer regarding Feynman lectures in the post above is Gerd Cedar's course (Atomistic Computer Modeling of Materials).

    Here, we had a series of lectures by Rohit Trivedi on kinetics, which were very good. Unfortunately, the videos arent in public domain. What made Prof Trivedi's class so interesting was that the lectures were quite interactive.

    As wanderer said, its always better to have the lectures in a classroom, so that there can be a greater degree of interaction. IISc doesnt have undergrads, so this could be a tough one. But I guess there are quite a few summer interns in the metallurgy dept these days, and it might be a good idea to have a short course (which can be video recorded) for them, apart from their summer projects.

    This actually might be a good (and a challenging) exercise for the simple reason that the summer interns come from fairly different backgrounds (IITs, NITs, state colleges) and so might be exposed to a slightly different syllabii at their institutes. Any course which could reach out to them would therefore be a pretty nice and comprehensive one.

    A course on thermo might be apt, since, in my opinion, in most of the NITs and state colleges, thermo is the Achilles heel for the students.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Hi Abi,
    You might like to have a look at the course titled "LHC for String Theorists" taught by Prof.Sunil Mukhi over here at TIFR. It was video-taped and the videos were used for a similar course at HRI.

    In this case, Prof.Mukhi was addressing a group of students at TIFR and not a camera directly and in my personal opinion, the videos have come out really well (a substantial fraction of that success coming from the fact that Prof.Mukhi is an excellent teacher).

    The videos are available in the above link. You can have a look at the videos(there were some minor hiccups initially which were soon taken care of) and come to your own judgement. Further, I am sure Prof.Mukhi would be happy to share the kind of feedback he received about the videos. His mail address is "mukhi" (domain name : tifr dot res dot in).

  7. Anonymous said...

    There are loads of classroom lecture videos available at but I am not sure if all of it is open to the public access. Do check and let me know (from my computer within the institute it works), and I shall try to find some other way to send them.

    Following is a bit self-centered, but just to share my personal side. You can remove it after reading, if it reeks more of (only) me... ;)

    My experience with video lectures and power point has always been pleasant. Last year I gave a series of CFD lectures to students at BHEL through video conferencing in real time. Two cameras were used, one facing me and the other receiving feed from the laptop containing the power point. I was given the "remote" to switch between the two cameras and/or use the picture-in-picture mode while lecturing.

    I was very comfortable doing that and had straight 3 hour sessions with minimal breaks in between, and could lecture sitting (instead of standing and walking etc.) and using the mouse to point out the details in the slides, line by line.

    The students received it very well it seems, from comments I received over phone from the coordinators.

  8. Siva said...

    Gilbert Strang's linear algebra lectures

  9. Abi said...

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I look forward to seeing them.

    Unfortunately, I'm not able to view the videos. At work, videos are disabled during the daytime. At home, things are a bit busy (and our broadband is not all that fast). I promise to get to these videos, and I'm sure they all have a lot to teach me about teaching!

  10. ankit said...

    A very good format of delivering online lectures has been used by IIT Madras profs using Camtasia Studio.It serves as blackboard too and allows for full interaction with students too.An excellent method.Lectures at link: