Tutors gotta be video stars

Recently I see more and more of my fellow math tutors jump unto the bandwagon of making videos for their tutoring business. I started making some videos for marketing purposes since two years back too, yet there are so much more to be done.

You can use videos to help your tutoring business in the following ways:

(a) to demonstrate to potential customers your teaching style,

(b) to create a new line of scalable, lower priced products to people who are not ready to pay for your class, or

(c) to supplement your teaching.

Making demo videos

They say a picture is worth more than a thousand word. Well, a short demo video of how you teach is worth many pictures and words combined.

For my online classes, recording demo videos are pretty straight forward, involving only capturing the screen. I started using a screen capture software called SnagIt and produced demo videos like this. Later on when the virtual classroom I am using, ClassDo.com started to have recording function, I switched totally to that.

On the other hand, if you are teaching only through face-to-face, shooting a good video of face-to-face tuition can be harder. I have not done it before as my classes are all online, but I suspect that you might need some video editing because you need to capture your own face as well as your student’s face.

9 hours of raw footage for 2 minutes of demo video

The CEO of ClassDo.com, Chiew, lend me a lot of help in making these videos.

To make a 2 minutes demo video of online lessons like what you see here, we recorded about 6 lessons (9 hours) worth of raw footage.

Once we have a substantial amount of footage, we started to look for usable moments in the raw footage. We decided to focus on “Aha” moments where my student realised something important and looked excited. Moments when he exclaimed, “Oh, now I see it!” was what we were looking for.

Making teaching videos

Teaching videos are a little different from demo videos. To understand what are teaching videos, just take a look at the videos from khanacademy, eddie woo or my fellow tutor Teo Kai Meng.

You can go high tech or low tech in making teaching videos. The main thing is to start making the first one. Experts will tell you that you should spend money to buy editing software, buy good video cameras and get help in writing a proper storyboard. These will easily cost you a few thousand dollars.

I will suggest that you start right away, with free software that is available in the market. Make a video for a few topics. Keep each video short (like less than 3 minutes) because your viewers are not going to have longer attention span.

Once you have created about 10 videos, share with a few selected friends or students to get their feedback. Improve your next videos based on that. Keep asking for feedback until you are getting very positive feedback from those whom you ask.

As you gain confidence in what kind of teaching video works for you and your audience, you can invest more in making the videos more professional looking.

You can also go further to make a complete library of teaching videos. When you have that, you can set up the infrastructure to sell these videos online or give it out for free, for people who cannot afford your rates but wants to learn from you.

Make videos to enhance your teaching

Now that recording teaching videos is no longer impossible for average tutors, it has brought about new ways we can make learning experiences better. You can read up more about it; just google for “flipped classroom”.

Ever had students who asked you to slow down because he writes too slowly? You can now record your lesson and simply ask him to review the video lessons later. Relieved of the task of frantically jotting down notes, your students may now have time to engage in more Q&A with you.

Maybe you have explained for a thousand times how to do quadratic factorisation, or how to write a good summary, or how to describe Brownian motion. If you can record these videos, you can ask your students to watch these videos at their own time. You can then devote your lesson time to go through questions to deepen their understanding.


Some frequently asked question (FAQ) when it comes to recording and sharing our lessons:

Q: What if my students or their parents download my videos and share them among their friends, without my consent?

A: Wouldn’t you see it as a compliment, if your videos are shared by your students and their parents? That means that they like your videos, and they feel that others will like it too! Since they are helping you to do free marketing work, just ride on their good will. Do remember to do a little editing in your videos, add your logo, your name and contact number throughout the whole video, so that whoever watches your video knows how to contact you, to get more of you. That is another source of leads for your business. Furthermore, these are pre-qualified leads, means that they have watched your videos and they like your style. The chances of them signing up for your class is many times higher than someone who don’t know much about you.

Q: What if my competitor somehow got hold of my videos and produce similar videos to mine?

A: It is not that easy to imitate another tutor’s style. Watch Sal Khan’s videos on Khan Academy for a while, and try to teach exactly like him. Not easy, right? But I bet you have your own way to teach your students equally well, if not better, than Sal Khan. Instead of worrying that your competitor will copy your style – which is going to be quite futile for him, you will do better by just focusing on ramping up your skills in making better teaching videos to engage your students better.

Q: I am shy. How can I ever make a teaching video?

A: Sal Khan never showed his face even after producing thousands of teaching videos. In fact, in an interview, he joked that his learners probably learn better not having to see his face in the videos. On a separate note, gaining confidence in front of camera is a priceless skill. I encourage you to try out Niamh Arthur’s Ignite Video Challenge. I tried it, it’s very fun and I became more confident in front of a video camera. Give it a try!

Q: There are already so many teaching videos on the internet. Why reinventing the wheel? Why not just ask my students to watch what other people has produced to help them learn better?

A: Yes, there are already many teaching videos on the internet for almost anything you can think of. Yes, you should encourage your students to read and watch widely, not just restricting to learning from you. However there are a few things you should know: (1) Your students are always going to understand your videos better because they are already used to your teaching style (2) There are many famous online teachers like Sal Khan and Eddie Woo, but many of them are catered to curriculums of other countries. For example, Sal Khan based his maths and science videos on the Common Core syllabus of the U.S., while Eddie Woo based his lessons on Australian syllabus. There may be a lot of overlaps of topics, but not a perfect fit.

If you have more questions about using video recording to help your lessons, I’d like to hear from you. Drop me a note at jason@lovetolearnsg.com!

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