Office desk

Presenter talks to viewer from behind a desk.


Similar to a video in a classroom-based setting, an educational video of a presenter behind a desk can simulate a lesson in a naturalistic setting. This video production technique can be used effectively in conjunction with other techniques such as animation or slides.


Sexing the Canvas, Massive Open Online Course, University of Melbourne 2015

In the massive open online art history course Sexing the Canvas, Caroline and Jeanette augmented their location lecture videos with more casual weekly ‘mailbag’ videos filmed in a less formal ‘across the desk’ style.

What the research says

Students have been shown to prefer direct-instruction videos where the instructor’s face is present. Those who watched videos showing the presenter’s face thought they had learned more, needed to use less effort to watch the lecture and rated the experience better than those who watched the without face videos (Kizilcec, Bailenson, & Gomez, 2015). The effect of viewing the presenters face on retention of information is less conclusive, showing that grades were not significant different between the two presentation styles (Kizilcec, Bailenson, & Gomez, 2015).

It has been shown that learners try harder to make sense out of their tutor’s feedback when they feel as if their tutor is a social partner (McLaren, DeLeeuw, & Mayer, 2011), so giving  ‘office hours’ style video feedback may be an effective strategy if your students are online or geographically remote.

Production tips

  • Inbuilt webcams in desktop computers (for example iMacs) have popularised this style of video production as a quick, self-service solution.
  • You can improve the quality of your webcam videos by adjusting the height of the camera to align with your eye-height and by looking directly at the camera rather than at the screen.
  • As always, audio quality is a key consideration – an external USB microphone and a quiet recording environment will make the biggest difference.
  • Make sure that light falls onto the face, and avoid ‘backlighting’ from bright light sources behind the presenter.

Further resources

Six Tips for Making Great Videos with Your Webcam

Further reading

Kizilcec, R. F., Bailenson, J. N., & Gomez, C. J. (2015). The instructor’s face in video instruction: Evidence from two large-scale field studies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(3), 724–739.

Kizilcec, R. F., Papadopoulos, K., & Sritanyaratana, L. (2014). Showing Face in Video Instruction: Effects on Information Retention, Visual Attention, and Affect. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems(pp. 2095–2102). New York, NY, USA: ACM.

McLaren, B. M., DeLeeuw, K. E., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). A politeness effect in learning with web-based intelligent tutors. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 69(1), 70–79.

This page was last updated on 23 Oct 2018.

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