Several years ago, Seton decided to produce tutorial videos to help parents and students with answering the most common questions that come through our phones and message boards. We discovered that the most common questions we receive relate to diagramming sentences as assigned students in their English courses. Because diagramming is often not well understood, and because it is a very visual representation of grammatical concepts, we decided diagramming would be a perfect subject for a video.
Keshia Brown, who has worked for Seton for many years, earned her certificate in Professional Photography and has finished a year of courses at an online film school. Keshia has been a leader in teaching others and helping Seton acquire proper equipment. We purchased two cameras, computers, microphones, and other equipment. Our counselors chose sentences to explain each concept, and we hired a young lady to “perform” and explain how to diagram. Along with the presentation was a drawing which followed the explanation.
Before we were through, we had numerous diagramming tutorial videos. They range from drawing the first horizontal line taught in primary grades, to rather complex Dependent Noun clauses as Appositives for Objects of a Preposition taught in high school.
Over the years, we have had thousands of views of our Diagram Tutorials, with a steady stream of comments from parents and students saying how helpful they are.
While there are some diagramming explanations on the internet, and even some sites that supposedly automatically diagram sentences, the fact is that many sites, even the “automatic diagram” ones, contain many inaccuracies!
Frankly, it takes analytical skills to diagram a complex sentence correctly, and our video tutorials not only show how to diagram, they explain the analysis behind the diagram. Diagramming demands thinking about relationships in a sentence of ideas, which are expressed by words, phrases, and clauses.
Videos, Phase Two
After we produced the diagramming videos, we produced a series of videos with Dr. Clark and her daughter-in-law, Lisa Clark, who is homeschooling eight of her nine children. Dr. Clark and Lisa took 20 to 30 minutes per grade to explain the lesson plans, texts, and workbooks that go with each course.
Following the tutorials on the elementary grades, Dr. Clark went through each high school English Course Manual, almost page by page, to explain not only how to use the Course Manual but also explaining how to find specific helps in the Handbook in the back of the Manuals.
Our focus continues to be on questions we are asked by parents and students. The most common questions continue to be about English courses, so we have produced about 50 tutorial videos on high school English.
When our video production grew too big to do within the Seton building, we moved to a nearby studio where we keep the big lights, the computers, white boards, backdrops, teleprompter, staging set, camera equipment, and so on. We now are producing tutorial videos several days a week.
Our English tutorials offer more explanation for various specific assignments, sometimes offering one or two or more tutorials per weekly assignments. In addition, some tutorials offer help with the Book Analyses, which are in addition to the online audio tutorials on all of the Book Analyses for the high school English courses.
Our aim is for the course tutorials to be not only informative and helpful, but also interesting and even fun! While some of the tutorials present only one tutor, many of the tutorials present the information in a more conversational tone with two counselors. Our tutor for American Literature, for instance, is accompanied in several videos by Bruce Clark who speaks about what was happening in American history at the time of the writing of the American Literature selection.
To make the tutorials more interesting, we have added images of persons or topics related to the topic, such as images of writers and of places, for example, that the writer might be writing about.
Besides videos for specific courses, we have also made videos that we hope will assist parents in the process of teaching their children. We have been fortunate enough to have Dr. Katie Moran present several videos about different ways of learning. Dr. Moran is a regular speaker at home schooling conferences regarding the way children learn, as well as encouraging parents to be alert to their children’s strengths and weaknesses in the learning process. Dr. Moran gives specific ideas for teaching children with specific techniques.
One exciting aspect of our video productions is that they can be used as content for online courses. As we develop online courses, we are able to add videos as well as still images. We are currently working to develop three online science courses: Earth Science, Biology, and Physical Science. The ability of adding video directly into course content means that online courses can have more information and explanation than can be contained within a book alone.
The topic to be presented on a tutorial video is usually based on questions that parents and students ask. The counselors make a list of the questions and the answers. Then the presenter—the person who will actually perform in the video—works with the counselors on a presentation. Once either a complete script, or at least an outline, is completed for the presentation, the video crew sets up the stage with whatever is needed for the presentation.
For example, the speaker may need a white board for an outline to be shown on the video, or may use a teleprompter which is set up near the main camera.
For most videos we use two cameras from two different angles, one with the close-up shots, and the other with the full shots to include the white board or other items. We often use blue-screen technology, which allows us to display background images while the speaker presents in the foreground. This is similar to the technology used in news casts to show the changing weather screens behind a meteorologist.
After studying various online tutorials, we have decided in many cases to have two presenters. Two presenters offer a little more interest and interaction rather than a one-person presentation. We believe a more “conversational” type presentation is often more appealing to students, since the format of questions and answers is more familiar to most students than simply one person talking.
Once the presentation has been filmed, our staff of computer video artists edit the video with a variety of close-ups and long shots. They also add visual outlines of important points to remember and illustrations of people, places, or events which relate to the topic being presented. This kind of addition helps, we believe, to keep the student interested in the information and, we hope, to retain some of the interesting aspects of the lesson.
The videos seem to be popular among our students. All combined, our videos have been played over 29,000 times. The most-seen individual videos have been played over 3,000 times and several of the diagramming videos have been played more than 1,000 times. The videos are a response to the needs of our students. We strive to make our videos better and always welcome your feedback.
How can we make our videos better? What new subjects might we address in future videos?