The use of video in the online classroom is growing dramatically, due in part to an increasing number of available tools.  In our personal lives, we are surrounded by rich video content and we expect our educational experiences to echo this trend.  In addition, research shows that we are better able to comprehend information and retain knowledge longer when we learn through media rich materials, including video.

Instructors often use film, TV shows or documentaries to provide real-world examples and to help illustrate or contextualize course concepts.  When using video in the online environment, these resources need to be distributed to students in a digital format.  In some cases, videos are already available online, but in other cases, video must be converted from a VHS tape or DVD.

In the case of VHS tapes, special equipment is required to convert the signal from analogue to digital.  If you have videos that need to be digitized, please contact the LTC ( to setup an appointment.  The LTC offers instructors the use of a media lab for creating course related content.  If instructors have a significant amount of material to digitize, the LTC can check-out a digitizing pack to you.  Using this pack, you can digitize VHS tapes at your office or home.

If you have a video on DVD that you’d like to distribute to your students, in most cases, you can convert the DVD on your computer using free software.  However, before you begin, there are a number of important steps to be performed in order to decide which tools you will use to create your digital file from DVD!

The most important thing to understand is that it is best to use a short section, rather than the entire, film or TV show.  The choice of which and how much of the DVD should be made in order to supply students with the information necessary to complete the assignment successfully.


Step One: Determine the necessary amount of the video to be used.

Before you can decide which tools you will use to create a digital file from a DVD, you will need to determine the section of the video you will use.  It is best to use ONLY the sections of the video that is necessary for your students to complete the assignment.  Capturing and distributing entire films is NOT recommended.  It is important to directly align the content you require with the learning outcomes for each assignment.  Once you have determined what you want your students to accomplish in order to achieve the learning outcomes, you can determine which piece of content and how much is required to successfully complete the assignment.  This concept is known as “backward design” (Wiggins & McTighe “Learning by Design” 1998, 2006).  To learn more about backward design, contact the LTC.

In some cases using the entire film is necessary; for example film studies courses.  In these cases, instructors usually choose to have students stream the full film through a streaming service.  There are a number of advantages to streaming rentals; the quality will be better, subtitles are available, the film can be delivered in its entirety, and (most importantly) there is no risk of copyright violation.  Many instructors present the renting of films like the purchasing of text books.  They make students aware of the need for the rental(s) and the cost in the syllabus.  They also usually add a few common links to the rentals to their D2L Content area under the appropriate module.

Depending on the film, students may be able to access through a number of services, outlined below:

  • Some entertainment companies make their programming available on their websites; for example PBS (  It is worth the time to run a web search to see if the required video is being streamed before taking the time to digitize.
  • Netflix (  If students are not already streaming subscribers, they can purchase streaming, even for a month or two, for $7.99.  This is usually a good option, if you have a number of full length films assigned during the semester.  Make sure to check availability on Netflix and offer additional options, as Netflix streaming collection changes regularly.
  • Amazon Instant Video (  Students can subscribe to Prime Instant Video and access a large number of titles.  Individual films can also be rented, usually for $2.99 each.  It is a good idea to make sure your required films are available for rental, rather than purchase.  Amazon Instant Video seems to have a fairly reliable collection that doesn’t change frequently.
  • YouTube (  Some entertainment companies have full length films available for rent on YouTube; for example, Lions Gate Video on Demand
  • Sony Video Unlimited (  Students can rent films through Sony, usually for $2.99.  Sony videos can be access through a computer, or other Sony devices, like PlayStation.


Step Two: Check to make sure if the video (and/or section of the video) is already available.

Capturing videos can be very time consuming.  In most cases, it will take you three times the length of the clip to prepare the video for student viewing (30 minute clip = 90 minute to prepare).  Many commonly used educational videos are available through YouTube (, Vimeo (, and other open educational resources.  In many cases, the publisher/producer has made videos, which are relevant to education, available on these sites.  Take the time to run a search for your chosen video on YouTube and Vimeo.


Step 3: Consider copyright and fair use.

Distributing entire films to your students is not only pedagogically inadvisable, it is also technically difficult to distribute and likely to be in violation of fair use statues of copyright law.  Here is more information about fair use and copyright for online and blended course videos:



How to determine the appropriate tool to capture and distribute video from DVD.

Once you have determined the section of video necessary for your students to complete the assignment, you can determine how best to create a digital file from a DVD.


Question One: Is your video copy protected?

Copy Protection is built into commercial DVDs in order to prevent the reproduction of copyrighted material.  More information on copy protection can be found here:

Almost all published DVDs are copy protected.  This includes film and TV shows and any other video material that has been distributed widely on DVD.  If you have a DVD that was created by a video camera or on a computer, it is likely that this material is not copy protected.


Question Two: What tool should I use to create video files from copy protected DVDs?

The tool you select will be based on where in the DVD and how much of the DVD you require for your assignment.

  • If your clip comprises one or more consecutive chapters in the film, you should use MakeMVK and Handbreak to create your video file.
  • If your clip is less than one chapter on the DVD or contains a section of multiple chapters on the DVD, than, you can use VLC to record the clip.  Use the “Capturing a video from DVD using VLC” tutorial, here:
  • If you must use the entire film or TV show, you should use MakeMVK and Handbreak.
  • If your clip contains multiple short sections that do not align with the DVD chapters, or if these sections need to be re-arranged, than you will need to capture the entire DVD and use video editing software to extract the unwanted sections and/or re-arrange sections.  Please contact the LTC for assistance (