Harnessing the Power of Videos

redd-angelo-269935-unsplashPhoto by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

Videos are not uncommon in the world of online education. From my previous experiences, videos tend to fall into one of two categories: previously recorded lectures or supplemental videos pulled from YouTube or other educational sources. Recorded lectures are often long (upwards to an hour or more), non-engaging (watching someone stand there and/or the lecture slides), and for a lack of a better term boring (making it digital does not make it better). Supplemental videos are usually entertaining to some extent, shorter, and often thrown in to tie everything together. So, to say the least, my experiences have been limited.

Recently, I have found myself in a new project at work. We are attempting to redesign a program aimed at teaching graduate students foundational skills needed to succeed in future higher education teaching positions. The program has traditionally relied on more face-to-face components and a few supplemental components online. The redesign will focus on a blended experience for students.

This transition got me thinking about how do we know if learners are actually engaging with the materials online. Currently, in the online system, students read a module and answer quiz questions (aka readiness checks). I find this appraoch ineffective, contradicting to the engaged strategies we focus so much on teaching these graduate students, and frankly quite boring. I feel this would be a great opportunity to show by example – use the engaged learning strategies we focus on in the program.

Videos (the good ones) I feel can have a lot more power than we give them credit for. For example, there are literally companies (Netflix, YouTube, and so many more) that are built on the assumption that people like to watch videos. People literally pay monthly subscriptions to watch videos. So right there, we can conclude that videos can have the potential to be highly reinforcing. Why are we not harnessing this power in education? That may be something that is easier said than done.

In my opinion, we would have to start by changing our views on using videos in the classroom. Videos can’t just be for lecture captures anymore (as a side note: I’m not saying we need to get rid of lecture captures, I personally really like them). Why can’t we use videos to promote classroom discussion? Post a discussion video describing the prompt, exploring a discussion scenario, or even a controversial video clip from the news and have students respond using very short video clip (limit to a minute or two – there’s an app for that too). Students learn to concisely provide information to support their perspectives and it engages students. Why can’t videos be used to introduce a real-world problem? I’m thinking in terms of providing students with some details to get started (think of a detective arriving to a crime scene). The students have to figure out a solution to the problem based on skills they have learned in class. Or why can’t students learn from professionals in videos? Videos that capture professionals in their fields (or natural environments) can capture complicated processes that students will likely encounter in the future. Being able to observe those in the field not only bring relevance to students but also can teach valuable lessons (mean times without students even knowing). Or what about using videos as immersive experiences for students? What better way to teach students about topics such as natural disasters or historical places/eras than having them experience it first-hand virtually.  These are just a few ways I feel videos can take learning to the next level.

I also feel that we need to think about how we assess student learning regarding videos. Quizzes or guided questions are not the only ways to access student learning. Let’s just take the previous example of using the video to introduce a real-world problem. Students wouldn’t need to take a quiz to see if they were paying attention during the video. The assessment component would be built into the project. Depending on how the assignment is designed, assessments could occur at multiple levels (e.g., bloom’s taxonomy). Assessing student learning from multiple perspectives, can provide a more holistic picture for educators.

Now I’m not saying go out there and go video crazy. But I do feel as though videos are not always used to our advantage.



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