Add Interactions to Your Online Videos

Frequent interaction with learning content is critical to learning and retention because it is needed to move information from our working to long-term memory. That is why it is a good practice to add interactions to videos every five minutes or so. These interactions can involve answering a question or lending a comment, and there are a variety of methods for adding either type to a video.


One simple interaction is to drop multiple choice questions throughout a video. While testing for simple recall might seem too low on Bloom’s Taxonomy, memorization of facts is needed for learning and most types of reasoning can only be done with a foundation of background information. Any field has common background knowledge that is almost transparent to professionals, but is often missing for novices. So it is worthwhile to ask students to recall the dates of the Civil War in a history video so that they can place it before the Westward Expansion and understand how it influenced that expansion.

The next step up involves questions that apply some information covered in the video. For instance, an instructor using a video on different art forms can question students on their knowledge of Baroque art. But instead of asking the factual question “What is the name of the art form from the 17th century known for its dramatic detail?” the instructor can display multiple images of different art forms and ask the students to pick out the Baroque example.

My favorite system for adding questions to videos is EdPuzzle ( It allows the instructor to set the video to pause at specific locations for the student to add a question before they can move on. The system is well-designed for education, with features like grouping of videos by class, self-enrollment for students, password protections, and grade tracking. See this tutorial on how to set up a video assessment in EdPuzzle:

Coursera (, the most popular MOOC today, has a function for embedding multiple choice questions into hosted videos. The course Learning How to Learn, developed and taught by Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski at the University of California, San Diego, provides an excellent example of how this feature can be used in education, with embedded videos in each of the course videos. An instructor using Coursera can simply set up a course shell, upload their videos, add the questions, and make the course free for students to access the content. The site has excellent tutorials on how to set up courses for free.

Another option is to break a longer video into parts and have students watch each part followed by a question in sequence. Google Forms is an excellent system for running videos followed by questions. Forms can actually be used to hold a variety of types of educational content interspersed with questions, and the student submissions are automatically compiled into a spreadsheet for the instructor. There is also an autograding function, as well as free extensions like Flubaroo for grading, with more features being added nearly every week. See this tutorial on how to use Google Forms to add interactions to your online content:

Finally, Wizer ( is a relatively new system that functions similarly to Google Forms. An instructor can create an online assessment called a “worksheet” using a variety of question and content types, with video being one kind of content. An instructor with a 20-minute video can break it into four parts, load each part into a worksheet followed by a question, and give students access to it. The system will compile the responses in an easy-to-view format. See this tutorial on how to use it:


A second option is to allow students to comment on videos. Instructors seldom think of adding commenting to online videos because they tend to associate all online discussion with the Learning Management System’s (LMS) discussion forum. But students in a forum answer specific questions established by the instructor which tracks what they get out of a video. Allowing open-ended comments in a video broadens the variety of issues students will discuss and what they will get out of the video. Plus, forums are visited by the student after they have finished a video, and so any thoughts that occur to students while watching the video tend to be forgotten by then.

To generate genuine discussion about a video online, the kind of discussion a group of friends might have at a coffee shop after seeing a movie, the instructor needs to allow students to tag the video with their comments at the place where the topic is raised. For instance, students watching a documentary about the Civil War might be struck by the conditions of the medical tent, leading to a discussion of why most soldiers died of disease and wounds, rather than in battle. I showed students a documentary in my medical ethics class about the difficult decisions that parents face as a result of genetic knowledge about their children. By allowing students the freedom to connect comments to the video, I was surprised to learn many were unsympathetic towards a particular woman due to how she approached the issue. This reaction had never occurred to me, and I would have never known about it if I used the standard LMS forum for discussion about the video.

One thing I especially encourage students to do in their video commenting is to ask questions of other students. Students who have a question about something they do not understand during a live lecture rarely, if ever, will risk asking in front of their peers. But these same students will ask questions of others online, and other students are happy to answer them. For instance, a student might not understand why a certain gene would cause a certain disease and ask other students about it. Students will also sometimes recommend other videos or websites to supplement what is covered in the video.

Here are the best systems for facilitating student commenting on videos: ( is a free Chrome extension that integrates with Google Drive. It runs the video on the left half of the screen while students add time-stamped comments on the right half. The instructor just sets up the video note and then shares it with students just like he or she would share any content in Google Drive. Everything is saved in Drive, and the videos can be drawn from YouTube, Vimeo, Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. See Richard Byrnes’ tutorial on how to use it at:

TurboNote ( is another Chrome extension that is similar in function to One nice feature is that students can download their notes as a PDF, which will include time stamps to places within the video where the note was placed, as well as an image of that location. The PDF will also include a link that takes the user to the location in the video later if they wish. An instructor might use this function to have students independently comment on videos and send the instructor their comments as an assignment, rather than attach public comments for all students to see. See this tutorial on how to use it from Katie Siemer:

Vialogues ( is a website that hosts collaborative, time-stamped discussions around videos. Unlike and TurboNote, you have the option to either upload a video or use a YouTube video. This system also allows the instructor to upload polling questions at different places within the video. See the tutorial at:

VideoANT ( was probably the first video commenting tool, and while it might be a bit long in the tooth now, it has the advantage of simplicity. Created at the University of Minnesota, the user copies the URL of a YouTube video into the system, and only requires login by the person who copies the link of the video, not the others. See the tutorial at:

Use any of these systems to add interactivity to your online videos.

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