Are the Videos in Your Courses Promoting Learning?

Video material is now an important instructional component of face-to-face, blended, and online courses. Research supports its potential to promote learning, but those benefits aren't automatic—it's not just the video, but how that video material is designed and integrated into the course. Selecting the videos is important, but how they are used in large measure determines the extent to which they enhance learning.

To continue reading, you must be a Teaching Professor Subscriber. Please log in or sign up for full access.

Related Articles

Love ’em or hate ’em, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are here to stay. Parts <a href="https://www.teachingprofessor.com/free-article/its-time-to-discuss-student-evaluations-bias-with-our-students-seriously/" target="_blank"...

Since January, I have led multiple faculty development sessions on generative AI for faculty at my university. Attitudes...
Does your class end with a bang or a whimper? Many of us spend a lot of time crafting...

Faculty have recently been bombarded with a dizzying array of apps, platforms, and other widgets that...

The rapid rise of livestream content development and consumption has been nothing short of remarkable. According to Ceci...

Feedback on performance has proven to be one of the most important influences on learning, but students consistently...

Video material is now an important instructional component of face-to-face, blended, and online courses. Research supports its potential to promote learning, but those benefits aren't automatic—it's not just the video, but how that video material is designed and integrated into the course. Selecting the videos is important, but how they are used in large measure determines the extent to which they enhance learning. “What, then, are the principles that allow instructors to choose or develop videos that are effective in moving students toward the desired learning outcomes?” (p. 1). That's the question Cynthia Brame addresses. She explores three principles with “elements [that] provide a solid base for the development and use of video as an effective educational tool” (p. 1). Cognitive Load: This cognitive psychology theory suggests that memory has several interconnected components. It starts with sensory memory, which is the extrapolation of information from the environment. That information goes into working (or short-term) memory, which has a limited capacity. The information in working memory must be encoded before it can be transferred to long-term memory. Because working memory has limited capacity, the learner must be selective about what goes into it. Cognitive load theory proposes that those selections are based on the intrinsic load or perceived interest, importance, and relevance of the information. Selections are also influenced by germane load, which is the level of cognitive activity required—more bluntly, how much work is involved in understanding the content and connecting it with what is already known. Finally, what each learner decides to place in working memory can be influenced by extraneous load—what's being delivered that gets in the way of learning, like confusing instructions or extraneous information. When the material is being conveyed via video, still more factors come into play. The information can be delivered visually or it can be auditory, or it can be communicated by both simultaneously. Information can be processed by both, but either channel can overwhelm the other. If the goal is making videos that minimize extraneous cognitive load and optimize germane load, cognitive signaling or cueing can help. It directs attention to on-screen text or symbols that highlight important information. For example, if the color changes or a symbol draws attention to a particular part of the screen, this helps students keep track of what's important. Segmenting the material in videos allows those viewing the video to deal with small chunks of new content. YouTube Annotate and HapYak can be used to give learners control over the flow of information. They enable those watching to pause the video. Weeding involves the elimination of interesting but nonessential information. A video with music, complex backgrounds, and extra animation increases extraneous load and may mean the learner is missing the most important material. Finally, video material should match modality to the content. If the content involves a complex process that can be explained by a talking head, that explanation will be enhanced if it's accompanied with complementary visual material, such as diagrams, sketches, or pictures. Student Engagement: This principle is more widely understood than cognitive load. “The idea is simple: If students do not watch the video, they cannot learn from them” (p. 3). And the best advice here is equally simple: keep it short. Brame highlights research on 6.9 million video-watching sessions by students in massive open online courses (MOOCs). If the video was less than six minutes long, the median engagement time was almost 100 percent, but it dropped to 50 percent when the video was 9–12 minutes and 20 percent for 12–40 minute videos. How the content is delivered in the video also impacts engagement. It's higher when the style is conversational and delivered with enthusiasm. Active Learning: Watching a video is a passive activity unless it has design features that promote involvement. Technology now makes it possible to add questions within the video. Research shows that students who watched videos with interpolated questions did better on exams than students who watched videos without them. Even a set of guiding questions that students consider as they watch the video had positive effects on test performance. Further, videos can be made so that students can control how they're used. They can move back to listen again to something they might not have understood, or they can review certain segments they deem especially important.  Finally, Brame suggests making the video part of a larger homework assignment. These pragmatic suggestions are summed in a well-organized, single-page table included in the article. Reference: Brame, C. J., (2016). Effective educational videos: Principles and guidelines for maximizing student learning from video content. Cell Biology Education—Life Sciences Education, 15 (4), 1–6.