What makes a good educational video?
In today’s post, we are going to look at some of the research into how video can be an effective learning tool for higher education, and address some of the qualities of effective educational videos. Yesterday we discussed the overall trend for video to be used as a catch-all replacement for lectures or other content delivery. According to Thomson et al. (2014), this type of use within universities mean that videos are often not as effective as they could be, because they do not take full advantage of the medium to be as effective as possible. This is difficult, of course, as most teaching staff are not trained in video production! But today we will look at exploring a few of the key issues around using video in teaching.
What learning outcomes does the video address?
As with all things related to teaching, the key factor to think about when deciding to use video is what learning outcome or educational goal are you trying to achieve? Is video the right method to accomplish this? The key affordance of video is that it lets you show the viewer something – this is its key advantage over other modes of delivery.
What sorts of topics, learning outcomes, or educational goals might a video suit? When is it not appropriate to use a video? Give an example from your own teaching practice where you think a video might be the best approach to explaining a particular topic.
According to Bates (2015), video are not particularly suited for helping students to develop critical thinking skills, apply knowledge, or foster deep understanding in a topic, and in these cases it needs to be supplemented with activities that allow students to discuss, apply, and engage in more depth. We’ll come back to how to incorporate video into learning designs and teaching plans in Part 2 of the video series in September.
What sort of production quality is required?
There is some debate as to the impact of production quality (such as sound, lighting, editing, resolution, presentation skills, and so on) on educational outcomes for students. The value of production depends on the context and the audience. A quick and short video filmed in a dark room with a webcam can add value in cases where an efficient response or comment is needed “on-the-go”. For example, these quick videos contributed to the “How to Survive Your PhD” MOOC offered in 2015 from ANUx by PhD students are all filmed in the student’s own homes (or gardens!) without any expertise in production, but offer an authentic and personal touch to a course with 13,000 students. For the same course, the promotional video advertising the MOOC was filmed by ANU’s in-house media team using professional lighting and staff. (Watch out for my supporting role as “student”!)
Hansch et al (2015, p. 12) make the following point:
“Since there is little substantive evidence to suggest that higher production values lead to superior learning outcomes, there seems to be little reason why online learning videos are always filmed by professionals, using high-end recording equipment in full studios. In many cases, opting for a lightweight or DIY production process is a great way to achieve pedagogical objectives while at the same time reducing cost.”
Using more efficient DIY methods means the effort and cost per video is low, and makes them easier to update or revise in the future. We’ll look specifically at recording yourself and storyboarding in Part 2 of the course.
How long should they be?
It’s very common for many academic videos to be recordings of lectures of an hour or more. But most research into average viewing time for videos is around 4-6 minutes! (Hibbert, 2014; Guo et al., 2014) Meeting a time limit like this is a challenge for many academics, who are used to extended periods of time for lectures or presentations. Where a video differs from these types of face-to-face modes of delivery is that it is possible to edit out silence, mistakes, coughs, or repetition in the presentation. This helps make videos more concise and succinct. (This is common practice on YouTube, where jump cuts are used to improve the pace of videos.)
Another key strategy to consider when using video is chunking ideas into separate videos, rather than trying to fit everything into one. We discussed this concept of chunking in our previous course on Enhancing Lectures as a way to avoid cognitive overload.
Engaging educational videos
Videos can add a lot to a course in terms of social and teacher presence and provide a new perspective into a topic, but “…Delivering content clearly on video requires a different set of skills than those required for classroom teaching.” (Hansch et al., 2015, p. 8) Preparation, scripting, storyboarding, and editing are all essential, and we will cover all of these in detail in future posts and in Part 2 of the course.
So before you record yourself speaking informally about a topic and put it into your course, think quickly about what you are trying to achieve. “In cases where video is indeed the right choice of medium, we encourage a critical choice of video production style (i.e. the method of visual organisation that is employed to realize a video’s goals) that is appropriate for the pedagogical objectives and the desire learning outcomes.” (Hansch et al 2015: 11) This choice could be a DIY response video to a student question, or it could be a more structured presentation with animations or screen recording.
So what are the features of a good video?
Let’s review what we covered yesterday and today:
- It is the right mode of delivery for the material and makes sense within the learning outcomes of the course
- The production value is appropriate for the context
- It is succinct and well-planned
- It communicates clearly, demonstrates enthusiasm, and tries to engage the audience
- Takes advantage of the affordances of video for replay, experiencing new things, and social presence
- Considers accessibility and inclusion
- Tell us about a part of your course that you think might work well as a video. Why? What would using a video add? What learning outcomes are you addressing, and what mode of production would suit?
- What do you think of the 4-6 minute guideline for video length?
- What level of production quality do you think is needed? Should we aim for studio-quality productions or have you found DIY approaches to be acceptable? Why or why not?
We would love your comment to be in the form of a video! (There are some quick guidelines here (PDF) on recording yourself that were created for Echo360 Personal Capture, but can be applied to any format.)
- Bates, A. W. (2015) Teaching for a digital age. BC Open Textbooks. Available: https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
- Hansch, Anna and Hillers, Lisa and McConachie, Katherine and Newman, Christopher and Schildhauer, Thomas and Schmidt, J. Philipp (2015). Video and Online Learning: Critical Reflections and Findings from the Field. HIIG Discussion Paper Series No. 2015-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2577882 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2577882
- Hibbert, M. (2014) “What Makes an Online Instructional Video Compelling?” Educause Review. Available at http://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/4/what-makes-an-online-instructional-video-compelling
- Thomson, A., Bridgstock, R., and Willems, C. (2014) “‘Teachers flipping out’ beyond the online lecture: Maximising the educational potential of video.” Journal of Learning Design. Vol 7, No 3 pp 67-78. Available at: https://www.jld.edu.au/article/view/209/192