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6 Research-Backed Reasons to Prove Video Lessons Are Important - EdTechist
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Hello! How are you? It has been a minute or two since my last post, and so while this is long overdue, like many of you, exam season (in Northern Ireland at least) has arrived and with it brings all the marking and report writing, so having largely cleared those tasks, I have had a few moments to finalise my thoughts on this post.

So, let’s start this post with a question: Do you ever feel like you could be doing more to help your students?

I would imagine, a majority of you will say yes. But what do we do after that acknowledgement? How do we get from knowing we could do more, to actually doing more?

In this post, I will present one way we can do this, really effectively: video content.

Putting yourself in front of the camera can be scary at first, but there are a number of tools (many of them free) that will make the process fairly painless and don’t require much technological skill. As most of my videos are ICT-related and so I don’t always have my face on screen. My first videos were during lockdown and used PowerPoint, a microphone and Microsoft Teams to record the lecture (I worked in a Further Education College at the time). There are many other tools you could use instead of Teams, like Explain Everything, Screencast-O-Matic, or OBS Studio (which I have started using). So when I created my first instructional videos using a mic and a screen-casting programme to record the lecture over PowerPoint slides. I then uploaded the video to YouTube, which I then embedded to Canvas and included questions to check for understanding.

This strategy was so effective that after a while I began recording while teaching. In the first instance, I recorded the lecture and published it after the lecture, but the time constraints made it too much. I began to record the lecture while delivering it to students. The lecture content was the same, but I would support them with examples which I couldn’t always remember afterwards, or would use completely different examples – it was important that the students heard the same message in the recording and ‘in person.’

An initial question is, it worth the investment of time? In the beginning, you can keep it simple: Start with a significant topic, break it down into manageable segments, and create short videos. Meanwhile, an increasing amount of research suggests that using video content to supplement or replace class lessons can be a powerful approach to learning. This in part is because it allows students the ability to pace their learning, learning content can be chunked into easier-to-follow segments, which facilitates retrieval and review for students, and leverages visual cues to reinforce the material.

Here are six research-backed reasons why you should consider recording (at least some of) your lessons.

Short Videos Align With Known Attention Limits

video development

Have you ever watched a short video on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok? Has it ever been just one video? Of course not! Part of the way the platform has been designed is to keep you watching, but it is the length of the video that is the key. A short video works within our attention spans and ends before we reach cognitive exhaustion, allowing us to continue watching until 45 minutes have passed and you realise you have spent much longer watching those videos than you intended.

The key takeaway to this is that we should be looking to replicate this within any video we produce as teachers. Our pupils will have a lower attention span due to the developmental stage they are at, so we shouldn’t expect them to be attending for long periods of time. BrainBalanceCenters puts out the following information regarding normal attention span expectations according to age:

2 years old 4 years old 6 years old 8 years old 10 years old 12 years old 14 years old 16 years old
4-6 mionutes 8-12 minutes 12-18 minutes 16-24 minutes 20-30 minutes 24-36 minutes 28-42 minutes 32-48 minutes

These figures would tend to go against current research: in 2014, researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley  analysed millions of video sessions and came to the conclusion that the “median engagement time is at most 6 minutes,” with video length being “by far the most significant indicator of engagement.” This is more important than other characteristics like instructor presence and video production quality.⁣ In a similar finding in 2022, university professors did nothing more than cut a 55-minute video into several smaller 8-minute videos, and found that viewing time increased by 25 percent, and the academic performance of students improved. In most aspects of school, and life, we tend to overestimate our abilities when it comes to maintaining attention. Studies suggest that young children’s attention begins to drop after 10 minutes, and older students often struggle to remember material covered later in a lecture.

Instructional videos give you the ability to break up longer lessons into several shorter ones—this will increase the likelihood that students will be able to sustain attention and commit what they’re learning to memory.

A good rule of thumb is to think about where to break your lessons in class. After how long in a demonstration, or opening section do you move your class towards an activity?  “It is recommended that teachers should make the videos as short as possible, but one complete knowledge point should be contained in one video,” the researchers in the 2022 study suggests.

It will seem that I am contradicting the times listed in the table – and I am. For video content, try to keep it short. In my own video content for my students, I started with longer video but the data analysis showed me how student attention began to wane after 10 minutes. This supported findings provided by other teachers who published video content and led to me making adjustments to my own planning. At which points in my larger content plans could I cut the content (naturally) into smaller, but complete pieces?

The important point here is that I haven’t reduced the content, just repackaged it into more manageable sizes for students to choose what they want to focus on.

Video Libraries Enable Self-Paced Learning

watching video

The asynchronous, always-available nature of video libraries can help to solve many of the sequencing issues that plague teachers: how do we re-incorporate students who are returning to school after an absence? What do we do with pupils who need to revisit some of the foundational concepts? Or how can we more effectively differentiate between students?

Being able to access a video library at different points— the ability to move ahead or revisit previous lessons for further reinforcement—is a built-in advantage of video learning, and it allows students to self-pace in their own time, allowing them to take ownership of their learning In a 2019 study, researchers concluded that students “learn better when multimedia instructions are presented in learner-paced segments, rather than as continuous units.” This is because the ability to control the pace of video provides the student with more time to process or review specific information. This allows students to “adapt the presentation pace to their individual needs.”

The ability for the student to control the video playback in real time – by pausing and replaying- allows “students to regulate their cognitive load, [which leads] to better learning,” researchers conclude in a 2021 study. “This ability to self-pace has been previously identified as a key feature contributing to the success of online learning, more generally.”

Videos Support Rich Formative Assessment - Asynchronously and at Scale

video learning

In today’s digital age, the power of modern tools for video creation and distribution extends far beyond their basic functionalities. These innovative solutions incorporate auditing systems that capture invaluable data, shedding light on what truly connects with your students and what doesn’t. The best part? These tools operate asynchronously, granting flexibility and convenience. Additionally, they offer user-friendly visual representations such as charts and graphs, simplifying the process of formative assessment, including gauging students’ on-task behaviour.

Imagine the ability to evaluate specific knowledge retention within instructional videos. By utilising programs like Edpuzzle, you can embed questions seamlessly throughout the video, resulting in improved student interaction and invaluable formative assessment data. According to esteemed educational technology expert Robert Barnett, this approach is highly effective. A study conducted in 2020 revealed that college students who watched videos with embedded pop-up questions achieved significantly higher test results compared to those without those interactive elements. Interestingly, their test performance even jumped by almost half a grade. Similarly, a study from 2015 concluded that students who watched videos with embedded questions were more likely to take notes, experienced reduced anxiety regarding final exams, and felt a lesser mental burden while engaging with the content.

Moreover, these video-creation tools, such as Edpuzzle and Screencastify, are tailored for classroom environments. They offer teachers comprehensive usage-based auditing trails, empowering them to provide more effective feedback, instruction, and grading. If you want to know which students watched your videos and to what extent, or if you are curious if they engaged with the entire video or only specific segments, of if you want insights on lessons that received limited screen time, enabling you to refine or remove them? Then these tools provide answers to all these queries and more, equipping educators with data-driven decision-making capabilities.

The advent of cutting-edge video creation and distribution tools has revolutionised the educational landscape. By harnessing their built-in auditing systems, teachers can gain deep insights into student preferences and learning behaviours. Furthermore, embedding interactive questions within instructional videos enhances student engagement and produces invaluable formative assessment data. With classroom-friendly platforms like Edpuzzle and Screencastify, teachers can leverage usage-based auditing trails to refine their instruction, elevate feedback, and ultimately enhance student learning outcomes. We can embrace these transformative tools and unlock a new realm of educational possibilities both inside and outside the classroom.

Videos Support Flexible Review (and re-view)

video flexible learning

Decades of research have unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of review and retrieval practice in reinforcing learning. In this digital era, video learning has emerged as a powerful tool, offering a cost-effective and flexible study method that moves beyond geographical limitations. As highlighted in a comprehensive analysis from 2018, encompassing 270 studies on instructional videos, students can leverage video content to review material repeatedly, at their convenience, and at any hour. In contrast, live lectures follow a linear structure, devoid of the ability to be replayed, rewound, or paused for deeper contemplation.

The inability to revisit specific points during live lectures is a noteworthy limitation. Politeness and a desire to maintain a smooth classroom environment often hinder students from interrupting the teacher or asking questions, as observed in a 2011 study. However, video libraries eliminate these barriers by providing students with on-demand access to content precisely when they need it most, such as during review and exam preparation. Malhotra underscores the significance of this point. After creating a series of instructional videos based on his lectures, he surveyed his students and made a remarkable discovery: the majority of them watched the videos multiple times. This compelling evidence suggests that a single lecture alone would not have sufficed in meeting their learning needs.

Embracing video learning opens up a world of possibilities. Its inherent flexibility empowers students to engage with educational content at their own pace and convenience. The ability to revisit videos and retrieve information when it matters most – during exam preparation – is a game-changer. The findings of countless studies, along with the experiences of educators like Nisha Malhotra, underscore the transformative potential of video learning in promoting effective review and retrieval practice.

Video learning revolutionises the way we approach review and retrieval practice. Backed by extensive research, it offers students the freedom to access educational material repeatedly, ensuring a deeper understanding and reinforcement of knowledge. If we decide to bid farewell to the limitations of traditional live lectures and embrace a new era of learning that prioritises flexibility, accessibility, and individualised study approaches, then we can increase our reach and ability to help our students inside and outside of the classroom.

Videos Allow Pupils to Replay the Points Where Confusion Set In

Educator Laura Thomas has noted that sometimes it’s crucial for students to grasp not just what is incorrect, but also why it is incorrect or why a particular concept proves challenging. One common approach to address this is by inviting students to explain their “muddiest points,” shedding light on areas where confusion or difficulty arises.

However, in reality, many students may hesitate to raise their hand and ask the teacher to revisit a concept during class time. This discomfort can impede their learning and hinder their ability to fully comprehend challenging concepts.

The repercussions of failing to master a foundational but challenging concept can be profound, casting a shadow over the entire academic term for the pupil. Fortunately, video learning offers a transformative solution. When students watch educational videos at home, they gain the freedom to rewind and review content as many times as necessary. This empowers them to revisit confusing concepts, enabling a deeper understanding. Additionally, they can jot down questions and engage in discussions with peers or their teacher, fostering a collaborative learning environment. A recent study conducted in 2022 highlighted the benefits of even a simple pause button, as it helps students alleviate cognitive overload. By granting the ability to pause and reflect, students can ease the burden of processing a continuous stream of new information, allowing for better integration with existing knowledge structures.

Video learning offers many advantages that empower students to take control of their education. The flexibility it affords ensures that students can explore challenging concepts at their own pace and convenience. No longer confined by the limitations of classroom time, they have the freedom to revisit content, seek clarification, and develop a more comprehensive understanding. The profound impact of video learning is evident in the positive outcomes observed in recent studies.

Video learning not only promotes student autonomy and flexibility but also serves as a powerful tool for reflection and comprehension. By watching educational videos at home, students can overcome the hesitations of asking questions in class and instead engage in deep reflection, enabling a solid grasp of complex concepts. Let us embrace the transformative benefits of video learning, paving the way for enhanced understanding, active student participation, and a truly enriching educational experience.

Videos Dramatically Improve Content Clarity and Impact

video clarity

Have you ever thought you delivered a brilliant impromptu example that beautifully tied everything together, only to realise that, upon seeing yourself on video, the connections weren’t as clear as you initially thought? This is where the magic of video lectures comes into play. Unlike in-person lessons, videos provide ample time to organise your thoughts and offer a unique opportunity to watch and refine your delivery, correcting any inconsistencies or logical leaps that might have slipped through in a live lecture.

The benefits of video lectures extend far beyond self-improvement. In a recent study conducted in 2021, researchers highlight how videos enhance the coherence and efficiency of teaching. Unlike in-person lessons that can veer off-track due to digressions and distractions, videos enable teachers to make content more coherent and apply design principles that might not be executed perfectly in a classroom setting. They can strategically time key points with slides, highlight important information, and prioritise core content while eliminating irrelevant details that might divert students from the intended learning objectives.

It’s important to note that striving for perfection should not be your primary focus. According to Farah, an experienced educator, and supported by learning-video pioneer Sal Khan, embracing your authentic personality and allowing your natural conversational style to shine through is key to creating engaging and effective videos. Research confirms that videos in which instructors speak with enthusiasm and authenticity garner the highest levels of student engagement. Farah and Barnett emphasise that students genuinely appreciate knowing that it’s their actual teacher behind the video, fostering a sense of connection and familiarity.

As you embark on your video lecture journey, remember that it’s an art form that combines clarity, authenticity, and meaningful content delivery. Through the power of video, you have the opportunity to refine your teaching, captivate your audience, and create an immersive learning experience. Embrace the process, embrace your unique style, and unleash the full potential of video lectures to make a lasting impact on your students’ educational journey.

Final Thoughts

Video lessons can have a crucial impact on your pupils learning. There are negatives – like the time investment it takes, but it is important to remember that you’re not producing for Pixar, or to win Oscars. The learning is the key aspect here and the video simply needs to be clear in its aim to deliver learning content that you have covered in class.

The positives are many and have been outlined above. The benefits to video content is what it provides to the student – the opportunity to receive your teaching content outside of the classroom and in ways that suit their timeframe and learning needs. We didn’t touch on it in the post, but video content has significant benefits to students with additional learning needs. Pupils who have processing difficulties, attention deficits or a difficulties surrounding the classroom environment can all benefit from accessing video learning content.

My final take on this is that, yes it does take time to implement video library content, but by working according to a prioritised plan of what is most needed by your students, you can build your video learning libraries over time and bring learning to your pupils outside of the classroom.


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