Thoughts about video as a learning technology

I am considering the use of video in the context of tutoring a STEM subject on a higher education graduate course. There are several ways students encounter video: as part of their module materials, as an activity where they are required to produce one themselves, as recordings of long tutorials they were unable to attend or for review and, finally, tutor created videos.

It is likely that students will be fairly media literate  nevertheless the quality of video module materials would be critical to the way they perceived the course. The Open University (OU) once had a reputation for promoting lecture-type videos by men with beards and jumpers and this may have taken quite a few years to escape from, but the university probably now has. All module material videos now include transcripts for accessibility but these transcripts also serve another purpose – enabling students to scan the content. Harvard’s eDx is using a more sophisticated video embedding technology which includes a separate transcript but also includes a rolling transcript next to the video pane. This functions to allow the student to read and listen, review and scan ahead. At the OU the videos are sometimes external resources but more often they are produced in house and in contrast to its reputation no longer attempt to replicate the lecture hall. Were they still to feature the traditional OU tutor character they would be unlikely to impress these media savvy students.

Still from film
Still from Educating Rita 

We tutors often berate students for failing to attend online tutorials. And it is true that, in my experience, if students are not assessed on attendance most will not attend. However at this time there is no easy access to data that would provide us with viewership figures. Our online tutorials normally last around an hour. We need to know how our students access and watch the recordings of them. I suspect that they may use the inbuilt facilities in the OU Live recordings to find parts of the tutorials they will be able to use for helping with assessment rather than seeing this as a deep learning experience. The OU live environment also constrains the tutor. But this may not be a bad thing.

Many tutors are now producing, sometimes shorter, quick fire video messages using YouTube for dissemination. Some of these have a distinctly professional feel  but the majority will be more simple offerings.

It is a very good question, with interesting implications, whether or not these amateur productions enhance the overall OU offering. I have been producing quite a few of these, usually aiming to be less than 5 minutes long. I use a tag “open university ” when I publish and this makes me question whether there needs to be a more formal approach. At the same time short to the point video messages which could, for example, include feedback to groups and even individual feedback perhaps using another online video grab from Collaj, would certainly help to create more presence between tutor and student.

If tutors were able to use these video technologies to help students reflect more deeply on feedback I believe those of us working online would find that this also improved our communications with students. However, I believe that there continues to be a danger that the face to face lecture is replicated via video. I Don’t believe that this continues to be the most appropriate use of the technology because student attention is too early diverted elsewhere.


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