February 17th, 2017

Getting Started with Blended Learning Videos

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female student at computer

“There’s just not enough time in class with students!” It’s a common faculty complaint, and when students are provided quality course materials they can use outside class, this blended learning approach gives faculty more time in class. A variety of materials can be developed for use outside class. In this article, we’d like to focus on creating video content that students use for a blended learning course.

Blended learning videos benefit students and teachers in several ways: (1) they give students more time to process information and can have them coming to class prepared to discuss and put their learning into practice; (2) teachers can better maximize class time for higher-order, student-centered, collaborative learning activities; (3) the videos help teachers standardize content for core and required classes; (4) students can view and review videos at their own pace and during times convenient to them; (5) blended learning approaches provide teachers an appropriate way to incorporate audio and visuals into the learning process; and (6) these approaches speak the language of a digital generation.

But these benefits don’t accrue automatically. They depend on the development of quality course materials. To help us refine the materials we’d developed, we asked the 300 students enrolled in a general education course we teach what makes a good blended learning video from their perspective. They responded after viewing videos we’d developed. Here is a summary of what we learned:

  • VIDEO LENGTH: Students preferred videos that were shorter than six minutes. If there is more content, we recommend creating several short videos rather than a single, longer one.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: Students reported that they needed a graded incentive (such as a short pre-class online quiz) to encourage them to watch the blended learning videos. Accountability quizzes do not need to be worth a lot of points. Our students indicated that simply holding them accountable with any course points was enough to motivate them to view the videos.
  • VIEWING DEVICE: Students preferred to view blended learning videos using a laptop computer.  Nearly all our students said that they viewed the blended learning videos on larger-screen computers or laptops, not their small tablets or mobile devices. We recommend producing videos in higher resolution for larger screens rather than at lower quality for small screens.
  • VIEWING PATTERNS: Students appreciated that blended learning videos provided the opportunity to watch videos multiple times.  This is an example of how blended learning frees up class time for teachers. Students are able to answer more questions on their own by rewatching all or part of the videos.
  • BACKGROUND MUSIC: Students preferred that the videos not include background music.  They considered it a distraction, in part because they report watching the videos at accelerated speeds, from 1.25x to 2x, which distorts background music. The videos are easier to create without music as well.
  • VISUAL ELEMENTS: Students preferred the use of varied visual elements.  Whether providing emphasis by highlighting text, using zooms and callouts, drawing on the screen, etc., we introduce a new visual element every 10 to 15 seconds. Something needs to continually catch the eye of the viewers.
  • CORNER TALKING HEAD: Students wanted to hear the professor’s voice but not see his or her head in a corner picture on the screen.  This makes it easier to create blended learning videos, as it limits the self-conscious and distracting aspects of webcam recording. If there’s a need for the professor’s image to be part of the video, occasional full-screen cuts to the prof can be incorporated.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: Most students felt that a blended learning approach was an effective way to learn. Not surprisingly, our students preferred learning videos over assigned reading. They indicated that pre-class videos contributed significantly to their understanding of course content. This too confirms their effectiveness at opening up class time for higher-order approaches to learning.

As for getting started, we recommend this process: (1) identify what information students will learn out of class and what will they do in class; (2) clearly define what students should learn from the video before starting to create it; (3) create a video script that coordinates the verbal content with the visual elements; (4) create a slide presentation to accompany the narration; and (5) use screen capture software to record the audio and video.

We recommend initially creating a few sample videos. Make them available to students (using either a learning management system or YouTube), and then survey students to discover their preferences and feedback about what did and didn’t work for them. Student preferences play an important role in developing these materials, but if their preferences aren’t in line with what’s known about learning, then they shouldn’t be accommodated.

Although creating blended learning videos requires significant work, our experience and student survey responses indicate that the time and effort are worthwhile. We have more class time we can devote to activities that engage students and promote higher-order learning.

Reprinted from Teaching Professor, 29.10 (2015): 5, 7. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

Anthony R. Sweat is an assistant professor at Brigham Young University. Ken Alford is a professor at Brigham Young University.