Engaging Students Asynchronously with Interactive Videos

Studio equipment with film and microphone

The effectiveness of online learning heavily depends on the level of interaction between instructors and students within virtual classrooms. When students are actively engaged, they have a tendency to perform better and retain information more efficiently.1 As universities continue to transition towards online education, educators commonly use asynchronous videos and synchronous video conferences as the primary modes of instruction. However, by integrating interactive features like quizzes, hotspots, and branching storylines within the video content, instructors can create interactive videos that transform passive viewing into active learning experiences, resulting in improved student performance by up to 30 percent.2

Maximizing student learning with interactive videos — reducing cognitive load

When creating interactive videos for online education, instructors must focus on three essential aspects: decreasing cognitive strain, encouraging student participation, and integrating active learning methodologies. To minimize cognitive strain, educators can apply the following tactics to emphasize significant concepts and present them in easily digestible formats.

  • Signaling is the use of on-screen text or symbols to emphasize vital information (i.e. two to three keywords, color/contrast change, or a symbol that attracts attention to area of the screen). It helps concentrate student attention by emphasizing crucial information, therefore targeting certain components of the movie for processing in working memory.
  • Segmenting is the process of chunking information to enable learners to interact with little chunks of new material while also giving them control over the flow of new information.
  • Weeding is the process of removing fascinating but unnecessary material from a video, that is, information that does not add to the learning objective (i.e., music, complex backgrounds, or extra features).
  • Matching modality is the act of conveying new information utilizing both the audio/verbal and visual/pictorial channels, fitting the specific kind of information to the most suitable channel (i.e. narrated animations).

Engaging students with interactive videos

In order to craft interactive video content that not only captures students’ interest but also fosters their learning, there are several techniques that instructors can apply. One of the most effective strategies is to keep the videos brief and focused, with a duration of no more than 10 minutes. This ensures that the attention span of students is maintained throughout the entire video. Additionally, the delivery of the content should be conversational in tone, making it more relatable and easier to comprehend. Instructors should aim to deliver the material with enthusiasm and engagement, which will help to pique the interest of students. Furthermore, it is important that the content of the videos remain up-to-date and relevant to the students, so that they can apply what they learn to their own lives and experiences. By applying these techniques, instructors can create interactive videos that are not only captivating but also effective in enhancing student learning.

Active learning with interactive videos

Incorporating active learning strategies can further promote student engagement in video content. These include using guiding questions, embedding interactive features and quizzes within the videos, and utilizing them as part of larger assignments.3 Other elements that educators can employ to encourage viewing comprehension include the adoption of “before-during-after” structures with anchor strategies such as predict, clarify, analyze, and create, which serve as “thinking templates” that can be applied to different contexts and video types.4 Additionally, instructors can foster critical thinking by including questions that promote higher-level thinking, which can challenge students’ analytical skills.

By incorporating these effective strategies, instructors can create interactive video content that is engaging, informative, and fosters critical thinking skills, contributing to students’ academic success.

Interactive video student assignments

Instructors can use interactive videos for assessing student learning through learner-made video assignments, which can enhance creativity, communication, and other key skills. The following are some examples of learner made video assignments where students demonstrate their learning and showcase their skills, while also incorporating interactive elements to engage their peers:

  • Tutorials and learning product videos: Tutorials serve as an excellent method for students to showcase their comprehensive understanding of a skill, practice, or concept. Not only do they possess the knowledge and ability to perform a certain task, but they can also effectively instruct others on how to do it. Likewise, learning product videos are frequently used as culminating assignments that enable students to exhibit their learning in a tangible and demonstrative format.5
  • Interviews: Video interviews possess a visual allure and offer an authentic voice, which may not always be conveyed as easily with photographs and voice-over narration.6
  • Virtual field trips and experiences: Virtual field trips are online educational experiences that allow students to explore places and environments they may not have the opportunity to visit physically.6 These trips typically involve the use of multimedia resources such as videos, images, and interactive simulations to immerse students in the experience. Virtual field trips can be used to supplement traditional classroom instruction, provide access to distant or expensive locations, and enhance learning by engaging students in experiential and interactive activities. They can cover a wide range of topics, from history and science to art and culture, and can be tailored to different age groups and learning levels.

Tools for creating interactive videos

There is a wide array of tools available for instructors to design interactive videos that are both impactful and engaging. Among these tools are Panopto, PlayPosit, VoiceThread, and H5P, which all provide various features such as embedding interactive questions and prompts, recording audio and video, and creating dynamic asynchronous conversations. These interactive elements can be linked to the gradebooks within a Learning Management System (LMS), making it easier for instructors to evaluate student learning when assigning interactive video assignments. Additionally, many interactive video platforms also enable instructors to provide swift (or automated) feedback, empowering students to comprehend the outcomes of their responses and identify areas where they can improve.

To sum up, interactive videos serve as a potent instrument for enhancing online learning, fostering student involvement and experiential learning. Educators can employ optimal techniques to construct interactive videos and video assignments, alongside a variety of accessible tools, to establish a learning ambiance that fosters student achievement.

Dr. Spencer Willis, Jr. holds a joint appointment as an assistant professor of practice, educational development at the University Center for Assessment, Teaching and Technology (UCATT), as well as a lecturer, health promotion sciences at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona.


1 Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. (n.d.). Engaging Students – Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.celt.iastate.edu/learning-technologies/engaging-students/

2 Song, V. (2022, December 13). Students see a prominent role for video in education (opinion). Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2022/12/13/students-see-prominent-role-video-education-opinion

3 Brame, C. J. (2015). Effective educational videos | Center for Teaching | Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/effective-educational-videos/

4 Heick, T. (2018, February 23). 40 Viewing Comprehension Strategies: Watching Videos Like You Read A Book. TeachThought. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.teachthought.com/technology/viewing-comprehension-strategies/

5 Sears, C. (2018, September 6). Student-Created Videos in the Classroom. Edutopia. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/student-created-videos-classroom

6 Anderson, D. (n.d.). Interactive Video: Using Visual Interviews in Online Training #94. E-Learning Heroes. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://community.articulate.com/articles/interactive-video-using-visual-interviews-in-online-training-94