January 13th, 2012

Ask Your Students to Create Videos to Demonstrate Learning


It’s an almost unquestioned assumption that written assignments need to be used to assess student learning. While traditional writing assignments are appropriate for many types of assessments, there is no law requiring it for all assessments. I’ve had students construct Wikipedia entries, make Voicethreads, and build online games as assessments.

Teaching with Technology column

Videos are another fun alternative to written assessments, and the latest technologies have made video creation remarkably easy. Video can be shot with a $200 flip camera, which provides very good sound and picture quality if a microphone is used. Even the ubiquitous smart phone provides remarkably good quality.

But production values are not the point, and poor production values can even add a layer of humor and authenticity to the project. The best advice is that if you are not Orson Wells, don’t try to be. Attempting to reach movie studio quality only highlights the differences. Be self-referentially hokey as a way to make the lack of production values itself part of the production.

That said, your students’ videos certainly will need some editing and tools such as Live Movie Maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac) are free and relatively easy to use. Once your students are done editing and happy with the finished product, they can post it to YouTube for others to view. Vimeo and Screencast.com are other good places to post videos. There is no FERPA rule against students posting their work publically.

A good video assignment is to put students into small groups with instructions to make a video that teaches a key concept related to class. If done well, the video not only demonstrates students’ understanding of the concept, but also serves as a resource that can be used by others. Often you will find that students are proud of what they produced and want to show it to friends, family, and maybe even future employers. When was the last time a student showed a written essay to anyone?

As usual, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and cries of outrage in the comments section of this blog post.

  • Mike Griffiths

    Good to read this. I started the use of asynchronous video as a core method in learning both from students to teacher, from students to students, and from teachers back to students at BYU Provo in 2008 and it became the topic of my dissertation. I then came to BYU Hawaii and created the online program based on the principle of asynchronous video.

    I don't read about many others interested in this method so it was good to read your blog.

    I would be interested to hear more about your experience with student videos. We have students in 70 countries all seeing and hearing each other by sending and receiving videos in class discussions and assignments. I find that I can tell how much a student has learned much better in a video response than in a written response.

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  • John

    Thanks for the comments Mike.

    It sounds like I should be asking you for your experience.

    I've learned that you need to give students plenty of time to shoot and edit the video. We think that because students are "digital natives" they take to any technology quickly, but their understanding is narrow and deep. They understand many things well, like texting, but they are not fluent in video editing. So it takes some time. I've also learned that sound and lighting is critical to a video in that poor sound or lighting can kill a video. Finally, a simple flip cam–which for some reason they do not sell anymore, takes better video with better sound than cheaper camcorders because it shoots in high definition.

    I know that this is short, but the topic is more a whole class. Maybe I'll create something.



  • Ricardo

    Good Articles, i'll put in action with my students.
    thanks, good way to get on my students deep learning.


  • Mary Lee

    For video projects I find that amost any digital camera has video these days. The cameras also produce .avi which does not have to be converted when inserted into Windows MovieMaker. I also download the "old" MovieMaker 2.6 as that is more student-friendly than the newer MovieMaker Live.
    One project that I have used with foreign language students (this can be morphed into any interview type movie) is for the French pen pals of the American students to interview someone who was alive during World War II. The American students send the questions while the French students do the actual video and interview. I then put the interview into VoiceThread and provide instructions (guidance) on what comments I want the American students to make…in French, of course. Using Bloom's Taxonomy as a guideline I ask which question they thought to be most interesting and why. A second question is "If you could ask one more question in this interview, what would it be?" The application of critical thinking and analysis to the project takes it up one more notch.

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  • Katie

    This is a great article! Can even be useful in PE!