In my last blog I touched on the use of online video as a teaching resource. I mentioned Massively Open Online Courses (commonly known as MOOCs), which are free courses that can be completed online and are now being adopted by Universities worldwide. Future Learn, part of Open University, are the organisation that co-ordinate these courses. Their aim is to “connect learners from all over the globe with high quality educators, and with each other.”
Courses are delivered in stages online and on mobile devices so the learner can access them anywhere, anytime, enabling them to “fit learning around your life, rather than your life around learning.” Many people have said that MOOCs have the ability to revolutionise and democratise learning. However it has been reported that completion rates are less than 7%.
Online video is one of the core methods of delivery used for MOOCs so perhaps it is partly to blame for learners failing to engage and complete courses.
MOOCs have been accused of taking the failed, outdated model of a lecture and putting it online. Simply uploading poor quality, long and exhaustive recordings of lectures is not enough to motivate and encourage students to fully participate. Keeping the attention of the online learner is much more of a challenge than it is in a lecture theatre as there are so many more distractions. Not to mention that clicking the stop button on an online video is far less socially awkward than getting up out of your flip-up lecture theatre seat and shuffling pass your classmates to leave.
"Shaping content in a video lecture and presenting it in an engaging manner is difficult, and most of us professors are amateur videographers even if we’re master teachers. " Cathy N. Davidson, New York Times
One of the things that defines MOOCs from other online courses is the connectivity that can be built up between students through things such as forums and Google Hangouts. But if the lecturer isn't connecting with students through the video content then what’s the point?
Good online video resources do improve knowledge retention but certain things need to be addressed in order to create quality, engaging video content. Here are five pointers:
Good lighting and framing is important as it enables the viewer to connect with the lecturer and allows them to more effectively engage with what they are saying.
Clear audio is essential in order to eliminate background distractions and enable the lecturer to be fully understood.
Good lectures are well planned and structured: the video should be no different.
Varied content such as video case studies cutaways to diagrams and photographs help visually demonstrate a point.
Duration is key as the longer the video, the more likely the online learner will get distracted. Short sections work well, and some courses use quizzes and exercises to keep learners engaged.
These are the basic things to consider when creating engaging educational online video (or any video content for that matter). It’s a good starting point but there are so many more exciting things that can be achieved in education through the use of online video. I'll leave you with two examples of my favourite educational video content that demonstrate how effective this approach can be.