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Long Video Lectures: Shifting to an Adult Learning Perspective

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  • Long Video Lectures: Shifting to an Adult Learning Perspective

    In coordinating and teaching an online undergraduate introductory statistics course, I faced a dilemma. The course included many short example videos, but students often requested video lectures. Such long videos contradict mainstream educational research that suggests videos be short in duration. In this reflection, I will explain how the course originally used short videos and describe how I addressed students’ requests for longer videos by shifting my orientation to an adult learning perspective that changed my thinking about online course design.

    Original Short Video Approach
    As background, I coordinate the materials used across 12 to 24 sections of an online undergraduate introductory statistics course each semester and teach one or two sections. The majority of enrolled students are adult learners with an average age of 31 years, and more than half work full time. When I started working with the course, I produced many 2- to 5-min video examples for the online lecture notes students read weekly in addition to assigned textbook sections. Published as an open-access website, the online notes present content from a different perceptive than the textbook with additional examples and instructions for using statistical software.

    “I am glad I took that step back and listened to students’ requests, even though they contradicted much of what I thought I knew about learning.”

    With a background in educational psychology, I based these videos on multimedia learning literature (see Clark & Mayer, 2016; Mayer, 2014). Multimedia learning research examines how students learn from a combination of words and pictures (Mayer, 2014). From the many multimedia learning principles, I most often use three when designing short videos: the multimedia principle (words and pictures together are better than either alone; see Butcher, 2014), the modality principle (visual and auditory together can maximize working memory; see Low & Sweller, 2014), and the worked example principle (presenting a problem and demonstrating the steps for solving it can improve learning; see Renkl, 2014; Renkl & Atkinson, 2010).

    Depending on content, some videos contained narrated PowerPoint slides, whereas others introduced a scenario then used statistical software to walk through obtaining and interpreting output. I recorded most videos using screen capture software on my computer. A few videos focused on mathematical calculations using the Explain Everything application for iPad, so students could see me working through steps by hand.

    Although I received positive feedback, no matter how many videos I added to the online notes, students consistently requested more and longer videos. In response to student requests, I started producing weekly overview videos. These were between 4 and 8 min long to maximize students’ engagement (Brame, 2016; Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014; Smedshammer, 2017). I instructed students to watch these videos before reading the online notes and textbook, as each outlined main topics and provided suggestions for how to approach the lesson (e.g., make flashcards, look for similarities between formulas). Based on the number views in YouTube, I believe half of the students watched the lesson overview videos. Students provided positive feedback, but many still requested longer videos. Some students suggested video recordings of the lectures given in our face-to-face course sections, whereas others stated they wanted videos to replace the readings.

    Shift in Perspective and to Longer Videos
    I faced a dilemma in responding to student requests for longer videos. Between planning, recording, editing, and captioning, one lesson video can take more than 15 h to produce. I hesitated investing such a large amount of time into videos that contradict what experts often suggest, could possibly be detrimental to learning, and many students might not use. At the same time, I was working on research using mainstream educational theories to predict success in this course when I realized my students were a different population from the traditional students often featured in educational research. The majority of my students were adults with full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and other coursework. From conversations with students, I learned most of their other courses had required reading assignments, which might explain why they wanted videos in my course. At this point, I shifted from focusing on mainstream educational theories to the perspective of an adult learner.

    After many conversations with my department’s instructional designer, I produced full video lectures for the last two of the 12 course lessons and posted links in the weekly to-do lists in the course management system. I told students they could watch these video lectures instead of reading the online course notes. The video for the 11th lesson was 36 min; for the last lesson, I made a two-part series with a 15-min video covering conceptual topics and a 12-min video demonstrating the statistical software. Each video began with a list of learning objectives matching those in the online course notes that served as an outline. I used Camtasia’s screen capture function to create the videos consisting of narrated PowerPoint slides and statistical software walk-throughs. In YouTube, I created a table of contents with timestamp links allowing students to fast forward to specific topics. Student feedback was positive, and some said they wanted full video lectures for all lessons.

    The following semester, I produced full video lectures for seven additional lessons. For the more difficult lessons, the number of YouTube views approximately equaled the number of students (450) enrolled in the course. For most videos, the average watch time was between one quarter and one third of the full length, consistent with research conducted in other educational settings (e.g., massive open online course [MOOCs]; Guo et al., 2014).

    Students used the videos to supplement readings in the online course notes and textbook. I used the YouTube analytics to see where students jumped to in the videos and to identify most watched topics. When I saw a large number of students jumping ahead to a specific learning objective, I made efforts to cover those topics better in the online notes and assessments. The videos indirectly helped improve efficiency by providing data to inform course design.

    The following semester, all 12 course lessons had full video lectures. For some adult learners, these videos provide a convenient alternative to reading the weekly lesson notes. Given the heavy reading loads in other courses, videos may be more engaging. With the timestamp links available in YouTube that allow students to jump ahead to different learning objectives or examples, these video lectures are valuable to all students, not just those watching them in their entirety, as they provide different examples and often a slightly different explanation from the online notes students can quickly fast forward to view.

    At first, I hesitated to produce longer instructional videos for my students because I focused only on the mainstream educational literature. Shifting from that perspective which had influenced my teaching and research for several years was difficult. However, once I viewed the course in terms of what worked best for nontraditional students, I saw value in providing longer video lectures. Reflecting on this process, I am glad I took that step back and listened to students’ requests, even though they contradicted much of what I thought I knew about learning.

    I encourage online instructors to use long videos. My experience provides some anecdotal evidence for their efficacy. In a broader sense, this experience demonstrates the possibility of looking at a situation from a new perspective without necessarily contradicting one’s existing beliefs. Although I shifted to an adult learning perspective, the longer videos still apply multimedia learning principles. Many Adult Learning readers may shift perspective in the opposite direction: from an adult learner focus to applying more mainstream educational research and theory. Research in adult education and educational psychology looks at problems from different perspectives, emphasizing different features. By integrating the work done in multiple areas, instruction can be improved.

  • #2
    I think there should be different formats of learning and video lectures are the one of them. Especially if we talk about pandemic times when most education establishments work remotely. But what do you think about sexual education and when people learn about that from video lectures? Pоrn trials are the same? Should it be online?


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