Saturday, April 25, 2015

Some thoughts on video lectures

Last week I went to Stirling University's learning and teaching conference. Naturally, many of the same themes that come up at the University of Glasgow conference were also discussed at Stirling. One presentation which I particularly enjoyed was from Edward Moran who has replaced lecturing with recorded videos for one of his postgraduate courses, allowing for an increase in tutorial time. The students found some benefits with this approach, but also some disadvantages. A particular advantage was that non-native  speakers felt there were better prepared for tutorials after the video lectures, where they benefited from being able to repeat sections. However, students also felt that they lost out from not being able to ask questions immediately, and also from not hearing other students questions (which they might not thought of). They also missed the social aspect of the traditional lecture. Edward's students also reported that they found the video lectures less engaging. This made me wonder a bit about how we should be approaching the increased use of video to support distance learning and flip teaching. Edward's videos were of the usual PowerPoint slides with a commentary type, which are very easy to create, but don't really make full use of the medium.

Having been a distance learner (I recently completed a degree with the Open University), I have some opinions about what sort material works. I found that the video parts of my open University course worked well when they were showing something which couldn't be communicated in any other way, however the learning material I liked most was the printed books that formed the basis of the level I and level II courses. I can see the appeal of making video lectures because it is relatively similar to the traditional way of teaching, and doesn't take up much more of the teacher's time, but maybe production of a video lecture should take up more time. After all, it should be reusable for a few years at least.

I've also taken part in a couple of MOOCs that used video, and there I also found that the videos which were just a voice and static slides were hard to concentrate on, however something as simple as smart board style annotation being added to the slides during video can make it much more engaging.

Clearly this is an area which most universities are just getting into, and there is still a lot to learn. I think there is a real need to consider what medium is best to deliver the teaching material, rather than what medium comes closest to the traditional lecture or is easiest to produce. I think we also still have a lot to learn about how to produce effective (and cost-effective) educational video. Of course, the Open University has done a lot of research on this in the past, so maybe all we need to do is go and read the literature.