Rethinking the Video Lecture for Student Engagement

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Brief Abstract

Many universities and colleges support faculty in the development of robust video lectures. Short videos can replace long lectures, but how does one know if students are actually watching the videos and learning? The Learning Science Team at the W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs (NYU Stern) sought to design course videos that go beyond the dissemination of information and focus on supporting the learner from the onset. 

The presenters will discuss a process for designing videos-- illustrated by five compelling use cases rooted in learning sciences co-developed with faculty.


Kristen Sosulski is a Clinical Associate Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences at New York University Stern School of Business. She is also the Director of Learning Science Lab for NYU Stern. She teaches Data Visualization, Programming in Python and R, Operations in Panama, Ops in NYC, the core information systems undergraduate course and social media strategy for startups course called Electronic Communities. Professor Sosulski's scholarly interests include learning sciences, new media, data visualization and business analytics. Her research focuses on technological change and education. She has consulted with for profit, nonprofit and government agencies to conceptualize design and evaluate online educational, business and social media projects. She is the co-author of Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-based Guide (2015; 2011), The Savvy Student's Guide to Online Learning (2013) and other articles related to higher education, learning, and technology, and the her latest text, Data Visualization Made Simple: Insights into Becoming Visual (September, 2018).
Amanda Justice Educational Technologist Office: Tisch 400 | Phone: (212) 998-0919 Email: Amanda Justice is a filmmaker and producer with a background in multimedia development of educational materials, distance education, instructional technology, and online course design. She has designed and produced courses in physics, engineering, law, and the humanities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Most recently she worked on a team designing online case studies for real estate courses at MIT. She holds a master's degree in Interactive Media from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Amanda has a background in documentary and experimental filmmaking, and teaches filmmaking for a Brooklyn-based cinema arts organization (Mono No Aware).
Ben Bowman is an award-winning filmmaker, media producer and educator who specializes in educational technology and online learning. He collaborates closely with faculty, students and administrators to integrate innovative technologies and narrative techniques into effective learning experiences. Before joining NYU Stern, Ben lead the Instructional Design team at YU Global, where he was responsible for launching a large range of new educational media and technology projects. He has also worked in network television and feature film production. He holds an MFA in film, television and media production from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where he has also taught graduate courses in digital media. He has taught film at Trinity College and has been a guest lecturer at Hampton University, NYU, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Extended Abstract

Many universities and colleges support faculty in the development of robust video lectures. Short videos can replace long lectures, but how does one know if students are actually watching the videos? The Learning Science team at the W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs at NYU Stern School of Business sought to design course videos that go beyond the dissemination of information and focus on supporting the learner from the onset.

Context: The W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs at NYU Stern partner with faculty on the design of educational experiences through the exploration of new models in teaching and learning. Working with interdisciplinary faculty and academic groups, we advance courses and programs through the purposeful use of technology and online learning tools. Recently, the school has built a broadcast quality studio for producing the next generation of learning media. We are challenged on how to create educational versus information videos with our faculty.

Approach: From the onset, the Labs have been at the forefront of using educational videos in the classroom for business school education. However, having a new video studio in-house has challenged us to design a process for ensuring that the videos are less like educational television, with only one-way communication of the faculty to the students. Rather, we opted for a two-way approach to using video in courses, by considering the roles of both the learners and the instructors. In our practice, we suggest a simple strategy to help faculty structure the educational content of their videos using a  Tell – Show – Try technique.

This technique is informed by the model of cognitive apprenticeship. Cognitive apprenticeship is an approach to teaching in professional education (in fields of business, medicine, and law) that aims to help students develop expertise in their domain. Cognitive apprenticeship is focused on learning in context together with experts and novices. The emphasis is placed on “how experts use metacognitive strategies and conceptual and procedural knowledge to solve problems in their domains” (Williams, 1992, p. 370).

This approach to learning defines the educational content into four categories (Williams, 1992, p. 371):

1) Domain knowledge: Facts, procedures, and concepts necessary to solve problems.

2) Heuristic strategies: Tricks of the trade. These are general procedures that are helpful in solving  problems.

3) Control strategies: Metacognitive processes that a problem solver uses to monitor and regulate the  course of problem solving.

4) Learning strategies: Procedures for acquiring new knowledge when knowledge is not adequate for problem solving.

Many of these areas cannot be taught through direct instruction or simply through lecture. Rather, they have to be observed while an expert is solving a problem. The use of multimedia can enable faculty to demonstrate problem solving skills and the strategies that an expert uses to solve problems, even when the solution may not be apparent.

Many teaching videos tend to focus on domain knowledge and conveying information that can be easily communicated in a textbook. The real talent of experts is not necessarily imparting domain knowledge but rather demonstrating the heuristic, control, and learning strategies that they use to solve problems.

The Tell – Show – Try technique was our way to structure educational content around the 1) presentation of domain knowledge (the telling), 2) the demonstration of problem solving techniques using heuristic and control strategies (the showing) and 3) and the assignment of a problem for students to do on their own (the trying). 

This technique has helped us frame the educational content of teaching videos. The video production, including the pre and post-production process, is complicated and can tend to take the forefront over the educational content. By structuring videos in such a way where only a portion of the video is focused on information transmission (Telling), the true expertise of the teacher can shine through problem-solution demonstrations (Showing), and help students form a model of how to solve problems in their domain (Trying)

Results: We learned that by having a process that builds in the tenets of good educational design informed by the learning sciences supported by real use cases has allowed us create high quality learning videos.

The questions that drove the development of the process included:

  • How do you effectively use video in an asynchronous online course? Specifically, how do we know if and how  learners are engaging with this material? Do these videos result in developing understanding and if so, how do we know?
  • How do you engage experts in an a learning video without having them lecture about domain knowledge? 
  • How do you take a difficult concept and create a learning video to promote class discussion? 
  • How do you model a decision-making process using video to lead students through the process without overloading them? If students need to see a complicated demonstration, how do you create a video asset that allows them to practice and apply the process?
  • How do you sequence in video content in a blended online course?

When we work with faculty to design video for students to engage with rather than to simply view, we can cultivate more memorable and effective learning experiences. Using methods based upon advances in learning science we have discovered five models for sound educational video design that provide for: the creation of rich learning videos for asynchronous courses that use tools to verify comprehension and effectiveness; making the best use of on-screen experts by having them reveal how advanced methods are used in practice to address common pitfalls; designing videos that will provoke student response and participation when teaching demanding subjects; a technique for breaking down multi-path processes into identifiable components, and presenting complicated concepts visually; and how to make informed decisions about where and when to use video in an online or blended course. And when not to.

Other institutions with budget and resource constraints can take advantage of these tools to produce similar videos to enhance student engagement, encourage faculty buy-in, and increase teaching and learning effectiveness.