Using Asynchronous Video-based Discussions in Online Learning: An Investigation of Students’ Perceptions of Flip Grid

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Brief Abstract

Asynchronous video-based discussions have affordances that can address some of the constraints of asynchronous text-based discussions. However, very little research has been conducted on the use of asynchronous video-based discussions in online courses. As a result, the purpose of this study was to investigate students’ perceptions of using FlipGrid for asynchronous video-based discussions in fully online courses. In this session, we will report the results of our inquiry and implications for research and practice.

Presenters

Patrick R. Lowenthal is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology at Boise State University, where he teaches master’s and doctoral students in fully online graduate programs. He specializes in designing and developing online learning environments. His research focuses on how people communicate using emerging technologies—with a specific focus on issues of presence, identity, and community--in online learning environments.

Additional Authors

Robert L. Moore is an Assistant Professor in Instructional Design and Technology at Old Dominion University. He teaches synchronous distance learning courses, focusing his research on the development of participatory online learning environments and using learning analytics techniques to understand online learner engagement in massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Extended Abstract

The first online course was offered over 30 years ago (Harasim, 1987). However, despite the decades that have passed and advances in technology since, the main ways that instructors and students interact with each other in online courses, and the challenges that this in turn presents, has changed very little. For instance, the first online courses differed from the traditional distance education correspondence courses that came before them primarily by adding the ability of a group of students and an instructor to communicate asynchronously with each other from a distance (Harasim, 1987, 1990). While the development of learning management systems (LMS), various educational technologies (e.g., Blogs, Wiki’s, etc…), and approaches to designing online instruction have evolved--and arguably even matured--in many ways, the typical online course today centers around the same type of asynchronous text-based discussions used over the past 30 years.

This is not inherently a bad thing. Asynchronous text-based discussions have certain affordances.  For instance, asynchronous text-based discussions enable learners to interact and engage with each other at their own time and place; they also have been shown to promote reflection and even help encourage equitable participation (Hrastinski, 2008; Johnson, 2008). However, despite affordances like these, asynchronous text-based communication in general--whether one-on-one email or many-to-many threaded discussions--has some inherent constraints. For instance, asynchronous text-based communication has been criticized, almost since its inception, for being impersonal and antisocial and therefore only good at task-oriented communication  (Author). Further, the text-based format may not be inclusive or effective for all students (Green & Green, 2018). For some students, the text-based nature of online discussions lacks the essential personal elements needed for students to feel connected with each other, the instructor, and the course content (Green & Green, 2018). Constraints such as these are often used to explain the high rates of attrition in online courses  (Ludwig-Hardman & Dunlap, 2003; Richardson, Maeda, Lv, & Caskurlu, 2017). 

Practitioners and researchers alike believe that if students are able to communicate better with each other in their online courses, and in turn develop a sense of social presence and classroom community, they will ultimately persist and be more successful in their online courses (Boston et al., 2009; Boston et al., 2011; Picciano, 2002; Rovai, 2002a; Whiteside, 2015; Whiteside, Garrett Dikkers, & Lewis, 2014). Given this, many have focused on improving the use asynchronous text-based online discussions (Aloni & Harrington, 2018).  However, technological advances over the past few years now provide online educators with other ways for students to interact and communicate with each other. One of these is through the use of asynchronous video-based discussions. However, very little research has been conducted to date on the use of asynchronous video-based discussions in online courses. As a result, the purpose of this study was to investigate students perceptions of using FlipGrid for asynchronous video discussions in fully online courses.

 

Literature Review

Online educators have become increasingly interested in the power of asynchronous video. Basically, this type of video is recorded (e.g., with a webcam or even a phone) and then later shared with others (e.g., emailed, uploaded to a learning management system, or hosted on a video server like YouTube) to watch on their own time. However, during the past few years, web applications have been developed to simplify this entire process; two examples of this are VoiceThread and FlipGrid. 

VoiceThread has been around longer than FlipGrid. VoiceThread enables users to narrate and record presentations and then discuss these presentations using multimodal commenting tools (Ching, 2014). Therefore, while VoiceThread has the ability to create and share asynchronous video (in the form of narrated presentations), in many ways through its commenting features, it can do much more by enabling users to comment on videos in text, audio, or video. Online educators have been interested in using VoiceThread because of the potential of multimodal communication to “humanize” online discussions (Ching & Hsu, 2013; Koricich, 2013; Pacansky-Brock, 2012, 2014; Trespalacios & Rand, 2015). In one study, Borup, West, and Graham (2012) investigated student perceptions of asynchronous video using VoiceThread or YouTube. They found that asynchronous video helped establish an instructor's social presence but that it had less of an impact on establishing the social presence of students. In a follow up study, Borup et al. (2013) found that the type of discussion prompt influenced students’ perceptions of asynchronous video. In another study, Pacansky-Brock (2014) investigated students’ use of video commenting in VoiceThread. Among other things, she found that students in this study reported stronger perceptions of community and improved emotion when leaving voice or video comments instead of text-only comments.

Similar to VoiceThread, FlipGrid is a video-based discussion tool that works both as a web application and a mobile app (Green & Green, 2018; Moore, 2016). Unlike VoiceThread, FlipGrid is a platform that focuses on doing one thing, asynchronous video-based discussions. These video-based discussions allow students to interact and engage with each other in ways not possible before and further can help increase social presence in online courses (Green & Green, 2018; Jones-Roberts, 2018; Mahmoudi & Gronseth, 2019; Moore, 2016). With FlipGrid, students are able to respond to each other’s videos with video replies of their own. Additionally, they can incorporate emojis to add a social media element to their replies. Very little research, though, has been conducted on FlipGrid to date.

 

Method

Given the purported affordances of asynchronous video-based discussions, and the lack of research on FlipGrid in particular, we set out to investigate students’ perceptions of using FlipGrid in fully online courses. The following research questions guided this exploratory study:

  • What are students' perceptions of using FlipGrid in a fully online course?

  • What is the relationship between the use of FlipGrid, classroom community, and social presence?

FlipGrid was used in two different graduate courses over two different semesters in a fully online educational technology program. Students in the courses used FlipGrid for an initial meet-and-greet asynchronous video-base discussion and then later in the course for a weekly discussion, as an alternative to using text-based asynchronous discussions as in previous semesters. A total of 64 students took part in the study. Students completed a pre-course survey that provided various demographic information and then completed a post-course survey at the end of the course. The post-course survey included Rovai’s (2002a) Classroom Community Scale, the social presence questions included in the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire (Arbaugh, Cleveland-Innes, Diaz, Garrison, Ice, Richardson, & Swan, 2008),, and specific questions focused on the use of FlipGrid. The FlipGrid questions included likert style questions as well as open-ended questions focused at answering the research questions for this study. The results were downloaded and analyzed.

 

Results

Due to the word count limit for proposals, we will simply highlight a few of the results from our inquiry.  As a whole, the students who took part in this study appeared to like FlipGrid. For instance, when asked if they liked using FlipGrid the average response was 4.17 on a 5.0 scale, with the majority of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that they liked it. Further, when asked how likely they would use FlipGrid in an online course that they were teaching, over 81% responded that they would likely or very likely use FlipGrid in a course they were teaching. And when specifically asked if they would rather simply used text-based asynchronous discussions, over 65% essentially responded that they would not (see Table 1). In the response to the open-ended questions, the majority of students noted how intuitive and easy it was to use. They also mentioned the ability to get to know their peers as captured in the following comments:

 

  • “I liked that I could see my classmates mannerisms, hear their voices, and get a sense of who they are.” 

  • “I thought that was the best way to get to know my classmates.”

  • “I don't generally like being in videos, but Flipgrid feels different. It is the closest that I have ever felt like I was having a face-to-face conversation with another person in an asynchronous setting.” 

  • “Seeing the other students was really helpful in getting to know them”

 

There were not many things students disliked. But one student found the use of “stickers" a bit childish. Another felt that students did not actively participate enough in the video discussions. And a few others pointed out that they did not like to record themselves as captured in the following comment “I am not a big fan of recording myself, but I understand the need for it in an online course”.

 

Table 1

Student Perceptions of FlipGrid

[Note: table removed for online submission]
Substantiated Conclusions

Video, whether asynchronous or synchronous, is not a panacea. Rather, it is how video is used that matters the most. With that said, there are some inherent affordances with video and specifically asynchronous video--one of these being the ability to see and hear one another. FlipGrid is a relatively new web-based application that simplifies the process of having asynchronous video-based discussions. We set out to investigate students perceptions of using FlipGrid in fully online courses. Due to the sample size, the results should not be generalized. However, the results suggest that FlipGrid was easy to use, students enjoyed using it, and it helped them get to know their peers in an efficient manner. In this session, we will elaborate on ways to improve the use of asynchronous video-based online discussions.

 

Scholarly Significance

FlipGrid is relatively new. However, since the purchase by Microsoft and becoming a free and easy to use application, the use of FlipGrid has increased dramatically overnight. However, very little research has been conducted on students’ of using FlipGrid. For instance, do students really want to see each other? Are students really not happy with asynchronous text-based online discussions? This research is an important first step in investigating a brand new communication technology, one that holds promise to help improve and possibly further humanize our online courses.

 

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