When something is hard to believe or comprehend usually it needs to be demonstrated. For example, when a new technology is introduced on the market it is usually presented to the public through a demonstration of its functions and usability. Sometimes, to truly understand the logic behind a phenomenon or a concept, people need to see not just the result; they have to understand the functions and process that caused the observable result.
Complex processes and functions can prove really hard to explain solely through text, or they can be difficult to put into words. For the uninitiated, a Chemistry class demonstration without any explanations could seem like a sorcery lesson. Even if the reaction is described through a number of pages, some will have difficulties understanding what happens at a molecular level.
A smart way to explain such complex processes in a visual manner is to use videos. If students see how substances react and how molecules combine, they will understand and they will remember Chemistry lessons more easily.
But Chemistry isn’t the only field of study where videos can be used to aid the learning process. I always found that it’s more pleasurable to learn facts from nicely made videos, whether they’re about Physics, History, Geography or any other learning topic.
Regardless of the field of study, if we want videos to be an asset in the learning process we have to pay attention to some important aspects.
Make obvious the most important parts in the video learning material
Educational videos usually offer a lot of information, both visual and auditory. But selecting the important parts of the lesson while their senses are bombarded with tons of new information can be very difficult for students. If they are new to the topic, their brain could have a hard time distinguishing which are the essential parts and which are the less important parts of the lesson.
It’s just like when reading a complicated text for the first time. You have to read it entirely to get the complete picture and then you can start over and highlight the information you deem it’s really important.
In order to improve the efficiency of video learning, teachers should consider highlighting the key information in the video content. You can use visual and audio effects to signal learners which parts are the most essential to learn.
This can help students to have a more complete understanding of the topic and it also improves the speed of the learning process because they won’t have to watch the video over and over again to locate the key information of the lesson.
This signaling is really easy to do in almost any video editing software and it will significantly transform the learning experience for the students. You can add callouts, blur effects, add underlines or beeps and other sound effects depending on the learning style of your audience.
Helping students to locate and memorize the key information of the lesson ultimately supports deep learning goals because it’s more likely that the information will be saved in students’ long-term memory and they will retrieve it more easily when they’ll need it later.
Don’t overwhelm students…
Students are guilty of having a short attention span. Your own attention span is no bigger than that of a goldfish. It’s how humans have evolved. So try not to overwhelm your students…
…with too long a video
You should avoid making big, chunky videos from the start. It’s way easier to feed information through bite-sized video clips — or in this case, byte-sized videos.
Considering the short attention span, if a video is long, it’s more likely that it will be interrupted at some point. A lengthy and complex video can drain students of their energy faster and after a while they won’t be able to pay the necessary attention to really understand the material.
There is also a significant physical strain for the eyes when watching long videos.
Another issue is that sharing large multimedia files with students often can be difficult from a technical point of view. There are LMSs that do support large file uploads, or you can choose a content sharing platform. But it’s always easier and more efficiently to upload smaller files at a time.
So instead of making one large video for the whole class you should consider making smaller videos for each lesson. This way the material can be transferred sequentially as the learner progresses through the class. At the end of the class students can put the videos together and watch them as a whole by simply queuing them into a playlist.
…or unnecessarily complex videos
The length of the video isn’t the only thing that can overwhelm learners. It is important to follow how much information is packed into the video. Giving too much information in one dose can make the video difficult to understand and the information package will be harder to memorize in the learners’ long-term memory.
If the material is littered with excessive visual effects — such as complex backgrounds, complicated animations and/or unnecessary background music — it can distract learners’ attention from the important information of the video. They will have more incoming information through theirs senses over which they’ll have to decide if they are relevant or not.
As an educator, you should also take into consideration other possible distractions as well, especially if video learning is used in a flipped classroom setting.
Outside the classroom the array of possible distractions is enormous and it can’t be controlled by teachers. Longer video materials will increase the chance of getting interrupted in the learning process and once interrupted it will be harder for learners to take up where they left off.
If you really can’t avoid creating a large video you should consider sequencing it by delimiting the main parts and adding a clickable table of contents. This way students can follow the sequencing and have more control over how they watch the video.
Use multiple channels for a more complete information transfer
Humans are different in their perceptions, actions and in their cognitive process. Every one of us processes incoming information in a specific way, we give it different meaning, and ultimately we store it differently in our memory. Based on how we stored it we will be able to retrieve it (or not) in the future when we need it.
Every student has a different learning style, even if sometimes they can be grouped in categories, like visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, and so on. Video learning is beneficial for everyone, as it requires learners to use a combination of senses when paying attention to the new information. Involving more senses increases the probability of successful information transfer for all learning styles.
To further increase the success of the information transfer, subtitles also can be added. Video learning coupled with animations, audio effects and subtitles can prove useful also for students who are hard of hearing or have problems with their sight.
Also, providing transcripts for each video helps those that need to control text when learning. Students can search for a keyword, and get to the exact part of the video related to that keyword, without having to watch it all from the beginning. What’s more, a transcript can be printed, words on it can be highlighted, and learners who have a more individual learning style can benefit from it.
Video learning can help educators to keep students engaged in the learning process so they can acquire mastery faster and learn on a deeper level. It will be always easier to learn new concepts through demonstrations and videos than solely through text and oral explanation.
Zsolt is a Content Marketing Specialist at CYPHER LEARNING and a University Teaching Assistant. When he’s not in the classroom — nor on a motorcycle — he learns about new ways of teaching, education technology, and everything about e-learning.