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Study Finds Use of Video Boosts Learning

A meta-study has found that the use of pre-recorded video can lead to "small improvements" in learning and replacing existing content with videos can result in "strong" learning benefits.

The work, published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), was undertaken by a team of researchers from Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the University of Queensland. They analyzed 105 prior studies that covered a pool sample of 7,776 students. Those studies had used randomized controlled trials to compare the effectiveness of videos (both recorded lectures and highly edited clips with audio and visual elements) against other forms of instruction, including face-to-face lectures, tutorials or assigned readings. What the project didn't include were those studies where video usage couldn't be isolated from other variables, such as in the adoption of "flipped" classrooms.

Videos were found to be more effective for teaching skills than for transmitting knowledge (an increase of five points versus two points). According to the research, this may be because video provides "a different, more authentic perspective." For instance, the report noted, while learning about the history of feminism in India may show no difference in impact between sitting in class or viewing a video, video has the advantage for other topics, such as learning a medical procedure or a new skill. "Videos allow for students to see authentic demonstrations of skills with real people. They also allow for unique perspectives where students can see a skill through the eyes of the performer," the report stated.

The researchers called the results "robust" across different settings (lectures or tutorials), subjects (such as science or languages), types of video (for example, demonstrations or recorded lectures), video lengths and follow-up periods for assessment.

Overall, when students watched videos instead of going through "the usual forms of teaching," the average grade rose from a B to a B+. "When they got videos in addition to their existing classes, the effect was even stronger, moving students from a B to an A," said Michael Noetel, a research fellow at ACU, in a statement. "In a slightly concerning finding for my job as an academic, videos were even better than face-to-face classes with a teacher, although only by a little."

The authors explained that videos might be more effective than face-to-face classes with comparable interactivity for a couple of reasons: 1) Students can manage "their own cognitive load" by being able to pause and rewind; and, 2) "Teachers can better optimize cognitive load through editing." Those theories couldn't be tested, however, because too few studies reported on whether the video was self-paced or edited.

The report urged colleges to encourage staff to create and share high-quality video resources by providing stipends, funding the infrastructure for creating quality videos and supporting those students who had less access to technology.

"Even after the pandemic ends, college instructors will find value in incorporating video into their teaching," said Noetel. "Ensuring that those videos are of high quality and that all students have equal access to them will provide significant long-term benefits."

This study was partially supported by a grant from ACU.

The report is openly available in the Review of Educational Research, a peer-reviewed journal of AERA.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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