Are Video Lectures effective in Online Courses?

  “The instructor-made videos helped me understand the material better.” (Rose, 2011).

100% of the students taking an online course indicated some level of agreement with the above statement. Though the research study was small, the findings are consistent with what we discovered when surveying our own students in an anonymous end-of-course survey that asked a similar question. In my previous post, Mobile or Not? How students watch video lectures I reported the viewing patterns of our students when watching the prerecorded lectures inherent to each credit course within our program. In this post I’ll share the student response results to a question asking about the effectiveness of video lectures in communicating course content. I will also discuss factors that institutions should consider when implementing video lectures within their own online courses.

Our college uses prerecorded videos in two ways, 1) for course welcome messages, a 2-minute clip where the course instructor introduces the course and gives an overview, and 2) (the topic for this post) as the primary method to deliver the course content to the student. To put this into context, each of our courses has between 20 and 30 prerecorded lectures.

What the Students Say:
The following question was part of the recent student survey, and I’ve included the results after each choice in blue text. Though the goal of this question was to identify how effective the lectures videos were in facilitating content delivery, we acknowledge that this method is one-dimensional, that there are multiple methods and approaches to assess effectiveness of prerecorded lectures. An accurate and efficient method is an assessment in the form of a quiz, given to the student immediately following the lecture. This is the method used by Coursera, which I’ve experienced while taking a course this summer. Our program is not capable of implementing this method currently, though I do like this option and plan to explore this at a later date.

Question: The video lectures were effective in communicating the course concepts and content. [Student Respondents n = 76]

Strongly Disagree: 0%
Disagree:  6%
Neutral: 4%
Agree: 33%
Strongly Agree: 57%

Even more helpful in determining lecture effectiveness, are the responses to the following open-ended question which followed the above question. Record any comments about the video lectures below (Optional).

  • I liked that there were notes and power points that could be used to follow along with the lectures.” [Students seem to appreciate either an accompanying note packet or copy of presentation slides]
  • “I found the lectures to be very relevant and interesting! They addressed important issues and made me think!” [Mission accomplished!]
  • “No matter how good my internet connection was, it paused a lot or sometimes just started back at the beginning randomly…this caused frustration!” [This comment illustrates how technical difficulties have the potential to negatively impact student learning. Having a technical support system in place when offering media rich courses is essential. We also began offering lectures for download which partially solves this problem, though we are still working on other alternatives]
  • It would be nice to have higher quality video to download. The new iPads have very high-resolution and iPhones and iPads can be plugged into HDTV’s. Watching low res on any device is not as nice as watching good quality.[Another example of the technology ‘demands’ of students. Institutions need to be responsive to new technological devices and student consumption capabilities. On the other hand, higher quality videos are large in size, posing a problem for students with low-bandwidth. No easy solution]

Other Content Delivery Options
There are other options for delivering the ‘content’ or the ‘meat’ of the course, in addition to prerecorded lecture videos. The online courses I completed as a student at GWU used primarily text-based materials, though often these were supplemented by other methods, which included:

  • Prerecorded audio lectures streamed, or available for download
  • Recorded interviews
  • Live lectures using Elluminate Live. An interactive platform with professor lecturing in real-time, or prerecorded. Presentation slides are used. Students could ask questions in the live lectures. Lectures were two-hours in length, and recorded for later reference, or for students not able to participate.

Other online programs use media in innovative ways to enhance the program and engage students. One such program, developed by Douglas Hersh at Santa Barbara City College, called the Human Presence Learning Environment is quite interesting.  I’ve included the link below of the article describing the program with further details.

Video lectures are one tool of many for delivering course content, as mentioned in this post. It is during the process of creating a comprehensive instructional strategy in the course design phase, where the instructor will select the best content delivery method. However, not to be ignored is the value the video has when the course instructor is featured and ‘speaks’ to the student. It is a visual image which makes the instructor a real person – a person that the student is able to make a connection with. Research does support the effectiveness of the video in creating a sense of presence, which further supports social and cognitive presence which are critical components to a successful learning experience.