Reusable online video: A field report


Doug lecturing in a local stream for the “streams and floods” unit

In a previous post, I showcased the work that Doug Graber Neufeld undertook to record his lectures for an online earth sciences course last summer. I mentioned that fact that Doug planned to reuse the videos to flip the on-campus version of the same course this spring.

Well, the spring semester at EMU is starting to wind to a close and I recently reconnected with Doug to get a sense for how that flipping experiment went and how the recorded lectures factored into the process.

(For the perplexed, the “flipped classroom” entails moving didactic content outside the classroom – usually to some digital online medium – thus opening up classroom time for other more engaged activities.)

First, from a pedagogical and student expectations perspective, Doug mentioned that the mid-semester feedback from his flipping of the classroom  was somewhat mixed. Some students reported wanting to hear lectures in class rather than online. Doug and I conjectured that this may be due to the fact that students in undergraduate courses are likely conditioned to being passive recipients of information in 50-minute class sessions, while the flipped classroom demands much more work on the students’ part. It’s harder to come unprepared, which raises the stakes for the student. Other students reported enjoying the lecture material online and the more engaged classroom experience.

Being a hard sciences guy, Doug did some experimentation and statistical analysis with this experiment as well, giving it a quantitative dimension. For the on-campus course and for each chapter of the textbook, the students had a few options. They could:

  • Download/review the PowerPoint for the chapter; and/or
  • Watch the lecture video

With each chapter came an in-class quiz. Using Moodle, Doug was able to check if there was any correlation between students’ accessing the online resources and their quiz scores. The results indicate that there was indeed a positive correlation between accessing the videos, even over accessing just the PowerPoint, and quiz scores. As Doug reminded me “accessing (the videos) doesn’t mean they used it” and that “correlation doesn’t mean causation.”

Even with those provisos, Doug feels the labor undertaken to produce the lecture videos was worth it for both his online and on-campus earth sciences course.

Upon reflection, one thing that Doug would change is the length of the videos. Some were as long as an hour, which is exceptionally long when it comes to online video. Doug would split content into smaller conceptual chunks and produce smaller videos. Doing so would not only make it easier for students to watch videos online, but it would raise the reusability factor of individual videos, perhaps even making some usable in other courses.

Many thanks to Doug for his pioneering work here and his willingness to reflect critically (even statistically!) on the experience and share this all with me. Now let’s get some more EMU faculty trying this out!