Video and online learning

Video and online learning

How can video best support your training and educational objectives in online learning?
This has become an increasingly important question as growing broadband access now allows greater use of video over the Web. YouTube and a host of other sites have made video clips ubiquitous.
Video has great appeal for visual learners, and research shows that adding images or video to text-based training deepens the learning experience. In our experience, it can help personalize a self-paced course or learning resource. It must, however, be used with care.
Here are five brief tips for appropriate video use in online learning:

  • Make sure all video clips and presentation add value or provide context. Video is a great way to incorporate the commentary of subject matter experts or the experience of practitioners into a course. Video-for-video’s sake is a mistake; learners will quickly tune out if the video doesn’t provide additional insight or depth into the topic being presented.
  • Don’t overuse video; it’s a one-way medium. Learners are best engaged through interactivity, and courses that rely too heavily on video inherit the same weaknesses of traditional “sage on the stage” lecture classes. Interspersing video through an online course as a complement to interactive exercises is a more effective approach.
  • Keep video segments brief. YouTube’s original eight-minute limit on videos represents a good outer boundary. Videos under five minutes keep the viewer’s attention. If you want to use longer video presentations or lectures, edit them into brief segments. Briefer segments interspersed with text or interactives give learners time to process and apply the information presented in each video. As well, time-pressed adult learners are more likely to watch four or five video segments at different times than to sit down for a full-length 45-minute presentation.
  • Don’t forget to include accessible transcripts. Not only do they meet federal guidelines for accessibility (Section 508 of the Disabilities Act), but they also represent an option for learners who want to quickly review video content or those having problems viewing or hearing videos because of bandwidth issues.

How much of a difference does including video make in enhancing learning? The research on multimedia learning suggests some positive impact on student achievement: to the extent that video makes online courses more attractive and welcoming, including video does, at a minimum, encourage learners to start and complete courses. It’s also clear that learners like having the option.


“Impact of Video Tutorials in an Online Educational Statistics Course,” Thomas A. DeVaney, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, (December 2009)
“The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media,” Richard E. Mayer, Learning and Instruction, (April 2003)

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