Perfecting Blended Learning: Why Video Is The Future Of The Classroom


pic1By Poppy Simpson.

The impact and value of video in blended learning represents an ongoing field of research. Recent surveys, empirical studies and industry reports overwhelmingly agree that video in education, when used correctly, can significantly boost student engagement, enjoyment and learning outcomes.

Research by Cruse (2014) has identified several benefits to teaching and learning:

  • reinforcing reading, knowledge transfer and memory
  • increasing student motivation and enthusiasm
  • enhancing student comprehension and stimulating discussion
  • providing greater accommodation of diverse learning styles
  • developing literacy in the broadest sense (that is, visual and media literacy)
  • taking students beyond the classroom walls to experience different cultures, places and languages
  • promoting teacher effectiveness

According to the American Public Broadcasting System’s (PBS) annual teacher survey on media and technology (2010), the percentage of teachers finding value in multimedia and video content has increased each year since 2007. In 2010, PBS found that 68 percent of teachers believed that video content stimulates discussions, 66 percent believed video increased student motivation, while 55 percent cited video as a driver for greater pedagogic creativity (with 62 percent saying it helps teachers be more effective). The survey also found that the majority of teachers (61 percent) believed students prefer video as a means of communicating complex ideas.

Meanwhile, as academic research has emphasised the diversity of students’ learning styles, a number of studies have shown that video’s multiple facets (aesthetic, auditory, logical and emotional) address the needs of a broader base of learners. These ‘multiple entry points’ into the content are especially valuable in a formal educational setting, as they offer greater accommodation to the multiple intelligences of a diverse group of students (Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 2004). Ben, a British A-level student from Cumbria, said, “The fact that I can see and hear the video makes the content more memorable. It is like having a teacher available when outside of school!”

Video also supports a diversity of subjects in unique ways. History teachers employ video to bring an unfamiliar era to life or encourage students to consider different fictional representations of the past. In science, clips and animations allow teachers to illustrate experiments that cannot be done in class, or to take students on impossible field trips – inside the human body or out into the solar system. English teachers can bring literature, plays and music into the classroom, while in social studies video offers the opportunity to travel around the globe to meet new people and hear their ideas (Wainhouse Research, 2012; Kaltura, 2014, UK Department for Education [DfE], 2014).

The Optimal Use of Video in the Classroom

Research has also shown that the value of video in the classroom is dependent on the ways in which it is used. Students need to be given the opportunity to meaningfully interact with moving image, while teachers need to be able to properly integrate it into their programs of study.

There is a general consensus that video is most effective when it is:

  • delivered in short clips, which have been edited, categorised and contextualised with the curriculum in mind;
  • fully integrated into the curriculum; and
  • used as part of a broader ecology – a complementary resource alongside images, text and other resources.

A recent empirical study of 6.9 million video watching sessions across the edX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform found that material under six minutes resulted in significantly greater learner engagement (Guo, 2014). This support research, carried out in US and UK schools and higher education institutions, demonstrates that the ability to show moving image in short, relevant segments and from multiple programs avoids the passive consumption so often associated with video in the classroom (Denning; Barrett, 2013; DfE, 2014).

As with all education resources and technologies, the value of video highly correlates to its synthesis with the wider curriculum. “Just as one method of transmitting knowledge has never been enough, any individual grouping of media may never be sufficient. This is why texts, oral presentation, recorded audio, slides, and other forms of media invite enhancement by video. Video does not just add emphasis, however. It is becoming central to learning, a need felt not only by students who are growing up with rich digital technologies, but also increasingly by educators.” (Wainhouse Research, 2012)

For language learning, video can provide the perfect asset to demonstrate how language is spoken naturally. Corinne Nederlof, a publisher at Malmberg in the Netherlands, said, “For me, as a language course publisher, the element of authenticity is the most relevant about video. For language learners, it is the only way to learn to listen to real English spoken by native speakers. There are hundreds of millions of people learning English worldwide and one of the hardest parts is to get used to the sound and to thoroughly understand spoken English. In documentaries and other film based on script, the voices are being recorded in studios. There are no ‘ehs and stutters and people speak full sentences. But in everyday life, hardly anyone speaks in correct and complete sentences. Watching interviews and informal spoken language helps students to develop the right ear.”

Barriers to the Successful use of Video in Schools

While some of the best teachers across the globe are incorporating video into their programs of study in creative and innovative ways, for many schools, video remains a new and unexplored tool. Indeed, evidence suggests that the adoption of video is most often the result of ‘bottom up’ pressure, driven by an ‘advocate’ teacher or department and therefore not fully deployed across all subject areas and year groups (Kaltura, 2014).

This uneven take-up is likely the result of a number of significant barriers to use. While there has been an explosion of content online, from the perspective of both teacher and student, the landscape can appear chaotic. Video is presented, categorised and contextualised (if at all) in widely different ways and, in the vast majority of cases, without reference to the specific needs of the education community, making the most useful available video undiscoverable by the time-poor teacher. Although numerous surveys have indicated a growing use of YouTube amongst teachers, these have also registered teacher dissatisfaction with the limitations of the platform. A recent UK Department for Education report, for example, found that teachers are frustrated by their inability to discover targeted, subject-relevant extracts from longer programs and by the poor quality of much of the material. Primary teachers also noted that they are often prevented from accessing video because of inappropriate advertising and attendant content (DfE, 2014).

A complex range of licensing and copyright restrictions also cause confusion about schools’ rights to use video material, while different digital platforms impose constraints on how video can or cannot be viewed, used and shared. The situation is further complicated by the wide variation in schools’ ICT infrastructure and by the developing market for new education-facing technologies and services.

This complexity of finding and showing video in the classroom is in stark contrast to the ready availability of still images and textual sources that are commonplace in textbooks (both printed and digital offers), learning management platforms and online education resources (both commercial and non-commercial). And while many educational publishers have expressed an eagerness to incorporate complementary video material into their digital offers, they find the cost of finding and licensing appropriate clips is often prohibitive, as clip banks are primarily focused on commercial sales and their content entails complex secondary usage rights (some publishers have experimented with including references to online video within their textbooks; however, this has proved problematic because of the tendency for web links to disappear and for moving image assets to move location online) (DfE, 2014).

Increased Adoption of Video in the Classroom

In spite of these challenges, the majority of educators and publishers are enthusiastic about the use of video and see it becoming more and more integral to the future classroom. A recent study by Kaltura (2014) – an education-focused video platform – found that 88 percent of teachers agree that video improves the educational experience and will be a major part in education in the future. Similarly, 67 percent of respondents believe that traditional teaching methodology will change as a result of technological advancements.

There are a number of clear drivers to increasing adoption of video in teaching. At the pedagogical level, teachers have an increasingly nuance understanding of different learning styles as well as an appreciation of the need to foster creative and critical problem-solving skills to ensure students are career ready. Similarly, a new generation of technologically savvy educators with a natural affinity for media are more likely to experiment with new modes of use, especially given their students’ proficiency with technology and appetite for online video consumption.

Add to this the widespread investment in digital technology for schools, the proliferation of video-enabled devices (lightweight smartphones and tablets) and increased access to the Internet and it seems clear that video will play an important role in the classroom of the future.

Knowledgemotion: a Solution

The use of video in the classroom is only beginning to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s learners and the widespread enthusiasm for video amongst the education community has not led to widespread adoption and experimentation. As a result, teacher confidence and pedagogical creativity in using video has been severely limited.

This is part of a wider issue facing the education sector; namely, that while heavy investment in digital technology has had a radical impact on the management and assessment of learning, it has not yet resulted in significant improvements to learning experiences and attainment. Indeed, this is the problem that Nesta identified in its 2012 report Decoding Learning, The Proof, Promise and Potential of Digital Education: “…we have come to recognise an innovation deficit at the intersection of technology and education; students today inhabit a rich digital environment, but it is insufficiently utilised to support learning.”

Knowledgemotion, a video-in education specialist, and the platform can transform the use of video in teaching and learning, with the world’s largest TV clip library specifically designed for education. The platform is a single, easily searchable destination for publishers, digital platforms, governments and school networks where they can access clips tagged to curriculum topics that have been cleared for educational use. Publishers can seamlessly integrate video with more established print and digital content, which, in turn, supports teachers in its application.

Crucially, Knowledgemotion also provide crowd-sourced curriculum data by making clips freely available to a subset of UK teachers. This allows them to harvest detailed data on how video is actually used in the classroom which they can then feed back to publishers. This will inform the shape of emerging digital products and support an array of education providers in embedding video more creatively and effectively into their content.

Poppy Simpson works as a consultant for public and private organisations in the realm of education. She has a particular interest in the potential of new technologies and digital content to impact learning and pedagogy. She is based in NYC where she is working for Knowledgemotion.

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Education Technology Solutions has been created to inspire and encourage the use of technology in education. Through its content, Education Technology Solutions seeks to showcase cutting edge products and practices with a view to expanding the boundaries and raising the standards of education curricula. It introduces teachers and IT staff to the latest products, services and developments in education technology with a view to providing practical how-to guidance designed to facilitate the integration of those products and services into the school environment in the most productive and beneficial manner possible.