girl in orange sweater in front of green couch wearing headphones and watching a video on her laptop Photo by iStock/aniloAndjus

Videos May Improve Student Learning

Videos can raise student scores by five points out of 100.

Some educators worry that online instruction might negatively impact student learning, and this concern was only heightened as the pandemic caused most universities to transition to remote classes. But a new study indicates that, in many cases, replacing teaching methods with pre-recorded videos leads to small improvements in learning. In addition, supplementing existing content with videos, rather than replacing that content, results in learning benefits that are even more pronounced. The study was published in February in Review of Educational Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The study authors were Michael Noetel, Shantell Griffith, Taren Sanders, Philip D. Parker, Borja del Pozo Cruz, and Chris Lonsdale at Australian Catholic University, and Oscar Delaney at the University of Queensland. They analyzed 105 prior studies with a pooled sample of 7,776 students. The previous research had used randomized controlled trials to determine how the use of videos affected learning compared to other forms of instruction, including face-to-face lectures, tutorials, or assigned readings. Australian Catholic University provided a grant that partially supported the study.

“Overall, when students got videos instead of the usual forms of teaching, the average grade increased from a B to a B+,” says Noetel. “When they got videos in addition to their existing classes, the effect was even stronger, moving students from a B to an A.”

Videos were found to be more effective for skills development than for knowledge transmission. On a skills assessment, videos improved student scores by about five points out of 100. For learning knowledge, videos were about as good as existing teaching methods, increasing student scores by about two points.

Videos might be more effective than face-to-face classes because students are able to engage at their own pace and in their own time.

The results were robust across different teaching methods (such as lectures, tutorials, and homework) and types of video (such as case demonstrations and recorded lectures). The findings also held across different course subjects, video lengths, and time between the experiments and follow-up assessments of student learning.

“Obviously some valuable learning activities are best done face-to-face, like role-plays and class discussion,” says Noetel. “But our results show many forms of learning can be done better and more cost-effectively via video. Shifting the ‘explaining’ bits to videos allows the rich, interactive work to take up more of the precious face-to-face time with students.”

The authors speculate that videos might be more effective than face-to-face classes with comparable interactivity because students are able to engage at their own pace and in their own time, without being overloaded. The authors also theorize that videos are effective for teaching skills development because videos often show situations more authentically than lectures can, by providing real-life demonstrations instead of artificial class presentations.

According to the authors, colleges should focus their policies on incentivizing staff to create and share high-quality video resources, funding the infrastructure for creating quality videos, and supporting students with less access to technology.

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