What about the claims that I’ve heard? Instruction through video is supposed to be more engaging, save more time and promotes better learning that using traditional methods, such as lecturing or reading assignments.
More engaging? Engagement level really depends on both quality and content of video. If the video narrator is no better at speaking than the live lecturer, the audience will pay less attention. Even if the visuals are more dramatic, they will simply divert the viewers’ attention, making it harder to remember what the narrator said. Most of what we learn comes through language, including the speaker’s body language and intonation. I’ve heard high school students describe a video series in which the narrator’s peppy voices reeked of condescension, making it hard for them to pay attention to what was actually said. Obviously, instructional videos are more engaging if professionally produced and audience-appropriate. What is not so obvious is how to create this kind of video consistently for all content. Choose videos for your class wisely.
Save time? This is an interesting claim because listening to a reading level recorded book takes the average students about three times longer than reading it silently. The addition of the audio, appealing visuals, varied repetition and intermittent drama or humor make the video more interesting and facilitate learning. But these also add time to the video. They usually end up presenting less information in the same amount of time than a well-organized lecture or reading assignment.
Promotes better learning? Textbook and manuals are meant for reference, not reading straight through. Scripts for videos normally condense the data-laden text and do not cover as much. Typically information is reorganized and reduced to emphasize overall objectives before being produced as a video. Most videos provide a good introduction, or special interest investigation, not a complete course. Students who have little prior knowledge or a lot of difficulty reading will learn more from videos. Students with more prior knowledge and higher reading skills tend to learn less from videos than traditional methods. Also, monitoring learning during a video is essential. Stop the video at regular intervals to provide interaction – students need to practice what they have learned and have their questions answered.
Videos do work for instruction, but they are only part of the learning equation.