Currently reading about how to make instructional videos more effective (through instructor presence and embedded prompts)

How can we make learning from instructional videos more effective? Does it help to have the instructor visible so students feel more connected and are more motivated to follow? Can we include learning prompts to support learning? Yes to both! Continue reading for my summary of two articles on those topics!

It has been a while since I wrote about instructional videos (the beginning of the pandemic, to be exact). A really good starting point when thinking about instructional videos is the article by Choe et al. (2019) (my summary here) where they compare different styles and provide a summary table of best practices — very helpful! One main take-away for me was that a really important feature in instructional videos is a visible lecturer who maintains eye contact with the camera.

Such an “instructor presence” in videos can of course not replace interactions with an actual instructor, but it can still induce social processes. Beege et al. (2023) did meta-analyses on 35 studies to investigate if and how this works. They report that literature on the “instructor presence effect” typically shows positive effects on motivation and emotion-related ratings, but not on learning outcomes. If an instructor is visible in addition to other content, this of course means more information for the students to process at the same time, which can potentially lead to split attention or short-term memory overload with information that isn’t directly relevant for learning (like, I would imagine, noticing the instructor’s clothes or facial expressions). And eye-tracking studies indeed confirm that students look at the instructor rather than the instructional content 30% of the time. But there are other processes at play that do occur similarly in in-person communication: Students focus on trying to understand what exactly the instructor is trying to convey, and use verbal and facial cues to select what to focus in and how to organize information. Students also report a lower perceived mental effort when they see an instructor in a video. Overall, Beege et al. (2023) recommend including an instructor, especially in MOOCs or other settings where there is little other social connection. Then, they recommend to include the instructor somewhat small-ish in a corner, especially when no other important information is presented visually, since that minimizes distractions from the material. If really complex information is presented visually, the instructor can be hidden during those times of the video.

Another idea to keep students engaged in video lectures and to thus enhance their learning is to include prompts in the videos. McClellan et al. (2023) investigate how that works best and find that cognitive prompts (i.e. prompts that invite students to recall ideas presented previously, or apply content to real-world examples) indeed do help students learn without contributing to extra mental effort. They do work especially well on students that are somewhat disorganized, whereas students who are organized already don’t benefit. McClellan et al. (2023) recommend including cognitive prompts like writing down the main points of a video segment. Metacognitive prompts (i.e. reflecting on understanding or giving pointers for self-regulation) did not, however, have any significant impact on learning.

Of course, cognitive prompts could also be done even more explicitly in form of tasks that students are given and need to complete, me thinks…

Beege, M., Schroeder, N. L., Heidig, S., Rey, G. D., & Schneider, S. (2023). The instructor presence effect and its moderators in instructional video: A series of meta-analyses. Educational Research Review, 100564.

Choe, R.C., Scuric, Z., Eshkol, E., Cruser, S., Arndt, A., Cox, R., Toma, S. P., Shapiro, C., Levis-Fitzgerald, M., Barnes, G. and H. Crosbie (2019). “Student Satisfaction and Learning Outcomes in Asynchronous Online Lecture Videos”, CBE—Life Sciences Education, Vol. 18, No. 4. Published Online: 1 Nov 2019

McClellan, D., Chastain, R. J., & DeCaro, M. S. (2023). Enhancing learning from online video lectures: the impact of embedded learning prompts in an undergraduate physics lesson. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 1-23.

Leave a Reply