Learning From Videos

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Learning From Videos

I found it really interesting that both the eye-tracking and learning performance data showed a clear advantage for the learner-generated outline, but that the self-reported measure of engagement did not. We know from research on metacognition that often our feelings about our learning don’t always line up with measures of our learning. The researchers interviewed the learners about their experience after completing all of the measures I described above. In the instructor-generated outline group the majority of participants felt it helped (86%) and reported that it a) made learning goals clear, b) helped them select what to focus on, and c) encouraged them to engage more. Of those that did not think it was beneficial (14%), they reported that it was because the video was short and they weren’t used to using the outline. In the instructor-generated + learner-generated group a smaller majority (68%) thought that writing down the key points helped. Of those who felt it did not help (32%), they reported that it essentially stressed them out. “They held the view that writing down the key points of the lecture could make them too focused on the learning outcome, and they felt frustrated and anxious if they could not catch the key points while watching the video” (Pi et al., 2023, pg 3505). This suggests to me that this strategy, though effective, may take some practice for learners to feel comfortable with. 

I wonder if some of this tension around focusing too much on learning outcomes comes from different goals about watching videos. Creating specific, intentional goals takes a little bit of the fun out of watching a video and puts in a little bit more work. I also wonder if the anxiety about missing key points while watching the video would be reduced by either a) having the ability to stop or rewatch portions of the video or b) practice with the strategy so that learners can see the improvement in memory and learning from videos when they use this strategy (i.e., “I may not catch everything, but I certainly remember more when I do this than when I don’t.”). 

A clear practical recommendation that follows from the Pi et al. (2023) study is to obtain and summarize an outline of a video before watching it (2). Here, finally, is an area where many instructor-made educational videos shine. If you are watching a video made for a class it is likely that the instructor has a set of learning objectives for that video. If they are talking over a PowerPoint, these are probably on some of the very first slides. The learning objectives can serve as an outline of the content to be covered. You should review that and probably write down a few key points.

However, not all educational videos will be organized this way. Sometimes all you will have to go on might be the video description or the simply the title of the video itself. If there is a video description it may include a narrative description of the video, in which case it can serve as a narrative advance organizer. You can still read through it and write down what you feel may be key points of the video. If you find yourself watching a video with a title only – no summary slide of learning objectives or content outline, no narrative description – then summarizing becomes much more challenging. Outlines as advance organizers are useful because they give you a preview of the structure of the video – allowing you to adjust your attention more effectively throughout – and help activate prior knowledge (3) – allowing you to integrate new information into the framework of what you already know. Without additional information the structure of the video may be a surprise, but you can still generate a few ideas of what will be covered in a video based on your prior knowledge.

Once you have an understanding of what to expect from the video, you should set a goal. I think it’s important to note that your goal may be different than your outline of the video content. You may note some key points on the outline and realize that your goal is to understand only a few of those concepts. Alternatively, you may already be familiar with many of the concepts on the outline, and your goal is to better understand this particular presenter’s point of view. You may even return to a video you have seen before and have different goals on the second viewing than you did on the first. 

So, the next time you watch a video with the goal of learning, I hope you take a few minutes to outline and set some learning goals. You’ll pay more attention to goal-relevant information and remember more!