You can lead a horse to water

Taking risks in education is, well, risky. As I have mentioned in several previous posts, one of my SIF assignments is to work on the hybrid U.S. history sections being offered at GSU this fall. The course is innovative in a number of ways: it takes full advantage of the D2L platform, it has it’s own, custom made (and free!) textbook, and it uses video segments, essentially little documentaries, to supplement instruction and to create a class that meets in-person once a week, and in a virtual classroom on the other. The film segments, in combination with reading from both the textbook and from primary sources, become the material on which Thursday class is based. So, the classroom is also flipped, meaning that it replaces time often spent in lecturing for time spent on discussion or other types of activities that usually get little time in survey courses.
As great as this sounds, there is a little bug in the system so far – very few students are watching the video. Because they are accessed through D2L, the number of students accessing each video can be tracked, and the results to date have been discouraging. This is frustrating – not only because of the many hours that go into producing each video segment but also because the videos are an attempt to engage learners who are supposedly visual, and who will tell you that they don’t keep up with reading because of the medium, not because they are averse to learning.

Now, as Jeff Young (one of the instructors of the course) pointed out to me yesterday, this failure may look worse simply because D2L allows it to be quantified. We can suspect that many students don’t read their books, but this is something we can’t quantify. So, the poor rates of accessing the videos (and the rapidity with which they are abandoned) may be less of a reflection of the course than of the work habits of college freshmen.

But it also reflects the importance of finding a way to maximize the leverage of the videos, to tie them into the course in such a way that students feel compelled to watch them, or are more immediately rewarded for doing so. In the scheme of things, this is a normal bump on the road of innovation, which like many things, is built on failure as much as on success.

Discussion are on-going about how to increase the use of the videos. Any suggestions from the SIF crowd?

A sample video, featuring GSU Senior Lecturer Larry Grubbs

3 responses

  1. As a current student, it seems that videos are a great way of learning things, but, unfortunately a lot of ways to not learn things.

    I think a lot of students are just the type that don’t do well for sitting long periods of time watching a video or even it playing in the background like some sort of sleep-teaching mechanism.

    Your colleague Jeff is absolutely right about D2L quantifying everything. I have been using D2L since my sophomore year of high school and can say that it is as much of a pain to students as it is teachers. Also, students are students, and our work habits are…non-productive (*eyes slide to the extra tab looking at video game stuff*), and that’s a whole different conversation altogether.

    I recommend a social approach to these videos. Meaning you can have all the content of Dr.Larry Grubs and whatever sources you have, but also provide a voiceover commentary summary about all the stuff in between.

    On top of that, repetition is probably the best way of approaching audiences. By repetition I mean just standard, linear lists or certain features of the video that interrupt the auditory learning of students and promotes visual learning that gets students’ minds running.

    If you need examples I got em:

    is an awesome video channel filled with videos on a wide variety of topics. You’ve probably seen these guys somewhere before explaining some topic.

    is probably one of my favorite news outlets. While their videos are relatively short and about current topics, they do a good job of explaining the past and how it brought it up to today’s status of situations.

    is of course one that is great for explaining situations in a tight-knit way. While most of the videos are simple and do not go into too much detail, it is a good starting point for a template of a video.

    I’ve just seen some of Jeff’s other videos of his channel, so this is an excellent starting point for videos by giving commentary in concise statements. Also, Jeff has expressed interest in motion graphics from his sub to Vale Productions. Motion graphics are definitely the next step in educational videos and can have big effects on audiences. More information on this can be provided through the CII or people with experience in really any graphics software. I have a lot of sources on motion graphics, and I would be pleased in sharing them with anyone.

    I think that’s all I have, but I have many other resources I can share with you guys on this hybrid pedagogy. Just contact me at for more info.

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