Enriching Online Courses with Videos

by Dr. Tim Kochery

Video has served as an important mode of delivering educational content for many years, and instructional videos are often key components of online courses. Video is a medium that engages viewers through multiple senses – sight and sound – and often generates added interest, attention and excitement about a learning subject or concept.  Several decades of research has demonstrated a variety of positive effects of using videos and multi-media in education. The success of the Khan Academy, which uses many video lectures as part of a flipped classroom model, has demonstrated some of this effectiveness, and also expanded the popularity of using videos (see this link):       http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education

Recent data demonstrates the ever-increasing interest and use of videos:

  • Edudemic reports that 67% of teachers believe video lessons are very effective at educating students. 46% of teachers said they have actually created at least one video lesson.
  • A study conducted by Skilljar in 2013 revealed that 67% of online learners reported taking a video-based class.
  • Fast-growing online course sites are largely video-based, including Lynda.com, Skillshare, CreativeLive, Udacity, Udemy, and Craftsy
  • One report reveals that YouTube receives over 4 billion views per day and that there are 6 billion hours of video watched per month.

The use of video is becoming one of the most prevalent, popular and engaging eLearning formats, and there is growing evidence to support its value as a method for communicating about certain educational content. Learners report feeling very comfortable and attracted to video learning opportunities. They also appreciate the “academic freedom” this affords them to learn at their own pace and review materials anytime/anyplace. The video medium describes and illustrates many topics better than text or adds a visual supplement to text materials that promotes additional learning. Allan Paivio’s Dual Coding Theory (1971) is a long-standing and well-supported educational principle that maintains learning increases when textual and visual information are combined. These two different pathways of receiving and coding information begin to supplement and connect to one another, which broadens our mental associations:  

The theory assumes that cognition involves the activity of two qualitatively different mental codes, a verbal code specialized for dealing with language in all its forms and a nonverbal code specialized for dealing with nonlinguistic objects and events in the form of mental images.


Studies by Shepard and Cooper (1982) and Mayer and Gallini (1990) correspondingly demonstrate the connection video provides between visual clues, the memory process, and the recall of new knowledge. For certain topics and concepts video can help novice students who have lower prior knowledge process a concept more easily (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007). Using videos to examine real life examples or contrasting case studies, increased student’s performance at achieving expert-like differentiation (Schwartz & Bransford, 1998). Videos can serve as reflective tools for learners as they try to integrate and apply new information into their pre-existing knowledge by allowing students to comment and respond to the videos they view (Brunvand, 2010). Therefore, students not only enjoy the video experience, but they appear to gain and retain more information from that learning event.

More recently, a study by Willmot et al (2012) shows strong evidence that digital video reporting can inspire and engage students when incorporated into student-centered learning activities through:

  • increased student motivation
  • enhanced learning experience
  • higher marks
  • development potential for deeper learning of the subject
  • development of learner autonomy
  • enhanced team working and communication skills
  • learning resources for future cohorts to use

Besides indications of certain learning gains, there are many innate capacities that videos provide for delivering and conveying educational content. Video is a very powerful form of communication that is often more effective than merely a lecture or text-based delivery of information. Video is very useful at making abstract concepts become more concrete and generates a distinct narrative format to tell a story. Videos produce pictures, images, sounds, and motion that portray a context and sense of reality to unfamiliar ideas and places. It can construct detailed examples, models, spatial dimensions, and interactions that are helpful for visualizing the “un-seeable”- from microscopic and intergalactic physical events – to intangible theories and ideas.  Videos are very valuable for showing active processes and procedures as well as re-enactments of critical events. They can also successfully portray interpersonal dynamics, subjective emotions, and describing attitudes and beliefs. Videos can be evocative and stimulate making representations, associations, and connections to other events, materials, and personal experiences.

The benefits of using video in education includes providing a sensory experience that allows concepts and ideas to actually become an experience and come to life as students are guided through each adventure.


Of course to increase the effectiveness of using any educational materials, it is very important to consider what is the purpose for using a video. As with any instructional technology, you want to assure that the video enhances teaching and learning. To effectively integrate video into your course, you must first determine a specific learning objective and create an activity that uses the video in support of that objective. Apply some basic course design principles, and determine how a specific video will support the achievement of a particular learning goal or course objective. Begin by asking yourself some questions:

  • What is it that you want your students to learn?
  • Is the video intended to introduce new concepts, review old ones, or extend something that happened in class?
  • Do you want to provoke thoughts, discussions, and promote critical thinking, or is it to provide simple, factual information?

In addition, it is important to apply some basic instructional strategies to increase the learning capacity and effectiveness of implementing any video.

  • Be careful about using videos that are too long. In general, most learner’s attention span starts to decline after 6-10 minutes. If you need to use a longer video, be sure the viewer has control to pause or stop the video for later viewing. Whenever possible, chunking or editing the video down into smaller segments should be considered.
  • Include a transcript, this helps any viewer follow along and review the material. A transcript is also required for ADA compliance if the video does not have closed-captioning (CC) available. Closed captions are critical for viewers with hearing disabilities, but it also allows all viewers a way to track and further understand what they are viewing.
  • Assign some assignments or learning activities that are based on applying the video content (e.g. a discussion, reflection paper, or short quiz). Consider creating a hand-out with some questions that the learner should attend to and perhaps even fill-out, as this improves attention and retention.
  • Provide a brief description of the main content of the video to inform the viewer of what they should be expected to “attend to”. Since often times a video is linked through a web-link, manage the learner’s expectations by telling them this will be a video plus the length of time, so they can plan accordingly. A helpful naming protocol is (Video, approx. 13:27 mins, no CC).
  • Create a video to introduce yourself as the instructor, plus a welcome message and overview of the course. For online courses, this has proven to be very effective at building stronger connections and rapport to the course and the instructor’s presence.

It is not always easy or necessary to take the time to produce your own videos; a large amount have already been developed that may be applicable. These are available through a growing number of existing video collections and repositories. Besides the extensive collection of videos at YouTube, there are number of other online video sites with a large amount of video titles that are focused on educational applications: http://www.refseek.com/directory/educational_videos.html

The Khan Academy has a reputation for producing quality videos that are focused on Math education. In addition, they have created numerous videos for a variety of other educational subjects such as economics, sciences, and the several areas within the arts and humanities. Visit their website below to look at their extensive library of video titles and materials. They also partner with other organizations such as NASA, the American Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum: https://www.khanacademy.org/library

There are a number of other organizations that produce videos on a variety of topics which are available to the public: National Geographic, Smithsonian, PBS; including the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/film-and-videos/collections/ , and the National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/search/?affiliate=nps&query=videos. In addition, most public libraries have a range of available videos, such as the NAIT Library Services, as well as LCCC Luden Library with its licenses to Films on Demand and the Kanopy collection: http://lcccwy.kanopystreaming.com

With this widespread and increasing access to a vast range of video content, it is easier than ever before to add this multi-media content to your courses.  Video provides a rich and robust mode of communications that creates added dimensions to delivering your educational content. Video is a very powerful tool for conveying information, and when employed effectively, can enrich your online courses and be very engaging for your learners.




Mayer, R., Gallini, J (1990), ‘When is an illustration worth ten thousand words?’ Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(6) (715-726)

Shepard, R. & Cooper, L. (1982), Mental images and their transformations, MIT Press/Bradford Books, Cambridge, MA.

Willmot, P., Bramhall, M., Radley, K. (2012) Using digital video reporting to inspire and engage students. Retrieved from: http://www.raeng.org.uk/education/hestem/heip/pdf/Using_digital_video_reporting.pdf










One thought on “Enriching Online Courses with Videos

  1. Pingback: Incorporating Video into Online Courses | LCCC E-zine

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