Using videos in teaching: Love (teaching) in the time of Corona

By Emilie Sitzia

As teaching staff we have been discussing the use of video in teaching for many years already. Actually, the first investigations into the use of videos in the classroom go back to the 1970s… I have been experimenting with videos in teaching in all kinds of formats at all levels and in various contexts for about 10 years. I started experimenting with videos in teaching for very practical reasons. In 2011 a series of earthquakes in New Zealand, where I was teaching art history, limited our access to lecture theatres. So, we started, as a team, exploring the potential of video lecturing and creating all kinds of video-based material.

The pedagogical benefits of using videos in teaching far outweigh the inconveniences: from blended learning approaches giving students the ability to repeat segments, to issues of convenience and student’s control over their own learning, much research confirms it. Personally, I have mostly experimented with the following formats:

Flipped classroom video component (average 15min + readings + in-class work)

These videos prepare students for flipped classroom sessions. They are part of a whole that usually has a digital component (video), preparatory readings, and exercises (both before and during the in-class session). This is especially useful for methodologies or content that needs hands-on practice. For example, in the MA Arts and Heritage I have used flipped classroom to teach critical visual analysis, conceptual analysis or discourse analysis. In my view, the advantages are extended engagement and extended hands-on practice for the students, the fact that such videos can (in theory) be used across programmes and allow for on demand knowledge delivery.

Knowledge clips (average 7min)

Knowledge clips are very short condensed teaching complement meant to clarify key terms or concepts that students tend to be confused about. For example, I have made a few for the former first year course Style and Modernity on concepts such as ‘modernity’, ‘modernism’ or ‘decadence’. This type of content is usually very condensed and asks for a lot of ingenuity to explain as clearly and as concisely as possible the term. This is the kind of material that students tend to use a lot though as it helps them with revisions, and they can use it as they go when they come across the term in readings or assignments.

Recorded lectures (average 45min – no in-class work)

These lectures replace in-class (infamous 8.30am) lectures. They help students orientate themselves within the field (key authors, key concepts, key artworks, etc.). Such videos help frame tutorial exercises/assignments and create a common general culture for the class. Recorded lectures tend to be shorter that in-class lectures because of students’ attention span and the video format. It means as a teacher, you need to compress or select the material carefully and make it useable (which takes more work). Using tags and structuring your video visually helps the usability.  For example, I made a couple of video lecture in the course ‘Art and Modernity’ on ‘Impressionism and the city’ and ‘Primitivism’.

Videos produced by students as assignment (average 7min)

This year I worked for the first time with video assignments for the students. The students were asked to produce an analysis of a site or an object using one of the methodologies presented in class and make a video. This has led to great results, from rather classical ‘voice over PowerPoint’ to BBC-style documentary-interviews. The students were hesitant at first but ended up producing great results.

It is important to keep in mind that videos are not a replacement for human contact but a way to enhance learning and complement more traditional approaches. This matter of the effectiveness is clearly explained (as many other things) in Zac Woolfit’s very well documented 2015 report The effective use of video in higher education. There is support at UM level for such pedagogical development. The videUM portal is very helpful and user-friendly.

Importantly, creating video material is a different genre than ‘live’ lectures. The difference can be compared to that between theatre performance and film. Of course, we can record ‘live’ lectures for archival purpose, but it is not doing justice to the genre and not making the most of the pedagogical potential of videos (making a video of a lecture is like making a video of a play…).

Hence, it is also important to think about the time investment that is necessary for such innovative pedagogical practices to be developed. FASoS still, to my knowledge, hasn’t established a standard SOLVER compensation model for such practices, which means that videos are often done as extra work. Yet, for such practices to be developed and integrated in our everyday teaching they need to be compensated in the same way our other teaching tasks are.

About the author

Emilie Sitzia has been teaching in a university environment for 19 (!) years in 3 different countries at all levels from BA introductory courses, to specialized MA courses and PhD seminars. She has earned teaching prizes both in Finland and New Zealand.