Fast forward and rewind: Using videos in teaching and learning

By Patrick Bijsmans

Throughout the last couple of months I have joined several national and international webinars, observed colleagues’ online tutorials and lectures, and read several blogs and papers to inform myself about online teaching and learning. This includes excellent posts by FASoS colleagues on this blog. But see also this contribution by Anna Harris and Andrea Wojcik or post on The Educationalist and Active Learning in Political Science. Because like many of you, I was (and still am) a novice when it comes to online teaching and learning.

I particularly wanted to use videos to support students’ learning. I had considered doing this pre-Corona, but never actually came round to trying. Now I had to redesign three lectures and these were ideal for introducing video. (In addition, John and I recorded a short conversation to support students working on their final BA thesis.)

For two lectures in our BA ES mentor programme I went for a completely asynchronous approach, with the help of Pia and Resi. These are normally lectures in which we present students with some need-to-know information about the upcoming second or third year and some of the important choices to be made (elective courses, Erasmus exchange, internship). We decided to adapt existing slides and accompany them with short videos, plus a short instruction on how to best view this material.

My videos – one for each year – were mostly meant as introduction to the other material. Given that our BA curriculum will undergo quite substantial changes, they were one-off, shot-from my garden, using my iPhone. Using her home computer, Pia shot an excellent video that we can reuse in the future. Resi went a step further by recording a video about studying abroad and internships that is also suitable for students in our other BA programmes. She shot the video using recording facilities in the Turnzaal – and unfortunately had to do so twice, due to technical issues.

The third lecture was one on Euroscepticism for our first-year BA ES students. Here I decided for a flipped-classroom approach by pre-recording a video that would serve as input for an interactive online discussion with the students. But I went a step further by inviting well-know colleagues in the field to each contribute a short clip. The resulting video is nearly 27 minutes long, which is a bit risky given online attentions spans. Yet, it has (so far) been watched over 200 times, with most having watched the full video. And students’ contributions to the interactive online discussion were excellent.

So what did I take away from this first experience shooting videos? First two challenges:

  • It is quite tricky to find the right set up and ambient noice does not help. Some additional equipment would have come handy, in particular a decent mic and an iPhone-stand (I was satisfied with the quality of the images).
  • Editing took way more time than I had expected. I used iMovie, which is easy to use. Yet, it comes down to seconds and fractions of a seconds. And do you record everything at once and edit mistakes out later, or do you record snippets and join them together?

But the benefits make me want to use more videos in the future to contribute to (not replace) my lectures, also when in-class teaching resumes:

  • Videos can be paused, rewinded, forwarded, so no need for additional slides. The time spend on the latter can be used to prepare the former, which students can watch at their own pace and whenever suits them best.
  • My lectures are always meant to be interactive, but the Euroscepticism video resulted in much more active student participation, through detailed questions and comments. I hope this improved students’ leaning; I certainly enjoyed it!

There are two final issues that are worth highlighting.

First, the Euroscepticism video could be used and shared with other colleagues and students, something that we also discussed during a recent faculty webinar and a recent University Association for Contemporary European Studies online meet-up. This comes with an important hurdle, though: copyrights. Here we are confronted with a challenge that complicates innovative teaching and learning.

Second, videos are a wonderful tool, but shooting and editing them costs time. This time is currently not remunerated in SOLVER hours. If you record a full lecture using lecture capture (in, for instance, PowerPoint) this will probably not be a big thing. But if you want to try out something new and innovative, this should also be rewarded.

These are issues that we need to think about as a faculty community. And a first opportunity to do so, is the upcoming webinar organised by the new FASoS Support Team Online Teaching & Learning on 11 June. I hope to see you there!

DISCLAIMER: All videos are only viewable by students and staff of Maastricht University. A related blog can be found on the website of Active Learning in Political Science.

About the author

Patrick Bijsmans is assistant professor in European Studies and one of the editors of the FASoS Teaching & Learning Blog. Patrick is also faculty coordinator of the teaching staff professionalisation programme Continuing Professional Development and has recently joined the FASoS Support Team Online Teaching & Learning.