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Video Learning: 10 Ways to Make the Most of the Medium

/ Patti Greco

If a student wants to find out where electricity comes from or how caterpillars turn into butterflies, they’re not going to comb the library stacks for answers—they’re going to take out their computer (or phone) and pull up a video. For today’s students, video-based learning is the norm. 

So how can teachers leverage video content in K-12 classrooms? We have answers. But, first, let’s go over the benefits of adding engaging videos to your lesson plan.

What are the advantages of video learning?

Video learning keeps learners engaged. Yay! Via Unsplash.

Video learning is a legitimate and effective form of education. Here’s how it enriches classrooms: 

It cultivates deeper learning

Sure, students can take notes while you talk and study for a test using flashcards. But think of Bloom’s taxonomy: How deeply will they understand the material you’re teaching when all is said and done?

Unlike rote memorization, educational videos engage learners in multiple ways—through visual and audio effects, and with interactivity. It unlocks higher-order thinking and allows students to truly absorb information.

It increases learner retention 

Researchers believe that without reinforcement or connection to previous knowledge, students can forget more than half of what they learn within an hour. Video learning allows for repetition and association-building, which in turn increases a student’s odds of retaining new information for the long-haul (not just until Friday’s pop quiz).

It embraces student-centered learning

The student who has trouble understanding Newton’s first law of motion is in luck. Unlike in-person lectures, videos don’t have to be a real-time resource. That means learners can watch them over and over again—in study hall, at home, or on the bus—until they grasp whatever it is they’re struggling with. They can also rewind, pause, or fast-forward at their leisure. That’s self-paced e-learning at its finest!

It creates a livelier classroom

Educational videos break up the monotony of a long lecture. They can stimulate and entertain. In other words — fun!

10 ways to bolster instruction with video learning

Young elementary-aged boy writing on notepad during class.

Add excitement to your classroom with a medium students love. Via Unsplash.

Want your classroom to reap the benefits of video but aren’t sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered. Here are 10 ways to make the most of the medium:

1. Create videos that engage your learners

Technically, you can slap text onto a screen, pair it with audio, and call the finished product a video—but your students won’t get much more out of that content than they would a giant block of static text or a PowerPoint presentation.

The more enticing your video, the greater its impact, so give your content some flare. Come up with a delightful color scheme, add graphics, drop in a well-timed sound effect. Whatever you do, don’t stress: With WeVideo, the creative process is super easy.

2. Invite students to make videos, too

 Don’t hog all the fun! Task your learners with creating videos—on their own or in groups—and watch as they build subject-based knowledge and develop communication and digital literacy skills (just the sort of higher-order thinking you’re after).

What’s more, WeVideo’s collaborative video editor lets you dive into multimedia projects right alongside your student, which means you can offer them feedback as they go. Who knows? They might credit you when they become the next big YouTube star. 

3. Make videos interactive 

Video is a powerful medium for learning, but interactive video is thought to be three times more effective. And no wonder: With interactive video, students aren’t just taking in information, they’re communicating directly with it.

If you want to engage your class in a more meaningful, dynamic way, you need to make your videos interactive. Start by adding pop-up questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc.) throughout your course videos. If custom interactivity sounds like a heavy lift, fear not: PlayPosit by WeVideo lets you add interactive elements on top of any video on the internet—not just one that you make yourself—and it offers loads of pre-made interactions to choose from. 

4. Add a digital poll to live-action learning 

Students in classroom watching male teacher present at front of class.

Try polling your class. Students learn more when they're engaged. Via Unsplash.

In instances where you plan to teach from the proverbial blackboard, consider how you can incorporate an audience response system that lets your class take live polls as you go. That way you won’t be talking at your students—and even the shy ones will feel at liberty to participate. 

Your efforts will not go to waste: According to one Harvard study, students get more out of active learning than they do a straight lecture.

5. Try animated videos 

If one student reads about photosynthesis and another watches a video about it, which one is likely to walk away with a better understanding of the process? 

There’s no arguing that, in many cases, explainer videos can help break down hard-to-explain subjects more effectively than text. But animated explainers in particular are a powerful way to illustrate complex or abstract topics (“How does the immune system work?” “What is free will?”). 

They’re visually satisfying (just think of the cute flower illos!), driven by storytelling, and easier to process than a dense few paragraphs or even a talking head.

6. Create instructional videos

YouTube wouldn’t have 2.5 billion users if how-to videos weren’t such a popular resource. Tap into their ubiquity with instructional videos of your own. Want to show students how to safely use a Bunsen burner, for example? Record an instructional video that they can watch ahead of class (or refer back to when they need a refresher). 

You might also use this format to invite guest-speakers into the fold. Bolster a lesson about space exploration, for instance, with a pre-recorded virtual visit from an astronaut. You’ll make learning fun, and your students will thank you to the moon and back. 

7. Embrace microlearning

A video doesn’t have to be long for it to be effective. On the contrary, microlearning—a method of instruction that focuses on one learning objective at a time—posits that bite-sized content is better because it allows learners to absorb small chunks of information at a time.

Give it a try. Instead of putting together a 20-minute video that explains everything there is to know about human cells, for example, execute on a shorter, more contained topic like “understanding cell structure.”  

8. Introduce video games

Young toddler-aged girl playing on tablet.

Are video games good for learning? Turns out they can be. Via Unsplash.

A study of nearly 2,000 children found that kids who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more performed better on cognitive tests involving working memory than children who had never played video games.

That’s not to say you should set up a PlayStation in your classroom (or that, uh, three hours a day is the right amount for every household). But you might want to add a few learning-based video games into your classroom mix—they can be a fun and effective resource. 

9. Ask students to show their work 

With WeVideo’s screencasting feature, students can record their screens and demonstrate to classmates how they solve a problem in real-time. 

Screencasting not only allows for interactivity (the student becomes the teacher!) and deeper thinking, it can also shed light on any pain points your classroom might be experiencing, making it possible for you to address problems sooner than later. 

10. Workshop your material

Once you’ve created your content, kick it to other educators for feedback. With PlayPosit by WeVideo, you can easily weave peer review into your process: Set up a forum for collaborators to chime in with thoughts, create small groups for brainstorming ideas, or invite trusted colleagues to leave time-stamped comments on your content.

Just as the student can become the teacher, the teacher can become the student.

Bottom Line

Video-based learning is incredibly popular and effective, but it can feel overwhelming to put into practice. Deep breaths! We're here to help.