Teachers are leading the video revolution in online learning

Peter Arvai, co-founder and CEO of Prezi, believes video is the next big thing in education

Video is undergoing a forced, yet much needed renaissance in education as a result of COVID-19 and subsequent school closures. As teachers look for ways to stay connected to their students, they continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with video. Innovation, out of necessity, is encouraging teachers to find ways of overcoming the inherent challenge of online teaching and learning: how to sustain the human connection that’s the driver of both engagement and the credibility of the knowledge being shared.

Educators have been incorporating video in their teaching methods for more than a decade.  In 2007, the emergence of the ‘flipped classroom’ demonstrated how video can be used to share essential content before class, followed soon after was the success of Khan Academy’s subject-specific, tutoring-style focus. However, video has been slow to evolve as a true pedagogical tool beyond a teacher’s ability to easily share video content from the wealth the internet affords.

Video reaches a tipping point: online learning provides the foundations for adaptive learning

Video is at a tipping point as institutional tech systems are in place with the pervasiveness of learning management systems (LMS), low cost student devices, and better connectivity.  Student demographics also play a role, as Gen Z has grown up relying on video content as their primary source of entertainment, learning (i.e. YouTube) and communicating with their peers (i.e. TikTok, Instagram). These developments point toward a need for teachers to attend to the individual needs of each student.  Through recording and curating the right content library, teachers will free up resources to help students’ progression, instead of repeating the same material over and over.

Additionally, the collective skills of teachers as tech users grow along with the number of tools in schools (exceptions noted with each). As we look ahead to the next school year, it’s certain that online, and likely blended learning, will be a fundamental part of how schools will operate. Video will have a central role in supporting the school system as a whole, given the diversity of use cases it effectively delivers.

Flipped classroom models are evolving from simple direct-instruction lectures to creative read-aloud, serialised content and teacher mini-lectures that combine compelling visual elements and interactivity. New assignments and projects are being more clearly outlined through video, helping students to better understand teachers’ expectations – a noted indicator of student success. Teacher-led video study guides are helping to assist students with review and test prep, by allowing students to rewind, review and repeat video content, adapting to their individual learning needs.

Deepening school community with video

Because school leaders have to communicate on a much more frequent cadence with their school community during closures, administrators are making deeper connections with a key audience they don’t typically engage with on a regular basis: parents and caregivers. A school leader in Modesto, California outlined this “opportunity” in his eloquent post about how he felt a deepening of the personal connection between school and home when he introduced his daily video-based “Morning Announcements,” which have now become expected communications vehicles for students, teachers, and families. This method of communication has helped strengthen that connection across the school community, and he expects to continue these announcements whether they return to brick-and-mortar or remote school sessions.

Image source: Haily Harden – Theodore Seuss Geisel

Video has become the primary medium for visual communications. By allowing multiple parties to communicate face-to-face and pick up on non-verbal messages such as body language and facial cues, video helps to preserve a key element of in-person communication for virtual discussions: the human connection.

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However, video in its standard format is not enough – video meetings lose their effectiveness; when a speaker shares their screen, switching to displaying content instead of their face, they risk disengagement and their audience can lose focus on what they are saying. For educators, risking disengagement is not an option. This is a critical factor impacting the success of video in remote teaching and learning. When rapid school closures began in March, there was an immediate demand for video tools that allowed teachers to effectively replicate their ‘natural classrooms’ virtually. For example, our interactive video tool Prezi Video, which allows educators to present themselves alongside their content in the main screen of live or recorded videos, saw a 40x increase in video views and 10x the number of new videos created since January 2020.

Teachers are creating engaging video content using rich primary source images to illustrate historical background as a lead-in to better online discussions. They are using thoughtful presentations of data to scaffold content, taking flipped classrooms to the next level. For example, one creative STEM teacher has serialised his videos beginning with a thematic video and pictures-based read aloud, leading-up to a build your own greenhouse DIY at-home experiment (complete with costume!).

What’s next for video and online learning?

Now, as teachers take a much-needed pause and reflect on these recent experiences, they will be re-envisioning their curriculum and deciding how and where video can best be implemented for content delivery, as well as student work. They will consider how to package and deliver that content in logical flows that support both independent work, in-class work, and the likelihood of a blended learning model where a premium is placed on face-to-face time with their students. Teachers will want to take full advantage of in-person class time to deepen class discussions, facilitate small, collaborative group work, and support the social and emotional needs of their students. Video asset libraries will grow and be shared, and these will be delivered in easily consumable chunks and slotted into more traditional online course formats, micro-courses, and assignment delivery within the LMS.

The video that is created for students needs to provide feedback to the teacher, including checks for understanding and formative assessment, and modes of interactivity that we’re now accustomed to in video conferencing and webinar platforms will trickle into standalone video. This type of feedback will provide teachers with the data they need to better support students by allowing teachers to get a deeper individual snapshot of each learner. Further, this model won’t go away with a return to brick-and-mortar, as select content – particularly direct instruction lectures – is arguably better served through video; the ability for a typical teacher to insert thoughtful images and engaging graphics, while keeping the face-to-face ‘teacher presence’ with their students, even asynchronously, will keep students more engaged.

Teachers will rely more on student-created video as a way to demonstrate learning, improve their critical-thinking and presentation skills, while unleashing student creativity, as less time is spent learning the tools and more time focused on what’s being said and how information is being presented with images, words and student voice.

The use of video, whether standalone, asynchronously consumed, embedded in coursework, or as a tool to enhance staff development, is at a point where educators are leading the way as they are becoming high-quality, expert creators of content. Of course, this is not without challenges, as difficult curriculum decisions need to be made, but we must remember that teachers are expert communicators who create and deliver content every day. It’s the medium for them that has shifted, and fortunately they are well-poised to succeed as they ‘know their audience,’ and moreover, are intrinsically motivated to connect with them – which is a powerful combination.


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