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HealthNovember 03, 2020

Having fun with videos in an online class

By: Audrey Tolouian, EdD, MSN, BASW, RN, CNE
With the world of education turned upside down, it is time that we sit down and think about what has transpired over the last few months. We have moved to the virtual world and have had a bit of time to process the way we have been teaching over the last two semesters.

In March, we were told to quickly move our courses to the online world. Those that had never taught on a virtual platform were stumped, anxious and somewhat angry. Those of us that have been teaching online thought “Ha! Now they will view me as a real teacher!” Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but I, for once, felt I had an upper hand, but that did not seem to help!

The course that I teach is 100% online and has been for the last eight years. It runs while the students are concurrently taking two clinical courses, which usually take precedence for them. The teaching challenges that I am usually trying to address in a typical semester are multifaceted. First, it is difficult to keep the students engaged in the content due to the concurrent clinical courses. Second, is the need to clarify information. It often seems there are a lot of repetitive questions in the Ask A Question Discussion Board thread. In fact, this past spring it seemed there were some new challenges with all courses going online that created a fair amount of confusion.

What I would later discover was that whatever the other faculty did would greatly affect my little bubble. Because things did not look the same in all courses, the students were unsure of what to do, where to look or how to ask for help. Things were in different places in every class, called different names and looked very different when found. This led to a lot of questions on how to find information, how to complete assignments and questions that I had not had in the past about where items were located. So, right now, before we get too far into the semester we need to look back and reflect on last semester. What worked well, what did not work well and what can I change? For myself, I keep weekly notes as I go. I keep track of the most common questions that I get from the students via text and email and I also look back into my course Ask A Question Discussion Board thread to find the areas that caused problems for the students.

To start the process, I asked myself several questions:

  1. What are the areas of concern?
  2. How might I go about making it clearer?
  3. What types of activities do the students enjoy?
  4. What information would I collect to provide evidence of improved learning?

The first area of concern was that the courses have all moved online and all have different styles. Information is in new places and is called by different names. So, since I have no control over the other courses, I needed to make mine very clear. I reviewed the areas of question from my notes, and it seemed the students were having greater difficulty with written directions in this course. Over the course of the semester, I tried implementing some other written ideas and it seemed to make things worse with tons of information being thrown at them. So, I had to find a way to clarify and consolidate. Then, keeping them interested and actively logging into the course to get the information was an issue. Because the course is 100% online, engagement has always been a challenge as the nursing students are so focused on the clinical, this course often takes a backseat, but it had gotten much worse with all of the courses moving online. I felt I needed to do something a little fancier to grab their attention and then keep them engaged since they were not reading as in-depth as usual. There are several assignments in this course that can use a bit more information that might be covered better verbally, but with so many students in different semesters, synchronous class time is difficult. Upon review, I found that the biggest thing that was troubling them was the written directions for the large projects.

Second, how can I make things more clear? This flowed naturally into the third question of what types of things do the students enjoy? So, I decided to do a bit of leg work. I talked to a number of students and other 20-somethings to gauge what they were into right now, what grabs them and keeps them? The first thing I was told was short videos. Again, in the next group, video and again and again, I was told that they like to watch videos. I decided to create videos and add them in with the written assignment directions. Research has shown that videos lasting seven minutes or shorter are able to retain a student’s attention better1 and that students will pay closer attention to content when they hear it from a familiar voice2.

So, over the summer, I worked with my videographer to help create videos that would be informative yet engaging. Since the videographer is an expert and happens to be in the same age range as our typical undergraduate nursing student, I found that she was a great person to help! I was able to ask her questions, ask for input and ask for fun ideas! We collaborated to create these short videos, verbally explaining each assignment. Since the videographer was not familiar with the assignments, she naturally had some questions too. Many of these discussions were added to the video to help clarify information and hopefully prevent confusion. I thought if they saw some videos with me and heard my voice, it would help engagement. Though in the end, I have only one introduction video that shows me, the others are more written content with some voice added in. We decided that this would give the students two learning modes to take in the information, seeing the written word, instead of the speaker.

Fourth, was what information would I collect to provide evidence of improved learning? This was important for me, as all this work needed to show some results, and I needed to figure out how. For this implementation, I have five sections of the course, all in different semesters. I have been implementing in all sections and I have been following the quality and types of questions that the students ask and compare each semester. Since we are half-way through the semester and the course is front-loaded with the written assignments, most questions arise at the start. At this point, I have not had any students attend office hours and ask about projects that are covered in the videos. I have had questions about the projects, but more around content rather than not understanding the directions.

How would the results of my project be important to other instructors looking to also improve their teaching? The results would be important for other faculty as the newer generations are learning in new ways. Many of the students prefer to have short videos that they can access quickly and get answers, and then re-watch as they go through the assignment. Other faculty that teach 100% online classes can use this to engage with the students at a time when synchronous activities may be difficult. This may be a good way to meet the needs of a new generation of learning styles.

In conclusion, there is literature to support the idea of adding in some video directions. Based on the recommendations in the literature, there are now videos in my voice that the students can re-watch as many times as they would like. This has been very helpful with the types of questions that the students have been asking. Since the implementation, students are asking more content focused question vs. questions on how to complete the assignments. This is a much more valuable discussion to have with students and has helped to create an environment of engagement, rather than facilitation. The students and I have had more meaningful conversations, which help to keep the students coming back and looking for more!

Audrey Tolouian, EdD, MSN, BASW, RN, CNE
Nursing Education Author, Wolters Kluwer Health
  1. Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on learning @ scale conference (pp. 41-50). New York, NY: ACM. doi:10.1145/2556325.2566239
  2. Tanaka, Y., & Kudo, Y. (2012). Effects of familiar voices on brain activity. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 18(Suppl. 2), 38-44.

Publishers note: See Lights, Camera, action. Using digital video to engage students for help in creating digital videos.

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