I keep seeing those stats on the low viewer numbers for the lectures put online by UC – Berkeley and MIT, the stats that show us that people will prefer to spend buckets of money for tuition even when they can get the same for free by watching the lectures on Youtube or downloading to their iPhone. Nobody is watching those videos.
That may be right about the general public but I’ll wager heavily the students in the classes are watching.
I started making problem solving videos for my chemistry classes 8 years ago. I purchased the first version of the Sony Vaio because they (supposedly) offered breakthrough technology that made video creation a snap.
Ha! Creation was cumbersome and slow but I found that when I got something up online, numbers greater than 85% accessed the videos for help. My school (University of Idaho) has always offered great internet access – I know, Idaho? It’s in the sticks. But check out the facts, Yahoo put us in the top five for educational access when they started measuring these things in the dark ages. Even though access was slow relative to today, students put in the time to download these videos and use them. I learned their value as instructional tools back then and I am even more confident they are useful tools today. Not so much as the primary means for providing content but as a super source of notes, or to fill in blanks or to provide feedback after practicing alone. That is the real proof – do students use a resource. But I’ve also tracked performance in class and students achieve better scores when I can provide more resources. For example, I’ve done experiments where I offer a homework assignment that serves as a pretest. In one case I provide video that walks viewers through each problem step by step and in the other case, the students are left on their own. I then give the two groups an exam over the same learning objectives and the video group has performed 22% better. That’s significant. I haven’t been able to tease out whether the important factor is the video or simply providing more resources but the simple answer is clear, the more resources, the better. It might be that the students do the work with video and without, they rely on a friend to feed them answers. I’m not sure of the reasons yet.
So this year I am committed to putting all of my lectures online, which takes us back to the beginning of this post. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and I am crazy jealous of the Berkeleys and MITs that can do it. Faculty at each of those schools call the IT department on Tuesday and a camera crew shows up on Wednesday to record the whole thing. That is the way it should happen – tuition is high at those places, they can do it. But the state of California is broke providing such great service and few schools have the endowment of MIT. It’s not scalable practice in this educational climate. If I were to call and make that request, I would hear nothing but laughter or crickets. Our classroom media support are really great – all three of them for our 14,000 students. If I have a crisis in my classroom, they are there within a snap of my fingers. But there are not enough people or money to capture my lecture, so I had to wait until it is totally do it yourself. I think I’ve discovered a way to do this that is affordable to all and in the next post, I’ll provide details. See you then.