Video is pervasive, and becoming more so in the classroom. Publishers provide DVDs with textbooks, video cases from Stanford and Harvard are proliferating, and short clips from CNN and WSJ.com are showing up in greater numbers in college classrooms. My experience is that short, relevant, and timely videos can be very effective in illustrating course concepts or in generating classroom exchanges. A quick scan of the literature suggests, however, that the value of video or other multimedia content as a pedagogical tool may be overstated.
I recently stumbled upon a doctoral dissertation entitled “The Effectiveness of Multimedia Technology Aids in Transferring Business Knowledge” by Pengtao Li. Li posed several hypotheses, the much distilled gist of which was that increasing multimedia content would enhance learning, provided there was cognitive fit. (For his study, Li defined no multimedia, low multimedia, and high multimedia content as text, text plus graph, and animation, respectively). If I understand Li’s findings, the learning of quantitative business concepts is enhanced with the use of multimedia aids, but the learning of general business concepts is not (and may even be impeded).
Since I teach a number of courses with an emphasis on general as opposed to quantitative business concepts, I find this intriguing. On the face of it, and intuitively, I find the part that suggests that general business concepts would not benefit from a multimedia delivery hard to credit. I try to include visual and audio content along with basic course concepts in order to help students internalize these general business concepts. Anecdotally, this seems to work. Video and visual content tends to generate good classroom discussion, and is often cited in subsequent exams. On the other hand, Li’s definition of multimedia may be somewhat constrained; I do not believe he studied the effect of video, for example, on learning outcomes.
Another study assessing the association between the use of multimedia materials such as video clips with learning outcomes among medical students, however, suggests that watching videos has a positive association with learning outcomes. [Do medical students watch video clips in eLearning and do these facilitate learning? Medical teacher. Volume: 29, Issue 5. 2007]. This study found that students who watched video clips were more collaborative (e.g., made greater use of discussion boards), and achieved higher course grades. Interestingly, women were far more likely to both view more video clips and to rate the value of the video clips higher than men.
Apparently there are numerous studies arguing both for and against the assertion that multimedia content enhances learning outcomes.
I’d like to see further investigation in this area, especially given the stated preferences of neomillenials and other younger students for simulations, games, interactivity, and video in the classroom. I’m also interested in how faculty use multimedia, especially video clips, in their classes.
(A future post will post a link to a short survey on video use in the classroom. If enough folks respond, I’ll post results.)