Does Video Aid Learning?

November 27, 2007

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.)

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Make or Buy… a Textbook?

October 18, 2007

The pressure is mounting to order my textbooks for the nearly imminent winter quarter. I’m teaching two sections of Principles of Marketing, and one of Business, Government & Society.

The Marketing course is up for grabs, although I’m leaning towards Thomson / South-Western’s MKTG (see earlier post on this). For Business, Government & Society, the path of least resistance would be to continue with McGraw-Hill’s Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics, Public Policy. This has worked well for me in the past, as I liberally supplement the text with content sourced elsewhere.

My problem, and I admit I haven’t used the most recent 12th edition, is that I don’t like 3 or 4 chapters in the McGraw-Hill text. Given the increasing modularity of content, I’m sure that McGraw-Hill would allow me to customize my text with those chapters I do in fact want, supplemented with cases, or content from other McGraw-Hill sources.

But while I have supplemented existing texts with additional readings, I haven’t yet fiddled with the integrity of a complete text. For certain, there is some over-compulsive part of me that is bothered by this, but another nagging thought is how my students might react. In an ideal world, they would appreciate the fact that I am taking the time to customize the course content, thereby enhancing their learning experience; in reality, they’re likely to grumble that the resale value of the text has been seriously diminished. That may seem a poor criterion for choosing a text, but there it is.

Price is certainly a factor considered by many instructors, but how significant are other non-content factors like “resaleability” in the textbook adoption decision? Is this a more widespread concern? And what about ancillaries?

60-Second Textbook Adoption Survey

(I will publish the results of this mini-survey if I can first figure out how to activate the link!)


Study Abroad and Business Curricula?

October 18, 2007

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind 8-day trip to China with 23 Executive MBAs from my International Business class and Seminar. We spent two days in Suzhou, about an hour and a half Northeast of Shanghai, where we visited several Chinese manufacturers as well as a half-dozen western firms with operations in the Suzhou Industrial Park. (If you want to see the future of China’s industrial policy, you could do worse than to visit one or more of the 115 Fortune 500 or 2,100 other companies operating in this global, futuristic, heavily government subsidized business and social experiment.) We then spent the remainder of the trip in Shanghai visiting several more Western firms, and attending presentations on legal practices and management trends in China.

In between company visits we received a heavy dose of Chinese culture in the form of food, museums,

Suzhou Museum

(Suzhou Musuem above), street encounters, wet markets,

Suzhou Wet Market

nightlife, and in one case, an unplanned visit and stay in a Chinese hospital (cost of CT Scan and EKG was…hang onto your hats…$100!)

Foreign Section of No. 1 People’s Hospital of Shanghai

Despite spirited classroom discussion, and what I considered rigorous class preparation for this trip—business cases, sessions on cultural differences, discussions and role modeling, and correspondence with specific Chinese companies—students shared that most of the classroom prep failed to really engage them, and that it wasn’t until they visited the companies and could experience China “up-close and personal” that they really “got it.”

This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s traveled abroad. I’ve both worked and studied in other countries, and am a strong advocate of study abroad programs (each of my children spent two years working in Japan after college), but I was struck anew at what a spur to intellectual curiosity even a short trip like this can be. The late nights in Shanghai, notwithstanding, students at the wrap-up session on the final morning were animated, opinionated, and enthusiastic in a way that is only possible in this type of program. (It didn’t hurt that the venue was the 52nd floor of the Bank of China building with a 180-degree panoramic view of Shanghai’s Skyscraper horizon.)

View from 52nd floor of the Bank of China building in Shanghai.

While we schedule an international trip for our Executive MBAs, we do not build this into our undergraduate business or regular MBA programs. While many MBA programs schedule similar trips, I’m curious if any undergraduate international business classes do as well. And, if not, what are the hurdles to offering similar international business trips for undergraduate international business majors?


What is Information Technology’s impact on the academic experience?

September 27, 2007

I’ve been scanning the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2007 report. The study, now in its fourth year, measures student preferences for IT in courses. IT is broadly defined in the study, and includes perceptions and use of Course Management Systems (i.e., grading, collaboration, online discussion, etc.), websites, laptop usage, spreadsheet and presentation software, etc.

Of particular interest to me were student responses to how well instructors use IT in their courses (58.2% agreed that, overall, instructors use IT well in their courses; 13.6% strongly disagreed). Despite the fact that perception of IT usage by instructors, for the purposes of this question, is largely associated with the use of CMS software, perception of instructor use of IT appears to be positively correlated with overall academic experience. On the other hand, just 40.4 percent agreed that IT in courses enhanced student engagement.

I would have enjoyed seeing more questions exploring the effectiveness of different media formats (e.g., video, visual content in slides, podcasts) on learning and retention of course concepts and content, but even so, this study has “profound implications for pedagogy” and the changing ways in which technology is used in the classroom.

In addition to the full report, you can view a shorter Key Findings report as well. While students are “generally positive in their views” of IT in courses, most prefer moderate use of IT in courses, with business and engineering students slightly more enthusiastic than others. Some other findings of interest:

  • 60.9% agree that IT in courses improves their learning.
  • Convenience was the number one perceived benefit of IT in the classroom, outscoring “technology’s support for communicating with classmates and instructors, managing course activities, or improving learning.”

Finally, and no surprise to most I imagine, the study reports that students were clear that technology is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction with faculty. This was further borne out by the fact that “online discussion boards” was ranked the least useful of all CMS features (3.13 out of 5, where 5 = extremely useful). Given what appears to be an increasingly strong advocacy for blended learning programs on some campuses, this indicator of student preference might merit closer scrutiny.


Can They Make Us Do That?

September 25, 2007

A topic of some relevance to the teaching of Global Business is the different ways countries exercise their power. In my international business classes I sometimes discuss this in the context of regional integration and the power that attends large regional entities. Two relatively recent articles on a ruling against Microsoft highlight this phenomenon.

The Wall St. Journal in “Microsoft Loss In Europe Raises American Fears” minces few words in calling the ruling by the European Commission a stinging defeat for Microsoft (Microsoft was accused of improperly bundling a media player with its operating system and denying competitors information necessary for interoperability). The Journal further suggests that the EU regulatory machine has rewritten the rules for competition in Europe. According to the article, other American firms, including Intel and Rambus, also have reason to be concerned.

Another article from the Economist, “Brussels rules OK; How the European Union is becoming the world’s chief regulator,” further explores this ruling, and contrasts the “cost-benefit analysis” approach of the Americans to the “precautionary principle” employed by the Europeans with regard to regulatory policy. The authors conclude that the balance of power to set global standards is shifting away from the U.S. and toward the EU.  Even major transnational firms like Procter & Gamble are beginning to comply with EU directives. For now…

The growing importance of the Chinese market may soon have both Europe and the U.S. scrambling to comply with yet another global standard. Beijing has been pushing its own telecommunication standards for a while, and last year demanded that a Chinese inscription be added to tires along with the present international symbol. Western firms are reluctant to incur the additional and onerous retooling expense of compliance with this and other standards, but like Microsoft in the EU, may have no choice.

This topic generates good, if sometimes heated, discussion, and challenges my American students to consider the growing clout of other countries and regional entities. It also highlights the cultural and philosophical differences among different countries.


So is MKTG (Thomson / Southwestern) a disruptive textbook innovation?

September 20, 2007

I’ll be teaching multiple sections of a marketing principles course in the winter and spring, and will give the MKTG text by Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel a serious look. The anecdotal feedback is that this book has carved out significant share in a short time. Certainly Thomson ratcheted up the marketing machine when they launched this book. The usual MO is for the publisher to send an email announcing the new text; with MKTG I received what seems like 3 or 4 postcards, a marketing mock-up of the text with some excerpts, and a strong personal selling effort.

The text itself is certainly a departure: 15-page chapters; glossy paper (the book resembles a magazine in this respect); $50 price tag; perforated tear-out instructor chapter notes, etc. Several of my colleagues have used or are using the text now, and their initial feedback is largely positive.

Is this disruptive? Yes and no, I guess. Like many of the innovations cited by Christiansen, Utterback et al, the price alone might qualify it as innovative, especially in light of the increasing negative publicity textbook prices seem to be generating. (See this recent op-ed piece, Course Requirement: Extortion, by Michael Granof in the New York Times.)

Most disruptive innovations, by definition however, usually come with a trade-off: low price usually means less robust. Is there a similar trade-off here, or is this just another example of how the net and digitization of content—and I believe that Thomson has migrated much of what is taken out of MKTG onto its web site—have changed the basic business model?

The fact that instructors choose texts for students to purchase suggests that sales figures and market share metrics alone might not answer the question. The proof of the innovation in this case lies more with student usage, a more difficult metric to gauge. Will more students actually read MKTG? With the componentization of content, and the proliferation of video, podcasts, and all manner of electronic media substituting for text, how important is the choice of a particular textbook to classroom learning?