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The use of video in MOOCs: new tool or disruptive innovation?

The use of video has been a major trend in MOOCs, especially when linked to universities and with teachers presenting actual courses. This challenge has led many teachers and learners to use it as an integral part, if not the main part, of a learning experience.

However, most of the time its format remains deeply tied to the traditional classroom setting. This relationship has its advantages and its disadvantages: it allows the learner to identify the usual key reference points but at the same time it can often fall short of the original classroom experience.


Rethinking the class for the e-learner

The attractiveness of a video-based course is a main factor in maintaining the learner’s attention. In most cases, a short video is preferable; yet a more vital aspect is the importance of preproduction in the process. When the content of a normal class is edited and transformed in postproduction in order to adapt it to the exigencies of MOOCs, it usually fails to get the learner’s attention and ensure memory retention. However, if the video is designed from the beginning to be used as a digital interface, the end result is improved.


It can be effective to present the course specifically for e-learners: in which case, it is better to leave behind the usual classroom setting in favor of a more informal one like an office, such as a student might have one-on-one with the teacher. However, the main point is to consider the final product when presenting the course; for example, divide it in recognizable sections, regularly use key sentences, etc. This should be done keeping in mind the interactivity at play here: the learner may stop the video (especially for tutorials), go back to the beginning or even increase the speed of the video. The most innovative videos used in MOOCs are the figure-based ones. For a traditional PowerPoint presentation, a Khan-type video is preferable, with an interactive dashboard to integrate drawings and explications by the teacher.



                                                             Dave Cormier's video What is a MOOC?



Combining text and image for an efficient content 

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of text-image synergy. For many years, studies have demonstrated the power of this synergy for improved memory retention. When the mind has to process varied and difficult input it will tend to focuses on one aspect but may get so distracted that retention becomes difficult. Scientific studies since the 1940s have shown that the most effective medium for memory retention is comic books; by combining text and images simultaneously (rather than in parallel, like a newspaper or a PWP), this type of medium doubles the strength of the idea or notion. According to Josh Elder, the 3 Es of comics are Engagement, Efficiency and Effectiveness. This technique is not only useful for educating children, but has a practical application when developing videos for MOOCs.


What is a digital interface if not an interactive image-text combination? Yet, contemporary MOOCs or video-based devices in them do not take advantage of these unique memory enhancing options. Think about a drawing showing the different aspects of the course: the learner could click on the area that interests him, then enlarge to interfaces, texts, comic books or videos, and within videos find interactive items (as some e-learning courses already do on Youtube) to go to other infographics, videos or websites. We are already able to study the way students click, stop, go to another website or do a research during a video presentation. Proactive teaching method can be created by incorporating these other diversions (specific websites, short activities, tests in videos …) and ensuring their pedagogical quality.



Video in MOOCs shouldn’t be used as a tool for already previewed course curriculums, but as an opportunity to reshape the course in itself, and eventually the way of teaching.