Video Stimulation to Support Engagement & Retention

Research informs that students have an average attention span of just 10 minutes. This statistic is based largely on in-class observations of students in a lecture setting. From a cognitive vantage, people by nature simply aren’t as engaged in listening to a lecture. More importantly, if only about 30% of the class consists of auditory learners how long can an instructor realistically expect to hold the attention of even half the class with a 50-minute lecture?


For some time, instructors addressed the attention span dilemma by placing lecture videos in their online courses. Research has shown that the use of video lectures reduces course dropout and positively impacts academic performance. However, if the learners participating in online learning environments experience impersonal, static video lectures that mirror classroom lectures are we any closer to our collective goal to effectively teach students? Yes, students can watch the video at their leisure. Yes, they can rewind videos and revisit difficult concepts. But can they ask the video a question? Can they manipulate the video and interact with its parts?
Contrary to previous findings, a recent study by Figlio, Rush and Yin demonstrated that some students (including underprepared students and some minorities) actually do not learn more simply watching videos lectures alone. This is critical information for instructors who use video lectures to teach majority populations of less-prepared students. Videos do offer a medium to transform lectures into a more engaging experience; however, instructors can make video lectures more participatory experiences to support active learning.


There are several strategies for making video lectures more engaging and interactive. Those strategies include adding technological enhancements to the videos and using course tools to promote active learning.

Strategies for using course tools to engage students in video lectures:

  • Have students create a lecture quiz by having each student write two “test” questions from the lecture and submit as an Assignment
  • Incorporate a Discussion Board that references video lecture content, only allow students to view other posts after they have posted
  • Create a Response Video Lecture Assignment in a requisite module. Tip: Divide a 30-minute video into five 6-minute videos. Either during (the middle) or at the end of each video, direct a question to the students. Have the student contribute a response or question by typing in text rather than attaching a document. Set the Assignment requirement to Must Submit. Set the module requirement to “students must move through requirements in this module in sequential order” so that students must work through the entire module lecture.
  • Use a short Practice Quiz (3-5 questions) at the end of each video lecture. Tip: When creating the quiz, add comments to wrong answers that redirect students to specific points in the video rather than just show them the correct answer. Show them their answers and allow multiple attempts.
  • Create a Lecture Video Graded Quiz. Tip: They key is chunking the video. Each question represents a segment of the video. For example, a 50 minute lecture can have 10 questions based on 10 five-minute videos. Simply embed the video using the html editor when adding new questions. Students can answer multiple-choice questions or fill-in-the-blank questions to complete your sentence! Use comments to provide feedback to the student. Points can be counted toward Class Participation.


Strategies to promote student participation with lecture videos using free Web 2.0 technology:

  • Annotate your videos with live links. Upload your videos to YouTube where you can use the Video Editor to add hyperlinks and annotations to your videos to encourage students to explore other resources and interact with the video. If you are concerned about your videos being publicly displayed on YouTube, change the settings to Unlisted and share the link with students.
  • Incorporate the open source tool with your videos. Students can take notes on YouTube videos on the right side of the screen using a virtual notepad. These notes can be shared or support student collaborations in Google Drive.
  • Move your YouTube videos to TEDed and take advantage of the free video lesson creator. With this tool, you can not only add questions to your video, but you can also create discussions from the video. A bonus to this site is the ability to track students’ work and download their responses! The interface is clean and fairly easy to navigate although as with any new tool, I suggest providing brief directions and expectations for responding to the videos. Experience a sample lesson I created by clicking the video image below.
  • Create a free class blog on WordPress (WP) and place some video lectures there. Integrate the Live Video Annotation plug-in with your site to add timed footnotes, hyperlinks, and other annotations to your YouTube videos. If you don’t want your videos publicly available, put them on password-protected pages in WP and give students the password.

My TEDed example (click to experience a TEDed video lesson):


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