Creating video content that appeals to college students

Educators seek ways to streamline presentations in this age of short attention spans and new tech capabilities
By: | Issue: December, 2018
November 21, 2018

The work of Richard Mayer, a computer- and multimedia-based learning specialist out of San Diego, is of close interest to Brian Klaas.

He speaks on how Mayer’s principles, which he’s been researching for 20 years, tie directly into what we understand about the neurobiology of the brain, and how we actually store information and memories.

Klaas believes Mayer’s research applies to flip lectures in the same way that it applies to massive open online courses and in the same way that it applies to the computer-based learning on which he originally conducted research with CD-ROMs 20 years ago. Klaas modernizes Mayer’s theory, using current day examples such as YouTube and other multimedia.

Klaas will be presenting a session at UBTech 2019, June 10-12 in Orlando, Fla.

What can we learn from YouTube when flipping a classroom?

YouTube gets a few things right: authenticity, simplicity and self-expression. Most of the videos are individual expressions of self, and people buy into that. The vast majority of videos are under 10 minutes.

They’re direct and focused on one thing. We share things that are important to us and how we see ourselves in the world.

That’s why people can spend hours clicking through videos, which wind up being really authentic expressions of a specific person’s point of view or how they feel about the world.

Everything in life can be so artificial. We crave authenticity in our culture.

How do we incorporate this methodology or philosophy into flip lectures?

Storytelling can be a great way to make our content and our message feel authentic. Neuroscience actually shows us that the brain lights up in a very different way when telling stories versus dumping facts.

We can make sense out of stories and those little narratives. They bring out a sense of passion for the work that we do.

We forget sometimes as faculty that this is our career path. This is our lifelong work. We should be passionate about it and pass that passion on to our students.

We can make things simpler in flip lectures by clarifying the message. We should focus on coherently designed slides that are segmented nicely. By segmenting, I mean breaking apart complex content.

Highlighting the right piece of information at the right time helps to make the presentation much easier for people to process.

Is there anything else to focus on?

Multimedia. It’s motion. It’s graphics. Putting media in there and focusing on one key image or one key idea on a slide helps us to have this simplicity.

Concepts are much more likely to be remembered if they’re presented as pictures or, even better, as pictures reinforcing words rather than words alone. Simplifying the presentation can help people to remember longer.

Attention spans are right around 10 minutes. The microlecture needs to be short so that students get a sense of control over it, but more importantly, because they cannot focus.

Instead of doing a 90-minute lecture or a 60-minute lecture, you’ve got to do it in 10- or 15-minute chunks because a) that’s what students want and b) it’s what the data says is actually effective.

What are some successful narrative techniques?

One great narrative technique is to bring conflict to a presentation: problem, solution, problem, solution. We encounter these things daily. How quickly we go through the slides can significantly impact learner retention of information.

Those are just two examples of narrative techniques that people can use when they present to better engage students and drive better information retention.


Melissa Nicefaro is UBTech’s deputy program director.