Study: Pre-recorded videos can boost student learning

A new report shows that asynchronous instruction has advantages and may improve scores for remote students.
By: | February 18, 2021

Concerns over whether pre-recorded videos are an adequate replacement for other teaching methods may be unfounded say authors of a new report published in the Review of Educational Research.

In a study that looked at previous outcomes of more than 7,700 higher education students, researchers at two universities in Australia noticed overall improvements in learning when students viewed taped lectures or edited audio/visual clips compared with in-person instruction, tutorials or reading assignments.

“Overall, when students got videos instead of the usual forms of teaching, the average grade increased from a B to a B+,” said Michael Noetel, a research fellow at Australian Catholic University. “When they got videos in addition to their existing classes, the effect was even stronger, moving students from a B to an A.”

Researchers from Australian Catholic University and the University of Queensland say the difference wasn’t tremendously significant – a look at skills assessment showed a five-point improvement in pre-recorded video learning over other methods, while student scores were up by two points. But the fact that there weren’t huge drops shows the value of models such as asynchronous learning.

“In a slightly concerning finding for my job as an academic, videos were even better than face-to-face classes with a teacher, although only by only a little,” Noetel joked. “Still, this surprised us because we thought classes would be more effective, not less.

“Obviously some valuable learning activities are best done face-to-face, like role-plays and class discussion. But our results show many forms of learning can be done better and more cost-effectively via video. Shifting the ‘explaining’ bits to videos allows the rich, interactive work to take up more of the precious face-to-face time with students.”

Citing numerous studies, authors noted that the control students have when viewing pre-recorded content allows them to be more autonomous, more self-directed and more motivated. It also helps them feel less overwhelmed. For example, they can view a lecture and pause it, take notes or review content in areas where they might have questions … and fast-forward through sections that may not be applicable. In face-to-face or live videoconferencing environments, they may miss details if not fully engaged. Researchers also note the advantages students have in being able to learn on their time, around other parts of their days.

“Because each student is in charge of the controls, videos may allow learners to stop themselves from becoming overloaded, pause to take notes, rewind, or go faster if they’re bored.” said Noetel. “It’s nice to be able to learn when and where you want; it can fit in better with life.”

Pre-recorded videos, when done well, also may allow instructors to “have more control over the presentation via editing. Any multimedia — including face-to-face classes and videoconferences — can be crafted such that they reduce extraneous load by applying a series of multimedia design principles,” researchers note in the report. They say crisp editing and knowing that their videos are being delivered asynchronously may help instructors steer away from long, rambling lectures and stay on topic.

One of the other benefits of recorded video is that it doesn’t require robust internet connectivity. Videoconferencing often requires high-speed, highly stable internet, while recordings can be “buffered to the user’s device.”

For colleges and universities, researchers say instructors who are delivering asynchronous content to students now and in the future should ensure that videos meet high standards for content and editing. Institutions should also ensure that students have both access to videos and proper technical support.

“Even after the pandemic ends, college instructors will find value in incorporating video into their teaching,” said Noetel. “Ensuring that those videos are of high quality and that all students have equal access to them will provide significant long-term benefits.”