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The video lectures revolution

Posted on Oct 28, 2013 by in issue #02 |


By Javier Sarsa & Rebeca Soler

University of Zaragoza, Spain


/Teaching experiences


The video lectures revolution.



Video Lectures have achieved success even earlier than many other ICT-based teaching methodologies. Students find those technologies highly useful. They know how to use them and, in fact, they do use them because they feel more comfortable when watching or listening to the teacher than when being seated in the classroom. Hundreds of thousands of students are taking these classes, being a 100% online or combining the traditional class with online video lectures -in a blended learning way-. Thus, they are constantly opening and expanding their knowledge scope to contents all over the world. At the same time, a myriad of online students registered in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are taking video lectures as non-formal learning. That is why Video Lectures constitute themselves a revolution in learning. This article helps to identify the need of video lectures to learn and to get access to other cultural contents. We offer some experiences which have helped to reach this revolution. At the same time, we contribute to extend the acceptance that this resource has for the students.

Keywords: Video lectures, rich video lectures, video lessons, video culture, MOOC, OCW.


Indeed, video has become one of the greatest success resources in Internet. Digital videos are used in every field of the social, cultural and political life. With them we can broadcast every kind of content, from artistic events to cultural experiences, documentaries, interviews, conferences or learning sessions. Videos have also become other important resource, highly cited by research papers in many fields (Science, Arts, Medicine, Humanities, History…) (Kousha, Thelwall, & Abdoli, 2012). Some of us are enough used to watch videos in commercial advertisements or in music websites. However, there is a more hidden scenery, that still remains, and has to be fully exploited by the masses: recorded video lectures, which are delivered asynchronously.

This kind of educational resource goes beyond traditional text contents and even presentations. The difference between recorded videos and real-time presentations is basically that the first allows the creator to deconstruct the process into its elements and work on each one separately (Bowles-Terry, Hensley, & Hinchliffe, 2010). With identical argumentation, this difference can be attached to recorded video lectures face to live lectures or real-time webconferences.

Video lectures are still unknown for too many people. Even though, a vast number of users have already discovered the power of video lectures to expand their knowledge. They are especially important for those who are studying in cent per cent virtual programs or in blended learning situations. Like other asynchronous technologies, recorded video lectures allow to be watched on demand, and students can follow them comfortably installed at their homes, as if they were seated in the classroom, in the tram or bus if they are equipped with mobile devices.

Why are video lectures a revolution?

In a brief time period, this revolutionary phenomenon could transform the traditional way of teaching (either if it has already done it).

Many websites are responsible for this learning revolution and they receive thousands of visitors per day. At this time, every minute, 1000 hours of video contents are uploaded to YouTube (YouTube statistics, 2013). Of course, many of them are not educational contents neither lectures. Khan Academy has delivered over 260 million lessons (educational videos) worldwide and, last but not least, a hundred thousand students are connecting monthly (Khan, 2013). The digits are simply impressive.

In June 2012 more than 1.5 million people registered for classes through Coursera, Udacity and/or edX. These are MOOC in which video lectures are a key factor. In March 2013, Coursera alone registered about 2.8 million learners.

Video lectures add a group of advantages compared to other traditional methodologies:

  •  Isolation feelings: video lectures can help to reduce the isolation feelings students usually have when being enrolled in online courses against simple text contents. As it is described by several authors, students tend to withdraw if the contact with the instructor dismisses (Carr, 2000; Morgan & Tam, 1999). Unfortunately, the link between the student and the instructor through a video lecture is still weak. The student can view and hear the instructor but real communication processes are necessary. In e-Learning, students still have the need of building stronger relationships with teachers and avoid isolation feelings (Stow, 2005).
  • Motivation: well-designed video lectures are dynamic contents which may motivate students more than the static documents, like PDF. Learner motivation is a key factor affecting online students (Muilenburga & Berge, 2005; Cole, Field & Harris, 2004).
  • Self-pace: video lectures allow viewing a segment as often as needed to master the content. They give the students the opportunity to learn at their own pace, on their timetable, and at their convenience.
  • Flipped classroom: classroom time may be spent in more active tasks, because the students may come to class with the lesson already taken. “It was great to have the review on video at home so that we could have more time in class to cover and apply the material” (said a student who participated in Rose, 2011 study).

World experiences

Nowadays, there is a plethora of video lectures experiences all over the world. Most of the universities have some kind of video lecture experience, although North American ones are in the forefront of this development.
Open learning resources, as those included in OCW, MOOCs, Open Content Project, Open Knowledge Foundation, etc., are using video lectures as the basis for their combined instructional methodology. MOOC use video lectures intensively; they have adopted an old form of teaching using a new technology. Many MOOC sites, like Coursera, are typically designed as a weekly syllabus of video lectures followed by quizzes or other assignments that evaluate if students have understood the content (Ahn, Butler, Alam, & Webster, 2013).

Some examples of Video Lectures repositories(in alphabetical order)

Collège de France

Free Video Lectures

Future Learn

ICTP Science Dissem. Unit

Internet Archive

iTunes U

Khan Academy

Learners TC

McGill University

MIT Video

New Hampshire Public TV


Presentation Tube


Ted Ed

UC Berkeley

University of Oxford

University of Washington




YouTube Edu


Video lectures and pedagogy

We can find many studies that have analyzed the students’ perceptions and satisfaction levels. Survey-based studies usually search for the evaluation of perceptions, satisfaction and acceptance of students enrolled in video-based courses. To be effective, video lectures must be first accepted and used by students (Brecht & Ogilvy, 2008). Rose (2009), in a survey developed with online and face-to-face students, identified that a 100% of them showed some level of agreement with the statement “the instructor-made videos helped me understand the material better”. Morrison (2012) obtained near a 90% when asked if “the video lectures were effective in communicating the course concepts and content”. In the survey carried out by Bagarukayo, Van der Weide and Mbarika (2011), a 73% of the students felt that watching videos would get a better final exam score and 27% did not think so. For Bridge, Jackson and Robinson (2009), since the implementation of streaming video, state the students’ response has been overwhelmingly positive.

With regards to the learning effectiveness of video lectures, the overview is slightly different. The already quoted study (Bridge et al., 2009) says the effect of video streaming on program outcomes is neutral, even though they found some statistically significant differences. This result, the “no effect” on learning, has been detected in several studies (Nikopoulou-Smyrni & Nikopoulos, 2010; Viksilä, 2011).

However, the research done by Arias et al. (2011) on the effects of video lectures shows this resource enhances learning and has a positive effect on the students’ motivation and success. Others studies show video lectures can improve the students’ grades and increase their overall level of satisfaction and confidence with the course (Chiu, Lee & Yang 2006; Day & Foley, 2006).

Recorded video lectures force teachers to develop their script and set up their own stage, like an actor or a news reader, with cameras, microphones, lights, computers, graphics, tablets, etc. Teachers have to pay attention to different aspects of the video capturing, like audio quality, camera focus, and troubleshooting techniques (Hayes, Handler, & Main, 2011).

In 2013, the Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed 103 professors who taught MOOC, and drew the conclusion. “Typically a professor spent over 100 hours on his MOOC before it even started, by recording online lecture videos and doing other preparation” (Kolowich, 2013).

A key element in MOOC is the presence of audiovisual contents. Often, videos are divided into short duration modules. Students value the flexibility offered through the MOOC, which allows watching the weekly video lectures at their own pace and on their own schedule.

“I really, really like the absorbing information on your own time at your own speed, and through this sort of video format with someone that you know is a really good lecturer, has really carefully prepared these topics, and I think that’s much more efficient [than traditional lectures]”, (said one of the students in the experience carried by Bruff, Fisher, McEwen, & Smith, 2013)

Or this other quotation: “I felt like my needs were met and the video enhanced the quality of the teaching and learning. Without video, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate for 3 hours” (cited in Irvine, Code, & Richards (2013).

At the Spanish University of Zaragoza we conducted an experience using Rich Video Lectures as a complement to the face-to-face teaching methodology. These Rich Video Lectures not only included a teacher’s video and audio track, but they were composed of a screen capture track (screencast) in which the teacher was simultaneously drawing and writing, like in a whiteboard. Links to websites also appeared sometimes to extend the information or to lead to interactive activities which completed the practice. After the Rich Video Lectures the students were suggested to take a survey. All of them (100%) did evaluate RVL as a positive tool for studying and almost 80% of the students said they would prefer to study with RVL rather than with classical contents. On the other hand, there was no consensus when they were asked if RVL would displace classical text contents (in a range 1-10, average was only 6, for RVL).


From the above mentioned studies, we can state video lectures are a crucial tool in 100% virtual learning, like MOOC or OCW. They are also in face-to-face contexts, as a complement. Teachers are gradually changing their classical role of repeating the lectures a thousand times by equivalent videos which are published in the cyberspace. These video lectures can be simple or use a combination of multiple simultaneous tracks (Rich Video Lectures), like presentations, quizzes, interactive activities, polls, links, etc. Most of the students declare to have a great satisfaction and acceptance of video lectures. Video lectures are usually considered an invaluable resource that provides the courses with high quality and engages them with the contents. It is worthy against the usual poor text-based contents traditionally used. That is why teachers have to take good note of this learning revolution.




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