I have converted lectures into considerably shorter videos that students view at their own time and pace, and as many times as they like. Hosted on YouTube, they are open to an international audience and have proved popular. Here are some tips that may be useful to other instructors interested in doing likewise. (Though teachers of statistics, Excel or linear programming are welcome to use ours!)
Pictures and words
As much as possible two channels, pictures and words are used. Narration and illustrations complement each other. There are no talking heads.
There is considerable research regarding the effectiveness of multimedia instruction. Mayer shows in his experiments that “students learn more deeply from a multimedia explanation presented in words and pictures than in words alone”, which he calls “the multimedia effect.”
Mayer developed a framework, based on aspects of cognitive science, which helps to explain this multimedia effect. The framework assumes that humans process pictures and words using different parts of working memory, both of which are limited. However, the total amount of information that can be taken in is increased by using both input channels (pictures and words), which appear to have independent capacities.
Fast conversational narrative
Conversational narrative is used, which Mayer suggests is more effective. In addition the rate of speech is fast. This is based on the premise that students can stop, pause and go back if they didn’t understand something, but will lose interest in a slow and ponderous delivery. All the narrative is tightly scripted so that there is no wasted time, and the best possible explanations are used.
Avoid extraneous material
Though I accept that generally extraneous material must be avoided, we do add humour to our videos, as we believe it keeps people’s attention, and lightens the atmosphere. Diagrams are developed carefully to aid memory and support the message, rather than distract from it.
In general we do not have summaries at the ends of the videos. The videos are less than ten minutes long, so students can go back and watch them again. From examining the YouTube viewer statistics we found that the viewing levels plummeted when we began the summary.
Keep them short
We try to keep videos between 5 and 7 minutes, although one has grown to 10 minutes. Define a small set of knowledge or skills and focus on that. If there is too much material, make two videos. There is a lot of padding in a traditional lecture, whereas our videos are scripted to say exactly and effectively what we want to say; consequently so you can fit at least 30 minutes of lecture content into about five to seven minutes of video.
Think REALLY hard
The time limit on the explanation means that you need to examine what makes the material difficult to grasp, and what are some ways to make it clearer. There are well-known Youtube mathematics videos that use a rambling approach with little or no prior preparation. We can do better than that. Each of our videos is the product of years of experience of explanations to thousands of students, accompanied by deep thought and experimentation to find ways to explain things.
Try new things – be creative – have fun
To begin with our videos under the UCMSCI banner were quite primitive and quirky, focussing mainly on Excel implementation. Our later videos as Creative Heuristics are more polished, and also use diagrams and animations to get our material across. And the best is yet to come!