Using Video Presentations Effectively

When used effectively, videotape presentations have the potential to add richness and variety to our courses. They are especially useful in establishing the context of new learning, and for making applications of learned material into a larger context. However their potential to add so much color, action, and richness sometimes traps us into making a poor fit with the curriculum, contributing to their perception by students as their being simply time fillers.

When considering using videos to enhance your teaching, be especially careful to:

  • "Clear" the video with your immediate instructional leader to ensure that it is not regularly used in another course within the curriculum;
  • Rather than rely on the college library or departmental resources alone, investigate alternative sources for videos, such as public libraries, museums, the training departments of area businesses, and out-of-town foundations and public service organizations that might provide them on a loaner basis;
  • Preview the video closely to ensure it is a good fit with your learning objectives;
  • Limit presentations to 20 or 25 minutes, or if it is critical to show a longer work, divide it into segments of that length with debriefing sessions interspersed;
  • Order viewing equipment well in advance, and check its operating features prior to the class session starting;
  • Introduce the video to the class, and "prompt" content that you want students to look for;
  • During viewing, observe students' faces as much as the video you've previously seen, and jot down notes that can be used to guide discussion afterwards;
  • After showing, debrief the video with the goal of synthesizing its content with the other elements of the instructional unit;
  • Include material from videos on your exams or otherwise evaluate students' mastery of its content, as you would other instructional activities.

As convenient and professional as videos can be, it is especially important that you not overuse them in your class, lest you develop a reputation as a professor who takes short cuts and lacks rigor. Videotapes are but one of many potential tools available to you that can be employed to liven up a class!

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