8.4 Video


Figure 8.4.1 An OpenLearn video from the Open University on communications technologies in developing countries. Click on the image to play the video

8.4.1 More power, more complexity

Although there have been massive changes in video technology over the last 25 years, resulting in dramatic reductions in the costs of both creating and distributing video, the unique educational characteristics are largely unaffected. (More recent computer-generated media such as simulations, will be analysed under ‘Computing’, in Section 8.5).

Video is a much richer medium than either text or audio, as in addition to its ability to offer text and sound, it can also offer dynamic or moving pictures. Thus while it can offer all the affordances of audio, and some of text, it also has unique pedagogical characteristics of its own. Once again, there has been considerable research on the use of video in education, and again I will be drawing on research from the Open University (Bates, 1984; 2005; Koumi, 2006) as well as from Mayer (2020).

Click on the links to see examples for many of the characteristics listed below.

8.4.2 Presentational features

Video can be used to:

Figure 8.4.2 Don’t do this yourself at home! Video on the conservation of momentum

8.4.3 Skills development

This usually requires the video to be integrated with student activities. The ability to stop, rewind and replay video becomes crucial for skills development, as student activity usually takes place separately from the actual viewing of the video. This may mean thinking through carefully activities for students related to the use of video.

If video is not used directly for lecturing, research clearly indicates that students generally need to be guided as to what to look for in video, at least initially in their use of video for learning. There are various techniques for relating concrete events with abstract principles, such as through audio narration over the video, using a still frame to highlight the observation, or repeating a small section of the program. Bates and Gallagher (1977) found that using video for developing higher order analysis or evaluation was a teachable skill that needs to be built into the development of a course or program, to get the best results.

Typical uses of video for skills development include:

There are many ways in which video can be used for skills development. Nevertheless, however video is used for skill development, as well as the demonstration of the skill, attention must be paid to ensuring opportunities for student practice and feedback, probably using other media, although it is now increasingly easy for students to make their own videos to demonstrate their skill.

Figure 8.4.3 Demonstrating teaching strategies: kinesthetic learning. Click on the image to see the video

8.4.4 The affective impact of video

Well-produced and well-designed video can also have a powerful emotional effect on learners. It is a particularly important medium for students who have grown up in a digital age. Students more easily identify with topics or approaches that are represented through video presentations, especially if they can identify with the context or with characters within the video (see, for instance, the use of video  for social workers on how to conduct home visits where the spouse may have been physically abused by their partner). The emotional impact of video is particularly valuable where from an instructional point of view you need to change a student’s perspective on a topic (see, for instance, We WILL Fix Climate Change).

Video can therefore combine both educational goals/learning objectives AND student engagement, which is one reason why it is such a powerful teaching medium. The emotional impact of video though is an affordance that instructors need to use with care. It often needs to be backed up with other activities, such as discussion, analysis or reflection.

8.4.5 Strengths and weaknesses of digital video as a teaching medium

One factor that makes video powerful for learning is its ability to show the relationship between concrete examples and abstract principles, with usually the sound track relating the abstract principles to concrete events shown in the video. Video is particularly useful for recording events or situations where it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events.

Thus its main strengths are as follows:

  • there is a wide variety of high quality educational videos in all subject areas freely available online for use by instructors and students;
  • video can directly link concrete events and phenomena to abstract principles and vice versa;
  • students can stop and start digital videos, and thus integrate activities with the video presentation;
  • video can provide an alternative approach to the presentation of content that can help students having difficulties in learning abstract concepts;
  • video can combine text and audio as well as visual images. Providing information in a variety of information channels helps different kinds of learners and also results in deeper understanding for all learners;
  • a video can add substantial interest to a course by linking it to real world issues;
  • video can be used to develop many of the higher level intellectual and practical skills needed in a digital age;
  • mobile phones, low cost cameras and free editing software enables educational video to be cheaply produced by both instructors and students;
  • students can use video to demonstrate their learning in practice

It should also be remembered that in addition to the features listed above, video can incorporate many of the features of audio as well.

The main weaknesses of video are:

  • many instructors and teachers have no knowledge or experience in using video other than for recording lecturing;
  • the availability of free material for educational use is improving all the time, but currently finding appropriate and free videos that meet the specific needs of a teacher or instructor can be time-consuming or such material may just not be available or reliable. Links also often go dead after a while, affecting the reliability of outsourced video;
  • there may be copyright issues, both in making and using video for educational purposes. It may be necessary to ask your institutional library to check on copyright before using media produced outside the institution, and your institution may have policies regarding videos produced in-house that need to be followed; 
  • creating original material that exploits the unique characteristics of video is time-consuming, and still relatively expensive, because it usually needs professional video production;
  • to get the most out of educational video, students need specially designed activities that often will have to sit outside the video itself;
  • students often reject videos that require them to do analysis or interpretation; they often prefer direct instruction that focuses primarily on comprehension. Such students need to be trained to use video differently, which requires time to be devoted to developing such skills.

8.4.6 Assessment

If video is being used to develop the skills outlined in Section 8.4.3, then it is essential that these skills are assessed and count for grading. Indeed, one possible means of assessment might be to ask students to analyse or interpret a selected video, or even to develop their own media project, using video they themselves have collected or produced, using their own devices.

8.4.7 Conclusion

Video is not being used enough in education. It has tremendous teaching power and there is now a great deal of readily available video material that can be accessed and downloaded from the Internet. However, when video is used in teaching, it is often an afterthought or an ‘extra’, rather than an integral part of the design, or is used merely to replicate a classroom lecture, rather than exploiting the unique characteristics of video.

Furthermore, a video clip or program rarely stands on its own as a teaching resource. It will usually need to be put into context and students will often need guidance on how to use the video material in their studies – for instance, what to look for, and how it relates to the rest of the course. Usually video will need some prior preparation and follow-up work by the students which in turn will need feedback from the instructor. Nevertheless, video should now be a standard part of most instructors’ teaching repertoire.


Bates, A. (1984) Broadcasting in Education: An Evaluation suitable material available: Constables

Bates, A. (2005) Technology, e-Learning and Distance Education London/New York: Routledge

Bates, A. and Gallagher, M. (1977) Improving the Effectiveness of Open University Television Case-Studies and Documentaries Milton Keynes: The Open University, I.E.T. Papers on Broadcasting, No. 77 (out of print – copies available from tony.bates@ubc.ca)

Koumi, J. (2006). Designing video and multimedia for open and flexible learningLondon: Routledge

Mayer, R. E. (2020). Multimedia learning (3rd ed). New York: Cambridge University Press

The University of British Columbia also provides two annotated bibliographies of digital multimedia research. one collated at UBC and one by the University of Central Florida.

Activity 8.4 Identifying the unique pedagogical characteristics of video

1. Take one of the courses you are teaching. What key presentational aspects of video could be important for this course?

2. Look at the skills listed in Section 1.2 of this book. Which of these skills would best be developed through the use of video rather than other media? How would you do this using video-based teaching?

3. Under what conditions would it be more appropriate for students to be assessed by asking them to analyse or make their own video recording? How could this be done under assessment conditions?

4. Type in the name of your topic + video into Google.

  • How many videos come up?
  • What’s their quality like?
  • Could you use any of them in your teaching?
  • If so, how would you integrate them into your course?
  • Could you make a better video on the topic?
  • What would enable you to do this?

Here are some criteria I would apply to what you find:

  • it is relevant to what you want to teach;
  • it demonstrates clearly a particular topic or subject and links it to what the student is intended to learn;
  • it is short and to the point;
  • the example is well produced (clear camera work, good presenter, clear audio);
  • it provides something that you could not do easily yourself;
  • it is freely available for non-commercial use.

For feedback on this activity, and some further comments on the value of video, click on the podcast below:



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Teaching in a Digital Age - Third Edition - Translators' version Copyright © 2022 by Anthony William (Tony) Bates is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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