Using Videos in Geoscience Education

In addition to the following information on the variety of ways to use video in geoscience education, please also review our page on developing video-based teaching activities, which shares examples, reviews design principles -- specifically for video-based activities, and links to effective video-based teaching strategies.

The Many Uses of Video

There are a variety of ways in which instructors choose to use video in their classes including:

  • Replacing lecture
  • Supplementing lecture (homework or in-class assignment)
  • Providing virtual field experiences (for online classes or absent/disabled face-to-face students)
  • Documenting demonstrations (for online classes or absent face-to-face students or repetition during lab/activities depending on a demo)
  • Reviewing activity and instrument use instructions (such as for labs)
  • Predicting natural behavior (for lab or classroom activities -- e.g. watch one part of a demonstration, then predict what will happen before Part 2 is released)

Using videos does not require you to make your own. There are a number of shared video resources available across a multitude of websites (see our Video Collection for a list of shared video resources recommended by our community members.)

Some Benefits of Using Video

  • Increases student control of learning
    • Helps students prepare for an upcoming class.
    • Helps build upon concepts in more depth or expand on topics discussed in class in order to take ideas further. An after-class assignment can be used as a post-class assessment of additional content or graphics that were not covered in class.
    • Helps students review concepts for exams.
    • Helps students catch up. Students who missed class may use video resources to understand content that they missed.
    • Addresses misconceptions students may have before they get to class.
    • Allows students to come back to a topic after they have had time to think about what they learned in class.
  • Gathers data on learning
    • Course Management Systems (Blackboard, Moodle) can keep track of when and how long students spend watching videos.
    • Embedded quizzes can gather feedback and assessment information.
    • Pre-class assessment can be tied to a video; the results can help the instructor gear the class to areas where students need the most help.
  • Brings dynamic processes and real-world field sites to life
    • Allows students to see geologic/oceanographic processes in action (ex: virtual field trip).
    • Can take students out into the field before they go there on a field trip (as a "precap" to what they will see).
  • Increases student engagement and interest
    • Videos are often more dynamic and even more clear than an instructor can be.
    • Videos can be used to stimulate class discussions and as a tool to increase interactions. For example, instructors can pause a video to discuss terminology, inaccuracies, or ask for questions.
    • Students often enjoy watching a short video or animation to understand concepts.
    • Students often find it easier to understand and retain information presented in video format as opposed to traditional textbook format.
  • It's time saving!
    • If students are required to review lab instructions prior to the lab, they will have more time to engage with the lab during class hours, and the professor can focus on clarification at a deeper level.
    • If students watch "lecture" before class, it frees up time in class for the instructor to concentrate on activities or other active learning techniques.

Challenges and Solutions

  • Challenge: If videos are technical, students may be confused or intimidated by content.
    Recommended solution: Avoid confusing terminology or use labels and closed captioning to help.
  • Challenge: Any videos used in class must have closed captioning.
    Recommended solution: Use videos that are already developed WITH closed captioning. Use a closed-captioning service to provide these on your own videos. (See the Accessibility page for more details.)
  • Challenge: Videos can still be passive. How do we make them an active-learning tool?
    Recommended solution: Avoid long segments of video without class discussion or other student interactions. Provide worksheets or activities that have to be completed alongside the videos. Embed learning quizzes or at-home demos into the video.
  • Challenge: Using some services, such as YouTube, can cause embarrassing advertisements or popups to appear.
    Recommended solution: If used in class, use a classroom computer (not your own). Load the video early enough to remove any errant popups. Create your own YouTube channel and set it to not show advertisements.

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Using shared video resources

  • Share field sites -- Provide information and access beyond what is available to a single instructor or location.
  • Multiple presentation styles -- Students may benefit from seeing material presented from another point of view.
  • Save time!
    • No need to reinvent the wheel (especially if you just mute the narration you might not like)
    • Some shared videos even provide activity guides
  • Data sharing -- For interactive videos: Share data across the country - if videos have embedded quizzes, results can be compared against peers elsewhere.
  • Peer review = better quality, both for content and for pedagogy
    • Create a community of editors who can ensure the quality is better
    • Shared resources may be of a higher quality than what an individual instructor may produce (due to better training or better equipment available to some individuals)
    • In general, promotes the values of Mayer's work and others
    • Helps new teachers figure out what new misconceptions are before teaching

Challenges and Solutions

  • Challenge: Audio may not match desired pace or content of your class.
    Recommended solution: Mute video and narrate it yourself (in class), or add your own audio track.
  • Challenge: Some videos are too lengthy.
    Recommended solution: Assign parts of a video or use [link www.ezsnips.squarespace.com 'EZSnips'] to create a link to just the sections you want.
  • Challenge: Some videos contain inaccuracies or are overwhelming or boring.
    Recommended solution: Choose videos carefully with your students in mind. Ask them to indicate which sections are inaccurate, confusing, or boring. Use only the parts of the video that you find to be accurate and engaging. If videos are used in class, pause and have a discussion.
  • Challenge: If terms used are different than what students hear in class, students may be unintentionally confused.
    Recommended solution: Ask students to list any terms they hear used differently and hold in-class follow-up discussion about the variety and why it happens. Or put together a translation sheet students and assign students to review it BEFORE watching the video.
  • Challenge: Videos of natural disasters may be emotionally hard for students to view.
    Recommended solution: Assign parts of a video or use EZSnips to create a link to just the sections you want. Provide students warnings ahead of time. Choose videos wisely!
  • Challenge: You can only disseminate videos publicly if the copyright allows such use. You can disseminate your own videos publicly only if you used your own images and animations or ones for which you have permission.
    Recommended solution: Instructors can use a course management system that requires a password (such as Blackboard) to post videos without requiring a copyright release (this "for classroom use" is typically OK). Or you can link to videos that others have created (links are okay!). Use IRIS and USGS and NASA and NOAA videos and images. They are open source resources. See Fair Use and Copyrights web page for more details.
  • Challenge: Interactive videos (with embedded quizzes) can't be hosted on YouTube.
    Recommended solution: find alternative servers. Upload basic video to YouTube and then include in description a link to the location on your server where folks can access more interactive versions.
  • Challenge: Shared videos means displaying publicly my potentially substandard skills.
    Recommended solution: improve skills; practice; help each other; and recognize that there is a range of quality. Yours is probably better than someone's and someone else's is probably better than yours!
  • Challenge: Prepackaged video is not flexible.
    Recommended solution: Help create smaller, more modular videos so folks can pick and choose and put together a puzzle themselves. This also helps us decide if the quality is good or not without having to watch the entire video.
  • Challenge: Many resources are developed for a particular, single use -- my students, my context.
    Recommended solution: have community in mind - this develops with a broader-use goal from the beginning. Put enough context in another document to make it more widely usable, or to at least ensure folks don't use it without sufficient student preparation/experience.

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Using video to flip a geoscience lecture or lab class

Flipping a class typically means replacing in-class lecture with before-class preparation (from a textbook, video, or any other multimedia resource). By using video to flip a class (replace lecture by assigning it to be completed prior to class), you can free up in-class time to complete other activities unique to the classroom. As some lecture occurs in most lab classes as well, this technique has an application for both geoscience lecture and lab classes.

Suggestions from community members who are currently using the flipped model:

Video length: The duration of videos used for flipping is best determined by an individual instructor. However, many instructors and students claim that the best video lengths are shorter, often between 7 and 15 minutes. Studies show that shorter, more modular videos minimize cognitive overload and better retain student attention.

Video location: Links to videos are typically provided on websites or within learning-management systems. Video hosting can be through college servers or YouTube or other video-sharing sites. Students indicate a preference for having videos accessible from a variety of different websites (YouTube, D2L, Facebook, etc.) and through a variety of technology (mobile phones, iPads, laptops).

Assessment: Videos can be supplemented with in-video quizzing or with hard copy question worksheets. Each offers different pros and cons. In-video quizzing is beneficial as all materials, questions and answers, are in the same location but can prove a technological challenge as certain platforms do not allow Flash-type features (i.e. YouTube) for question insertion. Hard copy worksheets provided by the instructor are non-technological but can be lost by students and can allow for larger time spans between video and evaluation. Regardless of format, these assignments should carry some kind of grading point value for maximum effectiveness. Not having a graded value on assignments will likely result in limited student viewing.

Due dates: Have assessments of videos due at least 1/2 hour before class (or the night before) so that student answers can be revised and areas of confusion addressed in class.

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Additional resources


Part 1: Building Foundation for Flipping -- part I, modules 1-4:
    • Modules offer advice on how to transition week by week into a flipped classroom. Provides a series of semester deadlines helpful for your course flip to go smoothly.
    • Authors instruct science/engineering courses.
    • Very interesting discussion section on Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience. This model illustrates why we should incorporate video into our classrooms due to a higher knowledge retention rate than seeing, reading, or hearing facts. It also shows the power of experiential learning.
    • Enjoyed use of real life applications by the professor; flipping a classroom would allow more time to answer the ever present student question: "Why should I care?"
    • Noting the large amount of time required in video production, one professor suggests it's OK to make videos rough at first. Students will let you know if there are mistakes.
    • Interesting section on grading scheme with flipped classroom (too complicated to describe here).
    • Professors can and should perform literature reviews in order to pinpoint key geoscience topics to focus on before creating video. [Module 1]
    • Even in flipped classrooms be sure to "mix it up' to retain student interest. Apply different learning strategies. [Module 2]
    • Focus on active learning in the classroom (which can be facilitated through flipping your course). Authors highly recommend not lecturing at all, but if need be, keeping it to a minimum. [Module 3]
    • Module 4 focuses on specific strategies of different filming techniques and discusses the importance of receiving student and peer feedback about videos used in the classroom.
  • In print
    • Using multimedia modules to better prepare students for introductory physics lecture, Z. Chen, T. Stelzer, G. Gladding. Physical Review Special Topics, Physics Education Research, v.6, p.1-5. (2010)
    • Inverting the classroom: A gateway to creating an inclusive learning environment, M. Lage, G. Platt, and M. Treglia. Journal of Economic Education, v.31, #1, p.30-43. (2000)
    • Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, L. Dee Fink. Jossey-Bass. (2003)
Original content for this page was contributed by: Christian Benker, Charles Carrigan, Gigi Richard, Melissa Lobegeir, Nancy Mahlen, Ron Schott, Cian Dawson, Kathryn Hoppe, Al Trujillo, Joann Hochstein, Jenda Johnson, Ander Sundell, and Katryn Wiese during the Spring 2014 virtual workshop on Designing and Using Video in Undergraduate Geoscience Education. Our growing community of contributors continues to add to these resources. Get involved »
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