How to Use Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning

Initial Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Media complements instructor-led learning by encouraging students to listen to music, read print materials, or watching a documentary or movie clip. The primary advantage of this approach is that the instructor takes on the role of a facilitator who helps students interpret what they are listening to, reading or seeing. Media can also be student-generated. This approach utilizes asks the student to step into the role of the teacher and create content that will engage learners and help them to master concepts. Lastly, social media can also be used to enhance teaching and learning and it includes varied online technology tools that allow people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources.

Instructor-led Learning:

Using media requires that the instructor step outside of the traditional lecture method and facilitate learning by encouraging students to learn through the media. This approach works best when students are primed. If students are not adequately informed about what they are expected them to learn, they will struggle to make the connection between the learning objectives and the media that they are exposed to.

When to introduce media?

  • Before learning the concept. Showing media before the discussion gives students an image to which they can compare the topics under discussion. This approach allows quick reference to easily recalled examples. Schwartz and Bransford (1998) show that demonstrations focused on contrasting cases help students achieve expert-like differentiation. In addition, Schwartz and Martin (2004) found that carefully-prepared demonstrations "help students generate the types of knowledge that are likely to help them learn" from subsequent lectures.
  • After a brief introduction but before learning the concept. This method provides students with a brief capsule of what the media is about and what to look for -- helping to focus attention while watching the media.
  • After learning the concept. Showing media after describing a theory or concept allows the instructor to use the scenes as a case study. This approach helps students develop their analytical skills in applying what they are learning.
  • Before and after. Repeating the media is especially helpful when trying to develop student understanding of complex topics. Utilize the media before the discussion to give students an anchor. Guide students through a description or discussion of the topics. Rerun the media as a case study and ask students to analyze what they see using the theories and concepts just discussed. Also punctuate the rerun with an active discussion by asking students to call out the concepts they see in the scenes. This method helps to reinforce what they have just learned.

Tips if you are new to this method:

  • Start small. Find one movie, song, or news source and incorporate it into your class. Expand once you are comfortable.
  • Provide a clear link between what you want your students to learn and the media. Care must be taken provide the proper learning context.
  • It takes time to integrate media effectively into a course. This is not edutainment, it is the conscious use of media to enable students to learn more.
  • Use the subtitles feature for visual media. This is especially useful in focusing student attention on the words being said.
  • Be prepared. Technology does not work 100% of the time so have a back up plan. If the media equipment does not work, go to plan B and continue on with your class without missing a beat.
  • Evaluate student understanding. Students respond to incentives. If you require them to write a reaction paper, take a quiz, or place questions on your exams that relate to the media content they will pay more attention and learn more in the process.
  • Stay legal. View the copyright information on the cautions page.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What differentiates this teaching method?
  • How does the use of media help with recall and understanding?
  • What is the preferred class size?

Student-generated Learning:

Involving students in creating media encourages collaboration, accountability, creativity, and mastery of ideas and concepts. Importantly, one does not need a large budget, fancy studio, or advanced degree to create original media that is informative, entertaining and educational. An article by Joshua Kim notes that video projects are inexpensive to create and that this approach also encourages non-linear learning.

Instructors do not need to be media savvy. Our students have grown up in the digital age and they are comfortable with technology.

Instructors should help students focus on creating content that is meaningful for the intended audience. Here is a NAFSA video contest featuring college student entries describing their experiences studying abroad. Each of these contests showcase the ability of students to create high-quality videos with targeted messages.