Last changed 26 Nov 1998 ............... Length about 2,000 words (13,000 bytes).
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When is video good for instruction?

Here are some edited messages from Feb. 1998 about using video in teaching between me and

Scott Standifer
Doctoral Student
Educational Psychology
University of Missouri, Columbia

Steve Draper wrote:
Scott I was very interested in your comments to ITforum about video usually killing presentations. Do you have evidence? Or can I say this is your experience based on N years as ?

What you say is consistent with other things I have heard, but I would like to develop solid arguments.

From: Scott Sandifer
Hi Steve,

I can't say I've seen any good research on the impact of video taping on presentations. Upon reflection, it would take a lot of operationalizing of terms to do such research - what is "good video", what is "a good presentation", how will you measure them. I suppose you could use some sort of behaviorist definition about attention levels in the audience or something, or a motivation questionaire, but I've never seen it done.

So my comments were rules of thumb based on a Masters degree in broadcasting from the University of Missouri (not to brag, but it's currently ranked the #1 school by U.S. radio/TV news directors), four years working as a video producer in instructional video, and several CD-ROM based projects during my doctoral program. Part of being a producer (in addition to finding all the bits and pieces of information, equipment, and staff the project needs) is editing all your video together in the best package you can make of it. You spend a lot of time trying to "cover" narration or references with bits of video, and frequently you are scrambling to find some bit that is reasonably interesting, reasonably relevant, and that you have not already used before. You also spend a lot of time swearing you will never let yourself get into such a bind again - but you do. This process quickly makes a producer sensitive to what makes "good" video and what does not. I'm not sure I can exactly define good video, but, like good art, I knows it when I sees it. Different producers will have slightly different ideas about good video, but usually it is more a difference in how high they set their quality standards (and that depends on budget), not what the nature of quality is.

Most video producers will also spend time video taping things they disagree with (quality-wise) because the client or executive producer orders them to, often for political reasons. This brings more lessons about what makes good and bad video. The ultimate metric of good video is whether people watch it, and whether they ask to see it again. More of my work than I care to mention is sitting unwatched on shelves because it was shot for political reasons.

Once you learn what makes good video, you also learn that making it good is seldom easy or fast (hence the budget remark). So there is a scale of quality vs. application that gives you a sort of rough sense of appropriate quality for a project. Much of my comment about CBI video is based on the enourmous effort that goes into any video on computer. If you are going to invest that much on the final stages of digitizing, you should spend the time up front to get quality, which in turn depends on what you want to accomplish with the video. If you start with an inappropriate idea for the video ("I know, we can have the Dean of the College recite the mission statement!"), it will be bad video, and it will be worse digital video.

On the occasions I have worked in front of the camera as host/anchor, I have found it helpful to think of talking to the camera as talking through a pillow. Just as a pillow muffles your voice, leading you to shout and ennunciate better, the filtering effect of the camera muffles the emotion of the performance you think you are giving. So you have to over emote and over ennunciate, until you feel stupid. Then it looks pretty good. If you process the video to digitized movie, you filter yet again. Typically, to save memory, in the digitization process you shrink the image, reduce the size of the image to only part of the screen, and use a medium quality compression rate. Which is like adding another pillow. Medium quality video gets much worse with another pillow added.

For instructional design, I think of video as an emotional or motivational medium. If you want to provide information to learners, video is a bad idea. Text is far superior for information density, or graphics if they are more appropriate to the content. Even audio might be a better idea. But if you want to motivate learners to read the text more thoroughly; if you want to give a sense of place or of a person's nature - video is outstanding.

I haven't kept up on all that is going on in instructional broadcasting lately, but a few years back Turner was doing some outstanding video field trips - particularly one to Gettysburg. If you took the script of what they said, of the information they gave out, it probably is not very substantial. But the sense of place you got from the re-enactors, the park guides, and the student reporters was wonderful as motivation to learn more about the U.S. Civil War. Similarly, the Jason Project has been doing annual video field trips to get students excited about a spectrum of science issues. As of three years ago, they had visited shipwrecks in the Mediterainian, rainforests and reefs in Belize, and volcanoes in Hawaii. There was some good information there, but little that you couldn't get in a book. These were good because they were designed to be motivational, not raw information. They were video field trips, not video lessons.

I worked recently on a CD-ROM based instructional piece for primary math teachers. The professor wanted to include some video clips of guest speakers, but I talked her out of it. Instead, we video taped children solving and explaining math problems. The user could learn, from the text in the program, about the stages children go through in gaining a "number sense", the kinds of algorithms they use at different stages, and the kind of errors they are likely to make. Then the user could pull up the video clips (short, clear, to the point, clips) and take a shot at figuring out why the children solved problems they way they did. In this case, the video supplied body language information ("a sense of place") that text would not have (sure, Laura SAID she didn't count aloud on her fingers, but we can SEE that she did - so why did she deny it? And does her counting algorithm match her explanation?). The clips also gave motivation to the user for integrating the information in the text. As for the guest speakers, we included transcripts of their presentations.

Whew! That was a little longer than I meant to go on. To me, this is an interesting subject, and I've never found much literature on it. I periodically spend time trying to convice technophiles around here about the limitations of video, but they never seem to get beyond the cool fact that they CAN use video to listen to whether they SHOULD use it. So I don't get listened to much.

From steve Mon Feb 16 17:51:42 1998

I can't tell if you are right in all you say, but many things you say connect with the little fragments of experience I do have.

I am tossed around by various conflicting items:

From Mon Feb 16 21:00:00 1998
Someone who is very intelligent and very interested in their topic is generally very animated and interesting to watch, even on video. Especially if the subject is also personally interesting to you. But being there in person is always more intense.

I suspect there is a sense of more personal attention from the speaker, and that overcomes the usually low quality of the video. But notice how dissatisfied people become with CuSeeMe technology as the frame rate slows down when you add extra people. There's a limit to what we will put up with.

All in all, I think the best lab for video techniques is television news. However, the metric of effectiveness is kind of one limited - television news folks eat or starve based on how well they can hold the audience, not how well they can communicate. I've sometimes compared it to the opposite of school rooms - in (traditional) schools they only worry about information transmission (with exams), since attendance is mandatory. In television news, they only worry about attendance (ratings), since information transmission is assumed (but never tested).

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