“Why not make your lessons available for your students when and where they want?” – Magnus Johansson, Norway
Earlier this year, we met Magnus Johansson at the BETT Show in London. He talked about his work as a teacher over the past 15 years, his belief that everyone who works with children has a collective responsibility to give them the necessary skills to face the future, and how his recent Master’s degree in ICT has inspired his passion for using video in the classroom.
Today, Johansson – a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert — shares even more of his Master’s thesis, which demonstrates that students appreciate and benefit from teacher-produced videos as a learning resource. Just as important, Johansson’s thesis finds that using video as a learning resource, or in place of traditional lectures, does not change students’ study patterns or behaviors.
“What inspires me is that we educate our children to be balanced and well prepared for the future,” says Johansson. “The future is where they will spend the rest of their lives. A big part of my job is trying to see how we can integrate digital tools in education so they become a natural part of our everyday lives today and in the future.”
What have been the biggest changes in your classrooms over the past 15 years?
The biggest change that I have perceived is accessibility. Today we have good access to devices, and content is also easily accessed through cloud services, the Internet, etc.
I remember when you had to share a PC with colleagues, and if you wanted to do some work after school, you either mailed the file to yourself or copied it on a memory stick. There is so much flexibility today. We have access to almost everything, everywhere and at any time.
I think technology will be more and more important for our future generations, and it will be very important to develop good digital skills.
Your survey has collected data from five different universities and 412 respondents. What was the criteria for this data collection?
I wrote my master’s thesis together with another Norwegian Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Magnus Nohr from the University of Østfold. Together we have a large network with colleagues from around Norway, so we used our network to find teachers who used video in their classrooms.
We were rather strict when we selected samples for our study. They had to be using videos during most of the year, and they had to be the teacher’s self-produced video, with a few exceptions. For example, lecture recordings were defined as not good enough, so groups who only had been using this kind of recordings were rejected. Finally, we were left with five different groups where students were given the opportunity to provide us with input through our survey. Around 50 percent answered the survey -around 400 respondents. While the number of responses is too small to make a general picture, we could still look at trends in the figures.
What were your findings? Did video help students learn a subject more easily?
How easy it is to learn any subject is all about the subject itself. But when you are watching an explanation on video, there are some benefits as opposed to listening to a teacher lecture.
Students choose the speed. They can stop and reflect. They can stop the video when taking notes. It’s not so easy to do two things at once – listen and write. Students can decide when they want to review the content, based on what time is best for them (afternoon or in the morning). Another important aspect is where to watch the video: at home, or any other location.
Why only base the learning on a good lecture? If you have it on video you can see it again and again. Students can even use it to study for an exam.
Have you experienced a higher demand from students regarding the method of teaching? More digital and less lectures?
The results from our study show that if the students could choose a method in their next class, they would prefer a video instead of a traditional lecture (60/40). If they also got a third choice, a combination of video and traditional lecture, around 74 percent would prefer that (flipped classroom).
Our study, however, did not show that students expect better quality of video, as long as it was their teacher they were watching on the video. They would rather see a poor-quality video by their own teacher, rather than a studio-produced, high-quality video from a pro. One student said, “The use of video is important, and equally important is the flexibility, sound quality and a well-communicated lecture.” I believe the finding shows that students are not demanding video in a course, but they prefer it.
Is there any evidence that this method of teaching has produced better grades and outcomes?
In our study, we couldn’t see any marks before or after the study. Therefore, we could not draw any conclusions on this basis. I know there was a parallel study on one of our testing groups, where the teachers randomly split students into two groups; one group who received traditional lectures, and another group using the flipped classroom method. The flipped classroom group had fewer students who received failing grades, and several who received “A” grades.
(Read more by Njål Fålnes at BI Staver)
What factors do you believe affected the student experience of video?
On one hand, there are many students who are pleased with video as a learning resource. The data shows that they feel that they can go in depth and reflect on the subject, while it gives them a high degree of flexibility and increased motivation. On the other hand, it emerges that the quality of video, especially sound, is important, as well as the teacher’s ability to communicate. Based on the sample size and their responses, we have reason to assume that students in Norway want to use video as a learning resource. Some good arguments we believe help to substantiate these claims are that students can:
1. Watch the videos where they want and when they want (flexibility)
2. Repeat an auditory and visual teaching (learning style)
3. Decide the pace at which they should watch the video (customized training)
4. Be more motivated by using video (can increase learning)
Some research shows that multimedia can stimulate more than one sense at a time. Why is this an advantage for teaching?
Based on our evidence, we recommend that video should be integrated more in higher education in Norway.
Our survey can’t provide us with the basis for saying that the use of video must be the future teaching form, but it can greatly contribute to customized training out of an individual student’s learning style.
Students with an auditory learning style will then have a supplementary teaching at home based on videos, with the addition to reading textbooks and homework as in the traditional teaching.
It might seem as if the technology is becoming more invisible and less disruptive in students’ learning situation. Based on our studies, we can observe that nowadays students are experiencing less technical problems with the videos used in the class.
The low technological threshold means that teachers can easily start producing video as teaching material. We find that the educational potential will offset the use of time and resources. Certainly, a combination of the use of video and traditional teaching would be appreciated by students.
Based on your research, would you consider that there is a difference regarding the attention span of a student, between using a book and watching a video?
Since the students are in the driver’s seat and they can determinate speed, time and space for the learning activity, I think this could provide a better learning than if they were by themselves and just listening to a lecture. At the same time, they also have the opportunity to discuss themes and cases in groups. We also discovered from our study that, for the most, there are no changes in students’ work habits. For instance, they still study at home, as they did in the past with the traditional teaching, based on books and notes. Based on our research, regarding the patterns on home study, we see no difference accounting for gender and age.
Do you consider that any subjects could be taught with the use of a video, and have the same level of impact of understanding with the students?
I see the “how to do” subjects and themes work well as video lectures. At the same time, any other subject you can present orally, you could easily make in video form. I strongly believe that all kinds of one-way communication could definitely be a subject for a video.
An interesting aspect of our research was that the length of video was not seen as relevant. Almost four out of five students thought that length of the videos for their courses was the right length. This is remarkable, when we know that the length could vary from 2 minutes up to 45 minutes in the same course!
Supply of equipment and accessibility increased dramatically. At the same time, the threshold for creating video has diminished. Why not make your lessons available for your students when and where they want?