Principles and Guidelines for Maximizing Student Learning from Video Content

Effective use of video as an educational tool is enhanced when instructors consider three elements: how to manage cognitive load of the video; how to maximize student engagement with the video; and how to promote active learning from the video. Video has become an important part of higher education. It is integrated as part of traditional courses, serves as a cornerstone of many blended courses, and is often the main information-delivery mechanism in online courses. Several meta-analyses have shown that technology can enhance learning (e.g., Means et al., 2010 blue right-pointing triangle; Schmid et al., 2014 blue right-pointing triangle), and multiple studies have shown that video, specifically, can be a highly effective educational tool (e.g., Allen and Smith, 2012 blue right-pointing triangle; Kay, 2012 blue right-pointing triangle; Lloyd and Robertson, 2012 blue right-pointing triangle; Rackaway, 2012 blue right-pointing triangle; Hsin and Cigas, 2013 blue right-pointing triangle; Stockwell et al., 2015 blue right-pointing triangle). Video may have particular value for student preparation in biology classes, in part because students may find it more engaging (Stockwell et al., 2015 blue right-pointing triangle) and because it can be well suited to illuminating the abstract or hard-to-visualize phenomena that are the focus of so many biology classes (e.g., Dash et al., 2016 blue right-pointing triangle; see Video Views and Reviews features in CBE—Life Sciences Education for other examples). The medium is not inherently effective, however; Guo et al. (2014) blue right-pointing triangle have shown that students often disregard large segments of educational videos, while MacHardy and Pardos (2015) blue right-pointing triangle demonstrate that some videos contribute little to student performance. One of the primary considerations when constructing educational materials, including video, is cognitive load. Cognitive load theory, initially articulated by Sweller (1988 blue right-pointing triangle, 1989 blue right-pointing triangle, 1994 blue right-pointing triangle), suggests that memory has several components. Sensory memory is transient, collecting information from the environment. Information from sensory memory may be selected for temporary storage and processing in working memory, which has very limited capacity. This processing is a prerequisite for encoding into long-term memory, which has virtually unlimited capacity. Because working memory is very limited, the learner must be selective about what information from sensory memory to pay attention to during the learning process, an observation that has important implications for creating educational materials.