Increase Student Engagement with Video Assignments

By Amy Erickson

Visible Learning
In the January edition of The Online Classroom, Robert Talbert offers several compelling reasons for using video assignments in the online classroom. Instead of submitting a sheet of paper with answers, Talbert’s students video themselves working through the math problems, demonstrating how they arrived at an answer. Showing the process in action allows a professor to pinpoint and address exact areas of confusion. In addition to ensuring original work, Talbert (2017) also noted that video assignments improved effort level, created a strong online community, and generated a repository of helpful videos for future learners.

Effort Level
Talbert (2017) requires that students show their face and their work at all times when creating video assignments. This not only ensures original work, but also encourages students to put more time and effort into their work. The video assignment demands organization and preparation; two things that may not go into an assignment if it is simply being submitted to the grade book. Talbert noted that “Students engage in significantly more detailed preparation for making a video than they would for writing up a homework set” (para. 8). He and his colleague using video assignments also found that students spent more time “monitoring and reflecting” on their work than previous students (Talbert, 2017, para. 8).  Talbert (2017) adds another element to the assignment requirements that appears to further encourage students to increase their effort level: the videos are made available to everyone in the classroom.  That ought to do it. Students don’t want to look foolish or ill-prepared in front of their peers, and professors don’t want to grade material where little to no effort has been demonstrated. Win-win.

Creating a Community
A colleague of mine was frustrated by students not making changes between rough drafts and final papers. She decided to give video feedback to her students for a term and see if it had an impact on the final drafts. She was amazed. She was uncertain of the exact reason for the change, but felt that inviting students into her home via a camera made the feedback more intimate and personal.  Talbert had a similar experience with his students. “As the course unfolded and the videos rolled in, we got to know each other through verbal styles, organizational tendencies, the decor of one person’s living room, or the shape of another person’s handwriting. The class began to be a learning community rather than a list of names” (Talbert, 2017, para. 5).

Repository of Learning Materials
Talbert (2017) created an unlisted You Tube site where students could upload their weekly assignment videos for the class to see.  (By making the site unlisted, instead of public, only students from the class were able to view the material.) This site wound up being a great place to revisit if students were confused or wanted to review material before an exam (Talbert, 2017, para. 6).  Knowing that course materials were continually accessible via a website may have also put students at ease and could have taken some of the guesswork out of exam preparation.

How Can I Use Video Assignments?
It is easy to see how a math professor would find value in video assignments, but I believe every professor wants to create community, encourage student effort, and provide helpful resources. With that in mind, I’ve listed a few ideas here for using video assignments to augment the classroom.

Video introductions may be a fun way to create a strong sense of community at the start of a class.  Students in my literature courses have uploaded videos of themselves reciting original poetry or explaining a Wordle they created to accompany a poem, play or short story.  Perhaps psychology students could create an infographic to map out weekly concepts. Nursing students could develop and discuss a checklist to use before a procedure. History students could create a virtual timeline where specific events could be highlighted and examined. Screener, Screncast-o-matic, and Jing are just a few of the resources one can use to create videos. Next week, I will explore and discuss a few more.

If you have used innovative video assignments or know of helpful video resources, please consider reaching out to me so I can share your successes in an upcoming article.

Talbert, R. (2017, January). Making learning visible with video assessment. Online Classroom. Retrieved January 5, 2017 from