Instructional Video: the theory and purpose

Written by Steven Kolber

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Instructional Video provides unique affordances, or possibilities, that can shift teaching and learning from the page onto the webpage and allows students to become more empowered and independent as a result. Note, it makes no suggestion that students will be willing to make these changes, yet, as modern teachers I feel we ought to prepare students for the wider world and model our own practice on that practised beyond the world of compulsory schooling.

James Paul Gee (2003) provides distinctive suggestions about how Game-based learning involves a much higher expectation of its users than the majority of compulsory schooling which lends itself best to high-stakes testing rather than deep and authentic learning. Whilst the instructional video that we as teachers produce may not be more than online versions of Direct Instruction, by providing this content to, not only our student, but also the world’s students mirrors our expectations of our students as globally connected citizens.

A very useful theory to explore the benefits of Instructional Video is through the ways that it ‘affords’ teachers and students new possibilities when compared to a more traditional and technologically lacking classroom. Cope and Kalantzis (2009), out of College of Education at Illinois, have proposed the 7 ‘e-affordances in eLearning’ that outlines the following elements which I will link to the possibilities of Instructional Video:

1.     Ubiquitous learning

By making instructional video widely and publicly available you allow your students the ability to watch, replay and revise key concepts consistent with retrieval-based approaches to learning (Karpicke, 2012; Karpicke & Grimaldi, 2012).

2.     Active knowledge making

By making videos for students you not only provide them ever-accessible content, but also a model for their own video production. Further, by freeing up some of your own instructional time you are freed up to allow students to engage more freely and actively with their learning and explore new possibilities for learning pedagogies as a result of the time freed up.

3.     Multimodal meaning

A particular passion of mine is the way that multimodal content allows for greater accessibility for students, for example videos provide transcripts and captioning services that allow a broader range of students to access this content.

4.     Recursive feedback

Using audio, and more rarely video, feedback allows students to have, in theory, instant recursive feedback that can guide their thinking. Similarly, the comments section of videos allows students to engage with one another and the teacher to clarify key concepts and ideas.

5.     Collaborative intelligence

As something of a sidenote, what I have enjoyed witnessing, is seeing students work together to create a piece of knowledge of shared utility to them. As an example, there are a number of audiobooks on YouTube that students are actively time-stamping for chapters, key quotes and sections to allow one another to share their knowledge and support one another through their explorations of the texts for their study.

6.     Metacognition

Having students share experiences engaging with videos frees you up to ask students to explore and challenge misunderstandings of their own and discuss different approaches they have taken to engaging with that content.

7.     Differentiated learning

The very concept of differentiation (Subban, 2006; Tomlinson, 2000) is something that is often contested by teachers and researchers as difficult or impossible to achieve (Brighton & Hertberg & Moon & Tomlinson & Callahan, 2005). This is in part due to the manner that differentiation places a burden of time and preparation upon teachers, this is something that cannot be overlooked in regard to instructional video. Whilst, I can attest to the fact that differentiated learning is possible when used in parallel with instructional video, caution must always be considered in terms of the time required to achieve these dual goals.

I believe that ‘the seven affordances of eLearning’ are a productive way to approach eLearning and in this case instructional video in the way that it supports the different possibilities and opportunities for both teachers and students and serves as a useful heuristic for the presentation I will make at the National Education Summit (Jeon & Hmelo-Silver, 2016 & Mastroianni, 2015). 

Moving from a traditional classroom towards Active Learning

Whilst it is beyond the scope of my presentation and therefore this blog post, it is worth noting that I see the ultimate goal of instructional video production as a pedagogical approach known as Flipped Learning (Atkinson, 2002; Atkinson, Derry, Renkl & Wortham, 2000; Bhagat, Change & Change, 2000; Bishop & Verleger, 2013; Foldnes, 2016; Lo & Hew, 2017). Whilst I don’t claim to be a fully-Flipped educator, I firmly believe that the idea has great utility in schools, you can read more about the research basis behind this idea, from an earlier blog of mine here: . Yet it is sufficient to say that the research basis for Flipped Learning is generally positive, but in regards to the quality of the research basis it is emerging rather than clearly established (Cheng & Antonenko, 2018). The creation of International Standards for Flipped learning, accessible here:, will likely serve to clarify what is and what is not Flipped Learning, thus allowing a maturing and clarification of the extant research on the topic. If you are interested in exploring Flipped Learning as a concept I would highly recommend the online training available through Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI): who I claim as singlehandedly responsible for rapid development in my own understanding of and teaching practice. 

If you are interested in producing instructional video and are interested in exploring a range of means of doing so, come to one of my two sessions at the Digital Classroom Conference at the National Education Summit Melbourne on 30 and 31 August 2019, I’d love to see you there.  


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