Table of contents
Did you know that you engaged in e-learning today? When? When you read this sentence. You learned something, and you did it online. That's online learning and has been happening since the dawn of the internet. But the e-learning that involves grading and certification became a thing only because of video technology.
In this article, you'll learn that e-learning is much more than Zoom classes. Most online education happens because of recorded learning materials. And by the end of this post, you'll understand why that's a good thing. You'll discover the benefits as well as the drawbacks of video-driven education, among other things. So, let's get started!
E-Learning and Video Content: A brief overview
E-learning refers to any education received online. Recently, it has become synonymous with remote education. While anything you learn, even via YouTube, can be viewed as e-learning, the term is used more often for formal education.
In both formal and casual education, video content has taken over literature. The seeds of this were sowed by CliffNotes and Khan Academy way back in the dawn of the internet. When students started getting their notes online, the internet became inseparable from education.
Then, most journals became digitized and available online. E-learning had cemented its place within the traditional education sphere. Khan Academy began with the founder, Sal Khan, tutoring one of his relatives remotely. When more relatives started asking for lessons for their kids, he decided to record his sessions.
In 2006, Khan Academy was brought into existence as one of the earlier providers of educational video content. With students supplementing their education via online platforms, remote education seemed like a no-brainer. However, it took over 14 years for remote education to become common.
In 2020, schools had to abide by their respective cities' lockdown protocols. They all resorted to Zoom classes and other online media. This was an interesting flip of the traditional "teacher playing a YouTube video for the class" model. Now, the teacher was the YouTube video.
E-learning experienced a boom thanks to a gallery of factors, including mandated lockdowns, improvements in internet speed, and widespread internet access alongside the most important aspect: video.
Advantages of Video Content in E-learning
The advantages of video content are obvious from the fact that in its absence, e-learning would not exist as we know it. Coursera, SkillShare, and Khan Academy are just some of the resources that offer educational video content. Live video is important for online schools, but for education in general, recorded lectures, seminars, and tutorials are far more beneficial. Here's why:
Video content is scalable - You can give one live lecture at a time. But with a pre-recorded video, you can deliver one lecture a hundred times.
Video content can be viewed at a different pace - Students vary in their pace of learning. Video content allows slower learners to pause and replay.
Video content can be subtitled - Live professors don't come with subtitles. Whether you use an auto-captioning engine like ContentFries or have it transcribed manually, using captions in educational video content is a good idea.
Video content supports audiovisual learners - Those who cannot absorb information by reading can use video content.
That last advantage is crucial because engagement is necessary for any kind of education. One cannot teach a disengaged audience. Unfortunately, traditional classrooms are not very engaging. But in some cases, neither is video.
Disadvantages of Video Content in E-Learning
If you see video as a replacement for text, then it is definitely an engagement upgrade. But if you look at it as a replacement for live education, then you’ll find that video content isn’t the most engaging form of education.
Less engaging than active learning - Pre-recorded video is not as engaging as live video. And in many cases, in-person engagement is far better than all online modes.
Harder to monitor engagement - In e-learning, it can be pretty hard for teachers to assess how engaged students are. And feedback is necessary for improvement.
Eye problems - Excessive video consumption can cause eye strain. Moreover, blue light exposure from one's screen can also disturb one's sleep.
Isolation - If students get all their education from instructors they cannot engage with, and alongside students they can meet, they can become isolated.
Online learning and engagement
By now, you can tell that engagement is crucial for education. And while videos are more engaging than textbooks, video content doesn't eclipse live tutor interaction, at least in terms of coerced engagement. So, how do online schools make e-learning more engaging?
Instructors + Video
Online schools offer live sessions alongside pre-recorded ones. This gives students a social experience and helps them engage with their learning materials. Also, many teachers play small videos and clips before adding their commentary and explanation. This change of visuals can be quite engaging.
Ideally, teachers should not expect students to watch over 4 minutes of pre-recorded content. Live sessions are different because students know that they are watching a person and not the captured image of one. More importantly, they can ask questions.
Scripting and Storyboarding
The next thing that schools can do but aren't really doing is scripting and storyboarding their education materials. Commercial entities like Masterclass are motivated to sell their educational material as a form of entertainment. That's why their videos are shorter, well-scripted, and with distinct set design and visuals.
Compare that to the average online school's materials, and you can see that schools are not doing the best they could for their video content quality. They don't need a large budget that dwarfs that of Masterclass. They can just follow these practices:
Think in clips - When you're educating a generation that consumes clips and shortform content, you have to be precise. The lessons themselves don't need to be in the form of clips, but they must be paced for shorter attention spans.
Make video lessons more dynamic - Changing locations, well-edited visuals, and passionate delivery can go a long way.
Change locations - Even within the same classroom, the teacher can create eye-catching variety by filming parts of the lecture in different areas of the class.
Caption the videos - Content captioning was out of the reach of small schools back when manual transcription was required. Now, even a private tutor can get his videos captioned with AI using ContentFries. There’s no reason why online schools wouldn’t do it.
Pre-script lessons - In the online sphere, your primary competitors are TikTok, Snapchat, and Netflix. When you’re competing with entertainment, you better become entertainment. Teachers need to start scripting lessons to avoid repetition and disengagement.
Use analogies - When writing the script for a video lesson, the tutor can use lively and engaging analogies so that the students are hooked.
Of course, the analogies and the content itself need to be familiar. And that is tricky because video content is consumed by a far wider audience than a traditional lesson. You can reliably reference a local custom in a physical classroom because you know that everyone is aware of it.
But when you script a video lesson, you must remember that obscure references need to be explained. After all, there might be someone in India or Lebanon learning from your video, which was filmed in America.
Video Content in E-Education
The prospect of someone from Lebanon getting an American education might have seemed far off. But now, Harvard and other Ivy League Universities have started offering remote enrollment and education. Private online schools target foreign territories with their marketing materials.
But no school's marketing budget and no Ivy League University has attracted as many individuals to online education as YouTube.
YouTube has revolutionized e-learning by removing the most resistance-producing step of the process: enrollment. On YouTube, you can learn about tractors, plumbing, and rocket science without signing up for any formal course.
Channels on YouTube offer five kinds of educational videos:
Recordings of classes - Many lecturers publish the entire videos of their lectures online. Jordan Peterson was one of these lecturers, and his content helped him become the thought leader he is today.
Video Essay - High-quality scriptwriting and the improvements in fair stock footage quality have led to the rise of essay-style thought pieces in the video format.
Practical tutorial - These have been on YouTube for as long as YouTube has been around.
Audiobooks and Book Summaries - Books have found a way to dominate the educational side of YouTube.
Talks - TED Talks and similar channels are among the most-viewed ones in this space.
Documentaries - There are millions of high-quality documentaries on YouTube. Yes, millions!
This boom in educational content owes a lot to technological progress. Smartphones have revolutionized e-learning by making everyone a potential consumer as well as an educator of educational content. But that's e-education, not e-schooling. When it comes to the rise of remote schools, something else gets the credit.
Assessment Technology and E-learning
E-learning's rise, especially in the context of schools, comes from the availability of remote assessment methods. In the presence of Google, no quizzing should be possible. But browser locking and student monitoring technology have made it harder to cheat online tests than physical ones.
You might think that browser-locking extensions and keyboard monitoring have little to do with video content. However it is this assessment technology that drives up the value of video education.
Educators can’t even tell if video content is working as an educational tool until they test their students.
Many videos are licensed from the organizations that produce them. Others are purchased for a lot of cash. None of these costs can be justified by the assumption that educational content is working.
Fortunately, remote assessment methods like live quizzes, vivas, and plagiarism checkers have made the quantification of results possible. And the results are in.
Does Video Content work for e-learning?
A researcher found that students who engage in e-learning get better grades than those who attend traditional seminars. In the kind of learning she investigated, video was a prominent mode of communication. But these videos were supplemented with live, albeit online, interaction.
So, video content works for e-learning as long as the student is actively engaging with his learning materials. This engagement can be due to the live nature of a lecture or the student’s own motivation.
These findings, as well as market feedback, have started nudging many in the direction of online workshops.
Online workshops use pre-recorded videos, live presentations, and assessments in small but impactful sessions. These collaborative learning experiences are far more engaging than passive consumption of pre-recorded video.
More importantly, they are better personalized and make the viewer feel like a part of something. Idle viewership misses the community aspect that can be crucial for education.
Not all teachers need to turn into workshop leaders. Lectures, seminars, and workshops all have their place in academia. In corporate training and non-academic contexts, workshops might become the sole training method. But while universities, colleges, and schools exist, the need for long lectures is present.
So, how can teachers make their video classes more engaging? By stealing the following tricks from workshops:
Crunch your lessons into shorter segments - Remember that attention spans are shrinking, and if you don't segment your video content, then you don't have e-learning content. You have e-boring content.
Use visuals and outperform workshops - Workshop leads use visuals, but video teachers can do one better. They can use animated visuals, video clip cut-ins, etc., to make their content far more engaging.
Use examples after each lesson - Examples can help your students understand abstract concepts better.
Use “if” and “then” style assessment - “Pick a number between 1 and 3. If you picked ‘1,’ you’re elusive. And if you picked ‘3,’ you’re an optimist.” This is an example of an engaging self-assessment that delivers the result in the absence of a live teacher. It engages the viewer and then lets him assess himself.
When in doubt, go multimedia - Use a variety of formats, including PDF supplements, live chat, and embedded student forums to make your pre-recorded classes more interesting.
The globalization of e-learning with video content
As a result of video classes’ scalability and e-learning’s feasibility, this type of education is getting international acclaim and attention. Video content has made online education truly global.
This is why teachers have to be mindful of cultural considerations when addressing an online class. Lectures recorded for an American audience exclusively might be repurposed for an Arab audience later.
Grant Cardone used to offer Cardone University classes (sales training) to businesses only. Once his brand started growing and receiving international attention, he repurposed his Sales University sessions into YouTube videos.
Today, entire platforms like ContentFries exist to help educators turn their long lectures into digestible clips. This has become a massive contributor to the growth and expansion of online education.
The production quality of online education content has improved considerably:
There are multiple Learning Management Systems (LMS) that combine education and assessments for grading purposes.
E-learning programs are being accepted by Education Ministries in developed and developing nations.
VR in E-Learning: Just around the corner
As online schools get legitimized with every passing day, futurists have their eye on the next horizon: VR learning. 360 videos like the one below make it possible for remote viewers to immerse themselves in a classroom environment.
The technology is there for VR classes, but the economy isn't. And just like smartphones' popularity drove up the reach of online education, VR headsets' availability will make VR classes the next semi-norm.
The VR learning environment will offer unique advantages that classic online learning doesn't. It will be more engaging and easy to monitor. Moreover, students will be less likely to get distracted during class.
By then, VR headsets and technology, in general, might improve even more. If advancements in VR make it possible for educators to gamify e-learning, the education level of our entire species might rise.
Wordle, a word game that improves users' vocabulary and deductive reasoning, has over three million active users. This shows that humans are not allergic to education. They're simply aversive to the education methods employed in modern classrooms.
Video-based gamification of online learning in VR or standard online learning experiences can definitely make e-learning more popular than traditional education.
Not only is this type of education more immersive and engaging, but it is also more up-to-date. Videos are easier to update than textbooks. So, those who take part in VR classes or any avant-garde style of education are more likely to benefit from the recency of their learning materials.
Beyond Lessons: Challenges and Remedies
Video-driven e-learning has immense potential. But it is far from solving humanity's knowledge problem. From screen exposure to student isolation, online education comes with a host of problems. And these challenges need to be acknowledged before they are remedied.
Student isolation - Students can feel isolated if they don’t meet their peers in person. This can affect their social intelligence adversely.
Excessive screen time - Screen time can affect focus, which is the one thing students need more of.
Distractions - Online gadgets used to consume educational content are filled with distractions.
Lack of oversight - Teachers can’t really monitor their students remotely. And even if they do, there’s not much they can do with that information.
Home environment impact - A student’s home environment might not be suitable for education.
Fortunately, remedies for many of these problems exist. Parents can resort to solutions like:
Emphasis on in-person socialization - School friends don't need to be a child's only friends. Neighbors and family friends can offer the much-needed in-person social experience.
Limiting screen time - Switching between video and audio can help reduce screen time without sacrificing education.
Using blue light blocking technology - Glasses that block blue light can help students focus.
Employing digital wellness apps - These apps can prevent notifications from distracting learners.
Using better headphones - Noise-cancelling headphones can eliminate auditory distractions.
Video is a powerful vehicle for education, and its prominence in e-learning proves how engaging it is compared to traditional methods. However, attention spans are decreasing while online entertainment options are increasing. At this point, teachers should start thinking about their lectures like Youtubers think about their videos. They need to come up with ideas, pen scripts, and deliver their lectures with the right energy. Above all, and this cannot be emphasized enough, they should be ready to repurpose their content for social media.
And speaking of repurposing, you have to try out ContentFries for free and see how your lecture recordings can turn into 36+ pieces of content in a matter of minutes.