This week I’m finally getting back to my blog after a bit of a break. I’ve been busily planning for fall courses, finishing up a summer course I’m teaching, beginning a new elearning course as part of my E-learning certificate program through OSU, and working on a podcast to connect veterans with transition resources. Somewhere between it all I’ve managed to get some outside hiking time with my girlfriend, which is the only way I can manage to stay somewhat sane with the amount of online work I’m doing. I’ve been very productive lately, but I’m definitely missing my usual summer naturalist guiding job in Alaska and the respite from technology it brings.
I’m not sure where I first came across Karen Costa’s book, perhaps it was through the YouTube channel of Michael Wesch, whose videos I find both inspirational and instructional. I think he mentioned this book in one of his videos, and in my quest to humanize my online course that I’m teaching over the summer, this book along with Wesch’s videos as exemplars has turned out to be my go-to guide.
One of the obstacles I think myself and many other teachers face when they consider using videos in their courses is what kind of persona they will create and how they will be perceived by students. I’m sure that just about every teacher has used a Youtube video to supplement their courses at some point. I know that when I’ve chosen to integrate videos, I often look for highly polished and professional videos, ones that are likely created with expensive video production hardware and software. I have made these choices because I want students to feel like I’m giving them a quality resource and experience that is worthy of their time. I think when educators make these choices though, there is an unconscious tendency towards finding these type of highly produced videos more valuable than what you might get if you grabbed your smartphone and just started recording. This is where I see this book as a valuable resource for teachers preparing for fall. ‘Simple and sustainable’ are two guiding principles that Karen Costa uses in selecting her tips for using educational videos, which I think is the just-in-time approach we all need in advance of fall, regardless what our individual instructional scenarios may be.
Costa considers these obstacles that instructors face in creating videos in the first section of her book, titled ‘Why videos will work for you and your students.” Her first 9 tips in this section are devoted to making the case to teachers for the purpose and use of videos in the classroom. Tips like “building relationships with your students, expanding students’ self-efficacy and increasing comprehension of course concepts” provide the rationale for the practices in the later sections of the book. In a sense, this is the winning the hearts and minds of instructors section of the book, which when getting teachers to be on board with implementing technology in their courses, is an often overlooked principle.
In the second section of the book, “aligning video content with instructional goals,” Costa balances the focus on using video for student learning while not forgetting the importance of the humanizing element and faculty success. Her refrain throughout this section, and much of the book for that matter, is that faculty need to see video creation as a very personal process, one that is unique to the needs, context, instructor’s personality, discipline and course modality. Tip #12, for example, is “Show your humanity,” which, like Costa, is a practice that I’ve identified as one of my video creation goals for my summer course I’m currently teaching and for the fall as well. The choice of this as one of my video creation goals is also born out of my realization that most of my courses were severely lacking in the humanizing aspect when we pivoted online in the spring.
Embracing this as a goal with this reassurance from Costa has given me permission to be okay with creating a video with my iPhone as I’m taking a walk through my neighborhood. It is shaky at times and not overly edited, chalked full of ums and misspoken phrases, but it aligns with my goal of humanizing my course, so I’ve come to terms with it. My students have also mentioned that they really like these videos. So this seems to be aligning to ‘tip 16: get their attention,’ which when you consider the effect a pandemic has on students, teachers need to be finding ways to, as Costa notes, “activate students’ prior background knowledge on a topic and [that] will keep their attention focused on the work to come.” These interest-driving videos have been both fun to create and helpful to my own weekly module design because they help me determine a focus for the week ahead and see how I view that week fitting into the overall picture of the course. This past week I recorded my first video while driving my car, which was a first (Michael Wesch gave me this idea). These student-interest capturing videos are sustainable because I can create them while I walk through my neighborhood on a break from my work and they take little editing time.
In the third section of the book, guiding theories and research are addressed. What surprised me by Costa’s selection of theoretical backing for using videos was the range of perspectives. Unlike a lot of instructional design informed work I read, this section was informed by a diverse variety of ideas, from emotional impacts, aesthetics, to neuroscience.
Section 4 looks at discovering the best videos that will work for you. This section begins with tip: 35 Keep It Simple and concluded by discussing the use of screencasts. Again, what sets this book apart from others is that it is personal and meets teachers where they are at.
Section 5 was one that I really found helpful, as it discusses video timing and course placement. Conceptually, this is something I’ve struggled with since I began my journey with videos, so seeing options from Tip 42: Use Course Announcements to Tip: 46 Try On-The-Fly Videos gave me much more flexibility and options for how I consider where my videos fit within the bigger picture of my courses.
There are a total of 12 sections, many more than I can discuss my thoughts on in this post. I hope in the discussion of this book it is clear what a valuable resource this is for not only instructors, but instructional designers as well. For anyone looking to expand their views of how they approach videos in their course design and delivery, this book is a must have.