Education videos: Ten ways to use them well

Why use video resources? In 1983 Howard Gardner proposed the theory of multiple intelligences.  The idea has developed into a general understanding that students learn in different ways. Some learn best through listening; some by touching and others need visual stimuli, e.g. video resources.  Over the years the theory has come under scrutiny by many. However, one important premise that educators have taken from this idea is that we need to vary our teaching styles and incorporate a range of delivery methods into our pedagogy. Gone are the days of thinking that all students learn in the same way and that ‘one size fits all’. No matter how enigmatic a lecturer, it is difficult to engage a theatre full of students for 90 minutes, purely by talking at them.

Whether you are a digital immigrant or a digital native there are plenty of ways to incorporate technology into teaching in order to make lectures a more engaging and beneficial experience for students. Using educational videos are a simple place to start.

  1. Choose your video resources wisely.

    The selection of educational video resources available is astronomical. Pick any subject area and you are sure to find a plethora of video content accessible, ranging from home videos on YouTube to professional programmes on sites such as BBC Active. Therefore, it is vital to spend time prior to the lecture watching a range of educational videos/clips, in order to find the one that best fits its intended purpose.  

  2. The ethical issue. There are a huge amount of educational video resources available to download on the internet. However, it is important as educators that we instill in our students a respect for other people’s property. We spend time warning students about the ethical implications of plagiarism, so it is imperative that we make sure that we reference where the video resource and educational clips have come from, just as we would reference a book or journal. Remember that a number of videos available online have copyright restrictions placed on them. It is vital that you check these out before downloading them and showing them to your students. Some sites, e.g. the BBC Schools Website, allow significant freedom regarding the copying and use of website materials, but don't assume that such freedom applies to all sites and all materials found on the web. For more information on copyright law check out

  3. Spend time introducing the video resource. It is imperative to spend time introducing the educational video resource/clip before the viewing. Introduce students to some of the key topics that will be discussed in the resource and highlight the areas that you want to draw their attention. This way they will be focused on the relevant information when watching the video.  

  4. Keep it short. There has been a lot of research conducted that has shown that the average attention span lasts anywhere from 7 – 15 minutes. Therefore, it is a good idea to show the educational video in short-bursts (clips), rather than screening an entire film in one go. This allows time to be spent on both the introduction of the topic (prior to the viewing) and the dissemination of the key points (post-viewing). You will find that by taking one or two short sequences you can actually cover more ground, in more depth, than by showing the whole programme without a break. The video resources should be used to illustrate the points that you are making, in a similar way that you would use a photograph, e.g. to illustrate what you are talking about.  

  5. Make students work while they watch.

    It is a good idea to set some questions so that students are engaged when they are watching the educational clips and are not simply passively viewing. For example, whilst watching an educational video on earthquakes you may set questions such as; Name the two types of lithospheres that make up tectonic plates? Give an example of a transform boundary exhibiting dextral motion as discussed in the video? This makes sure that students are concentrating on the areas of importance and remain focussed throughout.  

  6. Allow time for students to reflect on what they have seen.

    Picking up from the previous point it is important to allow students to reflect on what they have seen. This can happen in a number of ways; for example completing set questions or discussing key points in small groups and eventually feeding back what they have discussed to the rest of the class. 

  7. Technical quality is important.

    Make sure playback facilities are available in the lecture theatre or learning centre (and are working). Other areas to consider are whether the screen size is adequate for the number of students? Can you lower the lights near the screen? Is the sound clear enough? The payoff for downloading video resources from the Internet for free is often the quality of the resource. With educational resources that are bought through reputable distributers you avoid such problems and are guaranteed a professional product.  

  8. Used as a refresher.

    The great thing about video is that it can be watched over and over again for revision. Sites such as BBC Active can arrange digital licenses to be purchased, which allows educational videos to be placed online and onto the organisation’s VLE. This allows students to watch the educational video in their own time and means that you don’t have to show the video in its entirety during the lecture.

  9. Extension work.

    A well-chosen video resource is better than text for stimulating a structured discussion, and it can make more efficient use of classroom time. Creating a blog and placing it alongside the educational video on the VLE can continue discussions and conversations from the classroom and it can also draw in comments from less vocal students.

  10. To avoid stress

    Make sure that the equipment is checked prior to the lecture in order to avoid the stress of wondering whether it will work or not. There is nothing worse than pressing play and being met with a blank screen and a theatre of full of expectant eyes. It is also worth making sure that you have something prepared just in case (on the rare occasion) that the technology fails and that you have something to fill in the gaps. 

    Educational video resources are a great way to add visual stimuli to your lectures. They should always be used as an extension of the lecture and not as a replacement. When used properly they can help to heighten the educational experience for students and raise the level of engagement and achievement during lectures.  

    BBC Active provide BBC video for educational and training purposes.