Video sharing in education: revolution or hype?

To put it mildly, there are some very significant claims being made about the impact of video sharing from credible sources. Concluding Sal Khan’s TED talk, Bill Gates, one of the most influential men in the world, commented, “I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education.” (Khan, 2011)

But how justified are these claims?

The use of video content in education has taken place for decades (Wheeler, 2012), but technology has recently made video immeasurably easier to create and share over the internet. Until recently download speeds did not allow for much internet distribution of video content (Kay, 2012). However, 2005 marked a major “tipping point” in the popular use of video sharing, seeing the spread of the first ever “viral video”, Gary Brolsma’s (2004) “Numa Numa” act, followed a few months later by the launch of YouTube, which rapidly became by far the world’s biggest video sharing site (Wesch, 2008).

Use of video has now become common in many educational contexts, including higher education generally (Kay, 2012), schools (seen in the experience of my own children and those of friends) and professional education for exams (based on my experience). This can involve using publicly-available videos on YouTube or creating bespoke videos, which can be achieved fairly easily by use of software such as Camtasia (e.g. Kay and Kletskin, 2012, and own experience).

The review in Kay (2012) generally assumes that video is a supplement to classroom teaching, but recently a number of organisations have been launched which promote video as a potential alternative to classroom instruction, although also useable as a supplement (Faviero, 2012).

Video-sharing is relatively new and so limited research is available. For the reason, the scope of this assessment is broad, including schools, higher education and professional education. Video sharing has definitely also had an impact on corporate training, notably with BT’s “Dare to Share” project (Overton, 2009), but this has been excluded from the current review.


There is widespread evidence that video, when used well, can be more engaging, enjoyable and motivating than other educational tools (Kay, 2012). This is borne out in discussions I have been part of during my studies. This is not the same as learning effectiveness, however we define it, but making education more enjoyable is presumably a good aim in itself. I would certainly say from my experience that two of the most engaging and memorable activities in the module have been video-based. A number of us commented in relation to one specific activity involving a journal article and video interview covering similar ground that the video was more accessible and valuable.

The complexities involved mean that it is hard to design tests which measure how much is retained from video, but one study showed that, in dealing with the correct application of sunscreen, video instruction led to statistically-measurable better knowledge when tested than a pamphlet, as well as being more enjoyable (Armstrong et al, 2011). This finding is not universal however – Hill & Nelson (2011) noted that, although students reported enjoying the use of video, it made no noticeable difference to academic results.

Another advantage of video is that it puts the student in control of when and where they access the information, and allows them to repeat all or part of the learning as needed (Hill & Nelson, 2011). This ability to repeat learning means that video can be used as a way of “catching up” with classes that have been missed, which is one of the ways we used the video content which I am involved in preparing.

Some people have seen the potential of video to widen access to education. In her TED talk, Koller (2012) positioned this as the key advantage of education via video. Similar visions are driving other start-ups – Khan Academy, Udacity and edX, although their business models vary (Faviero, 2012).

One approach which video makes possible is the idea of the “Flipped Classroom”. The idea is that instruction, which has traditionally happened in class, takes place via video and problem-solving, which has traditionally happened as homework, takes place in class. This can be seen as a better use of teacher time than broadcasting information (Bergmann et al, 2011). A number of American school districts are using Khan Academy videos as part of flipped classroom approach and, although it is very early days, there is some evidence that it can improve test results and student and teacher engagement (Kronholz, 2012, Blend My Learning, 2012)

Finally, an advantage sometime linked to the flipped classroom is that fact that, if video is combined with online tests, it can generate data which can then be extremely helpful in determining educational approaches. As one teacher explained, “I’m getting data in real time about each student instead of assuming the entire class needs intervention” (quoted in Kronholz, 2012).

Both Khan (2011) and Koller (2012) make the point that education at present makes very little use of data, compared with, say, medicine. This is partly because of difficulties in gathering useable data. But video instruction, combined with online testing, can change this. Khan illustrated his point with a graph showing the uneven progression of students using his materials. Assessing students at fixed points may lead to some being labelled “gifted” and others “slow” simply due to a “coincidence of time”, when in reality they are simply progressing at different speeds. Use of video, combined with other tools, can open up new possibilities for data-driven, and student-centred, forms of education.


When this issue was discussed in our course forum, it was clear that different people have different preferences, with some negative views. This suggests that, although video may be valuable for many learners, others will have trouble engaging with it. In my own organisation, we have made recorded lectures available covering the same material as our classes and yet many students prefer to attend a physical class, even at extra cost. Clearly, many students find a live classroom more engaging.

A second issue is that accessibility will be limited by access to technology, including an adequate internet connection. Kay (2012) found that technology issues were the main reason cited in studies for not using video podcasts. Wheeler (2012) expresses concerns about students who cannot afford the necessary technology, or have visual impairments. The schools reviewed by Kronholz (2012) provided a laptop for each child but this will not be affordable for most schools around the world.

Thirdly, there is some evidence that video is more suited to knowledge-based learning rather than deeper understanding (Hill & Nelson, 2011). Studies suggesting that video instruction is effective tend to focus on basic knowledge, easily assessed via standardised tests. It is much harder to demonstrate, or argue, that video content can facilitate deeper forms of learning. This is one of the reasons for Wheeler’s (2012) scepticism:

“I used to jump all over lecturers who, when they had nothing better to speak about, decided to ‘put on a video.’ It made no sense then to simply cop out and fill time by showing a video, when a well considered discussion session on a thorny topic was much better at getting the synapses sparking.”

Wheeler’s fundamental concern is that video can be seen as a cheap way of replacing other, more valuable approaches.

Fourth, because it can be very powerful, video can also be a manipulative way of delivering content. In our discussion of Wesch’s (2007) video, we felt that the very power of the video could lead to manipulation. It is important to be aware of this sort of manipulation and avoid being drawn into it too easily.

In the next blog post, I will review some suggested best practices for video sharing in education.


Armstrong, A., Idriss, N. & Kim, R. (2011) ‘Effects of video-based, online education on behavioral and knowledge outcomes in sunscreen use: A randomized controlled trial’, Patient Education & Counseling, vol.83, pp.273-277.

Bergmann, J., Overmyer, J. & Wilie, B. (2011) ‘The Flipped Class: What it is and What it is Not’, The Daily Riff [online], July 2011. Available from (accessed 17 September 2012).

Blend My Learning (2011) ‘The Results’, blog entry posted 31 August 2011. Available from (accessed 21 September 2012).

Brolsma, G. (2004) Numa Numa [online], (accessed 15 March 2012).

Faviero, B. (2012) ‘Major players in online education market’, The Tech [online], vol.132, iss.34. Available from (accessed 17 September 2012).

Hertz, M. (2012) ‘The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con’, blog entry posted 10 July 2012. Available from (accessed 21 September 2012).

 Hill, J. & Nelson, A. (2011) ‘New technology, new pedagogy? Employing video podcasts in learning and teaching about exotic ecosystems’ Environmental Education Research, vol.17, no.3, pp.393-408.

 Kay, R. (2012) ‘Exploring the use of video podcasts in education: A comprehensive review of the literature’ Computers in Human Behaviour, vol.28, pp.820-831.

Kay, R. & Kletskin, I. (2012) ‘Evaluating the use of problem-based video podcasts to teach mathematics in higher education’ Computers & Education, vol.59, pp.619-627.

Khan, S. (2011) Let’s use video to reinvent education [online] (accessed 17 September 2012).

Koller, D. (2012) What we’re learning from online education [online], (accessed 11 September 2012).

Kronholz, J. (2012) ‘Can Khan Move the Bell Curve to the Right?’ Education Next, vol.12, no.2, [also online] (accessed 17 September 2012).

Overton, L. (2009) BT Dares to Share, (accessed 17 September 2012).

Wesch, M (2007) A Vision of Students Today [online], (accessed 17 September 2012).

Wesch, M. (2008) An anthropological introduction to YouTube [online], (accessed 16 September 2012).

Wheeler, S. (2012) ‘What the flip?’ blog entry posted 26 March 2012. Available from (accessed 14 September 2012).


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Filed under H800 Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

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