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Please forgive the rambling intro...

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are all the rage when people write about teaching. So many articles have been written about MOOCs killing universities while others complain about the attention. Some have even discussed some community colleges using MOOCs with the classroom teacher filling more of a tutorial role using MOOCs for the bulk of their material.

As I reflect on my own classroom experience (as a lecturer) I find that a lot of my time is spent covering the basics while it would be much more interesting to focus on higher-level concepts. However, in the end, I have only a certain number of hours in the class with my students. If I have 60 hours and it takes 50 hours to cover the basics, there is little time remaining to cover much in the way of higher-level ideas.

So, I've been considering assigning MOOC videos as homework and using class time as discussion time, much the way one would using the case method. While my experience with the case method has not been fantastic, I'm not ready to give up on it yet.

My question is: What is the best way to integrate MOOC videos or other videos as part of the curriculum? Are there any major pitfalls that I should consider before completing my plan for the coming semester?

  • Though this is an old question, I'm a bit surprised that your university allows you to do this, because I see it as a way to artificially increase the amount of lecture hours. – Massimo Ortolano Oct 22 '17 at 6:55
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The best way to integrate off-line video content into a face-to-face course is to make the videos worth watching in the first place. If the videos are not well-made, or if they are too long, or if they are only tangentially related to the topic at hand, there's a good chance students won't bother to spend time watching the videos.

However, if students can learn basic information effectively in a relatively short amount of time, and you structure the class so that this information is needed to complete their homework assignments, there's a good chance they'll start learning from the videos.

The videos need not be MOOC videos. A video can be something from the Kahn academy, something you found on YouTube, or something you create on your campus.

Does your institution have a Center or Office that helps professors with DL classes? If so, they may have equipment and expertise to help you create your own videos, if you have trouble finding existing content to fit your needs, and have determined that that's your best course of action.

Once you have a collection of suitable videos ready to integrate into the course, I'd avoid telling the students that the videos are mandatory viewing. Instead, I'd simply make this a commonly-heard refrain in your class:

And then you complete the problem by doing X, but X is something we're not going to cover in class. If you're not sure how to do X, I've posted a link to a video.

If you make the video something that they need to watch before class, there's a high chance the students won't bother. But, if watching it will help them complete a homework assignment, I think the chances are much better. There's a tangible reward for watching the video; it becomes a worthwhile time investment. It helps if the videos are short – say, 10 minutes at most.

So, I'd try to structure the course such that the videos are assigned, and they are tied to a written homework assignment that will be turned in. You can then start covering the more advanced material in class after the students have turned in the assignment, with a bit more assurance that a majority of the students have really watched the video.

I'd also explain up front (in the course syllabus) why you are leveraging videos in the first place. Tell them directly that your aim is to exploit technology. Explain that spending class time covering basic concepts is not an effective use of class time, now that we are in the age of YouTube and the Internet, and there are other ways they can learn.

Use the Discussion Board feature of your institution's LMS so that students can ask questions if they've watched the video, but are still confused about something. That way, you won't create the impression that you're just trying to take the easy way out with a detached teaching style, but that you are instead striving to leverage technology in multiple ways to create a more effective learning climate overall.

Lastly, try to post the video links in your LMS in a way that you'll be able to see which students have opened the videos, and which students haven't bothered. Such reports aren't foolproof (just because a student clicked on a link doesn't mean they've actually watched the video attentively, e.g.). However, it might be worth knowing that, in a class of 23, only 8 students have even bothered to open the video.

  • Very useful points. Thanks. I do wish my university has a LMS or DL or anything related to technology. The technology I use I have to find or build myself. Still, your point on requiring for discussion vs. needed for homework is quite helpful. Cheers! – earthling Jul 22 '13 at 14:35
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I use a flipped classroom for one of the classes I teach, and I use the following three methods to check whether students are actually watching them:

  1. I do a quiz every single time on the content of the videos. Don't watch it and don't do well.
  2. I provide students a chance to ask questions at the beginning of class. (This happens before the quiz. Depending on how hard the video was a complete lack of questions is a dead tell that either this year's students are all geniuses or few people watched it).
  3. I can estimate (roughly) from the view counts on the videos if the students are watching them.

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