Using Free Online Instructional Videos with Adult Learners

Recently I have done an adult education professional development presentation in Atlanta, New York City, and (a webinar) in New Jersey. I will be presenting it at the National COABE Conference in New Orleans in March, and twice in Massachusetts in April. The presentation topic is Students and Teachers Learning from Free Online Instructional Videos. In a couple of the presentations, not surprisingly, I have been asked for advice on how teachers could use these videos with their students. Here’s the short answer:

Where to find free online instructional videos appropriate for adult learners

You can find lots of good instructional videos on YouTube, You may have to narrow your search using terms like “essay writing” “adding and subtracting decimals”  or “comma faults”.  A few years ago our problem was not being able to find many good videos on YouTube suitable for adult education; now the problem is that there are so many videos that it is hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.  If YouTube is blocked at your program or school, you can still preview the videos at home, and using software such as DVD VideoSoft  you can save it to a portable storage device that you connect to a computer lab LAN or show in class using a multimedia (LCD) projector. If you are looking for numeracy and math videos, I have done some of the review work for you. To download a free, 21-page list of adult basic education and adult secondary education numeracy and math video web sites, go to my drop box at: )

Always preview videos before showing or assigning them to students.

If possible, form a team of people who teach the same subject at the same level to review and share videos. This could be a group of teachers at your school or program. It could also be a group of teachers from several programs in your area or state. It could be an online team. You could use free online group software like Wiggio, Yahoo or Google groups, or for real-time video meetings for up to nine people, Google Hangouts, or Skype. Of course, someone needs to take the lead and invite others to join, moderate the meetings, and follow up.

Evaluating Videos

Create a simple, shared video evaluation form that the teachers would use, something like this:

  • Would you assign this to your students? If yes, continue. If no, stop.
  • What subject and level?
  • How many minutes long is the video?
  • What’s the video’s web address?
  • Is there an accompanying assessment? If so would you assign this, too?
  • Are there accompanying print materials that could be downloaded? If so, would you assign these?
  • Rate the video: E = Excellent, G= Good, O= okay

Develop a simple way to get video evaluation comments from learners for the videos you show or assign – a simple questionnaire such as this:

  • What did you like about the video?
  • What didn’t you like?
  • Did it help you learn? (yes/no)
  • If so, what was helpful?
  • Other comments:

Where your students may watch the videos

Videos can be shown in class, but students can also, or instead, watch them from a computer at home, work or a library, or from a smart phone. They could watch them before and/or after class, connected to the classwork, or as a supplement to classroom instruction. The Khan Academy “flipped classroom” model, where students watch a demonstration before class, and take a quiz whose results are instantly organized in a class data display for the teacher, enables the teacher to work directly with the students who have not passed the quiz, while assigning other videos to students who “got it” or asking them to be peer mentors to those who didn’t.

Teach your students how to watch online videos

If you assign videos for students to view outside class, on their own in a class, or in a computer lab, be sure that your students know how to access the videos, and also how to use the video controls:

  • Play
  • Pause
  • Stop
  • Rewind
  • Fast forward
  • Slider to move ahead or back
  • Enlarge the video to fill the screen
  • Turning on closed caption (CC)

Encourage students who don’t understand the content, or can’t do what it is demonstrating after watching once, to rewind and play it again (and again).

Consider using the (often free) assessments or supplementary print materials available for some of the videos

If the video has a quiz, encourage students to take it. For some vides, e.g. Khan Academy, USA Learns, TV 411 there are quizzes and/or accompanying downloadable print materials. Be sure you know what’s available and show students how they can access the materials.

Professional Development videos

If you are looking for adult education professional development videos, check the (free) Media Library of Teaching Skills, and also YouTube. For some topics, for example,  essay writing, YouTube has lots of videos. You can check out several different approaches, and choose the one that you think is most effective.

Do you use online instructional videos with your students? If so, what’s your advice for other teachers who want to try this?

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