Review: #EconTEAching Session 10: Enabling Student Learning Through Asynchronous Videos

In the 10th EconTEAching Session, Dr. Ramin Nassehi from UCL Economics and Dr. Christian Spielmann from Bristol University (but previously at UCL Economics!) illustrated how to use asynchronous videos for learning economics. Prof. Cloda Jenkins chaired the session. The session live-stream can be found on the CTaLE YouTube channel.

Ramin mainly produces two types of videos. First, short videos for explaining theoretical models. Usually, they are 3 to 5 minutes long. They are characterised by snapshot questions and curious facts. They are designed with the intention of paving the road for theoretical understanding through authenticity, role-play teaching, real world examples as well as cultural facts and daily experiences. Ramin also produces longer pre-recorded lectures. In the words of Ramin, the possibility to double-speed as well as of going back and forth empower students and boost their understanding, as their own assimilation of concepts is finally aligned to their individual “speed of learning”.

Ramin envisages that there is a gap in videos’ offer. On the one extreme sits the Marginal Revolution University and its over-produced videos and, on the other, the Khan Academy with quite essential productions. He is aiming at something in between these extremes and, possibly, interactive.

Christian’s experience with videos is highly inspired by Socratic dialogue. In rhetoric, Socratic dialogue is an argument using the question-and-answer method employed by Socrates in Plato’s Dialogues. The result of this process is a fuller and deeper understanding of the subject at issue. In practice, Christian and one of his colleagues enter in a conversation about specific economic issues, asking and answering questions with each other. The idea is to connect with students and engage them. Using questions is a very effective engagement leverage in Christian’s experience as students can appreciate the scientific discourse from its very beginning, which is formulating a relevant question.

Regarding video production activities, both Ramin and Christian highly recommend dedicating enough time to carefully plan the video narrative. In particular, they advise writing a detailed story-board. Bullet points can be used to list the questions/topics to be discussed. Then, it must be specified how long each point is going to take. The pre-production stage can take quite some time but in our speakers’ experience having a structured narrative is definitely the best strategy for succeeding at educational videos!

As for the type of audience, both speakers agree that videos can work well for both small and large groups of learners. It is fundamental for the videos to be engaging and to add value to the learning experience. With respect to the latter point, Ramin and Christian share the view that videos are complements and not substitutes to more traditional educational tools, such as readings and books. In particular, the beauty of a video is the possibility to leverage on the digital support. As already said, videos can offer students a more authentic experience, either through role-play teaching or dialogues.

In terms of future plans and further developments, Ramin is concentrating on making interactive videos. In particular, as the interactive tools that can be embedded within a video are quite limited, he is thinking more about linking activities to videos. Ramin is also scrutinising the opportunity of filming very short and mute videos, which should be useful to dissect a topic, such as an economic model, to get a deep understanding of its all parts. Christian will continue his own tradition of Socratic dialogues and is thinking about putting the spotlight on students by including them as active parts within the dialogues.  

I have learnt a lot from this 10th EconTEAching Session. I have been so enthused by the authenticity and Socratic dialogue ideas that I promptly designed two video-based activities for my own module the next Monday.

Guess what? Students loved them!

Thank you, Ramin and Christian, for sharing these amazing ideas!

Blog post by Silvia Dal Bianco


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