Editor’s Note: Simple technology opens up new avenues for communication and learning. This research shows the benefit of flip camcorders for recording and transmitting video data and for customized instructor feedback.
Using Flip Camcorders to Create Video Feedback:
Is it Realistic for Professors and Beneficial to Students?
Becky Sue Parton, Mindy Crain-Dorough, and Robert Hancock
Social presence is critical for an instructor to establish in a course. Research shows that students who believe that a professor cares about them are more likely to connect with the material as well. Many avenues for creating that atmosphere exist including using audio feedback and leveraging social networking technologies. Until recently, customized video feedback was too cumbersome to be created and distributed by mainstream professors. This study examined the use of a Flip camcorder to provide instructor-created, customized feedback in a research methods graduate-level course conducted both on-line and face-to-face. Preliminary results indicate that the process was beneficial to students and reasonable for professors to accomplish.
Keywords: video feedback, social presence, teaching presence, higher education, educational technology, Flip video, multimedia.
Introduction and Background
“We lose so much in the written word …” (Ice, Curtis, Phillips, & Wells, 2007, p.12) is a poignant statement made by an instructor participating in a study on the affects of audio feedback in college courses. What exactly it is that we lose, though, is a harder question. In terms of educational exchanges, it could by hypothesized that ‘it’ may refer less to information, and more to a sense of connection between people. It is a commonly held principle that people who feel that their human needs are being addressed, are in turn more likely to be in a mindset to learn (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009; Newberry, 2001; Roblyer & Ekhaml, 2000). According to Shea, Pickett, and Pelz (2003), student-faculty interaction is one of the strongest predictors of both satisfaction with a course and perceived learning of material. This idea is expressed through the concept of social presence, which was first coined by Short, Williams, and Christie in 1976, and has become the theoretical foundation for many studies (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009; Ice, Curtis, Phillips, & Wells, 2007; Swan, 2004). The term has evolved to refer to the ability of people to convey a sense of themselves – in essence to become ‘real’ - to another person through media (Lowenthal & Parscal, 2008). Other theorists have built upon this idea and consider teaching presence to work in concert with social presence in educational arenas. Teaching presence deals specifically with the ability of instructors to create an atmosphere that addresses students in a personal and meaningful manner (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). It can be further asserted that a healthy social and teaching presence will often lead to the development of a strong cognitive presence, or learning atmosphere, which together form the overall educational experience (Perry & Edwards, 2005).
Researchers and faculty members alike have investigated ways to increase social and teaching presence in both face-to-face and on-line classes. Although some recent investigations have used modern styles of instant, written communication such as cell phone texting (DuVall, Powell, Hodge, & Ellis, 2007) and twitter posts (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009) as an avenue to achieve this goal, the more common approach has been to move beyond the written word to other media formats. In a study conducted by Ice, Curtis, Phillips, & Wells (2007), audio feedback was given in lieu of text only feedback for an on-line course. Through interviews and unsolicited emails, the researchers found that students perceived audio as being more personable and having a better ability to convey nuances. One student put it this way, “I think the audio shows that you cared about us … That’s a warm fuzzy I haven’t gotten with online classes before” (p.16). Students also were more willing to act on suggestions made by audio than text. Perceptions that the instructor was caring and supportive were similar to the comments gleaned from earlier studies that used personal audio feedback distributed on cassette tapes or through internet-based voice mail messages (Ice, Curtis, Philips, & Wells, 2007). It should be noted that other investigators (Kelly, 2009; Swan, 2004) have studied the use of non-personalized audio explanations, such as voiced-over screencasts to enhance social presence as well. Although arguably not as powerful as individualized audio messages, students still expressed positive perceptions of these efforts.
If audio is beneficial, then it stands to reason that video might be as beneficial or even more beneficial for increasing social presence. However, there is a very limited amount of information to test that idea in the literature due to the complex nature of creating and distributing video that prevailed until very recently (Moore & Cadwell, 2009). Typically the potential a process (such as video feedback) has for impacting students has to be tapered with the time, skill, and financial restraints of the professor to implement that process. If a technology poses too much of a challenge, it will be abandoned as evidenced throughout the history of educational technology in K-12 schools and higher education alike (Bauer, & Kenton, 2005).
Still, there are isolated examples of studies that successfully use instructor created video messages. For example, Rose (2009) detailed the steps she took to create short videos to enhance both her on-line and face-to-face classes along with student responses collected via surveys. She used a webcam as the video recorder and then edited and compressed the footage with iMovie software. The resulting videos were posted on You Tube and subsequently embedded in the course webpages. Topics typically included introductions, exam reviews, lecture highlights, and demo type videos. Surveys revealed that 100% of the students perceived the videos helped them know the instructor and the materials better. Written comments centered around an appreciation to the instructor for taking the time to create the videos and make a connection with students. In addition, 67% of the students, across both course formats, reported watching the videos multiple times (Rose, 2009). It is significant, however, that an entire appendix was devoted to tips for helping faculty create their own videos including how to install a web cam, how to use editing software, and how to use the html-generated code from You Tube to embed the videos in a web page or course management system. For many professors these steps pose a major stumbling block to using video in a course. Professors of Romance Literature, on the other hand, have experimented with using Flip Camcorders in their course and reported that very little technical training or support was required (Moore & Cadwell, 2009). The videos in this study were not used for students, but rather to record students speaking a foreign language so that instructors could evaluate their competencies.
Although a study detailed above (Rose, 2009) examined student perceptions of instructor-created video, those clips were not individualized. The videos were mass distributed to the class via the course management system and were available for everyone to see. This study differentiates itself from those previously conducted by focusing on customized video feedback that focuses on specific assignments. Additionally, this study not only endeavors to study the impact of video feedback on students, but to study the process from an instructor’s perspective in terms of the technical considerations. Thus, it seeks to expand on the study by Moore & Cadwell (2009) by using Flip Camcorders not only for recording but for distributing videos to students to ascertain if it is realistic for non-technical faculty members to incorporate the process into classes on a routine basis.
The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, the researchers sought to determine what impact, if any, the videos had on students’ perceptions of the class and the instructor. Second, the investigators wanted to see if it was a manageable activity for the professor in terms of the video production and distribution. The course selected for this study was a graduate level research methodology course taught by the second author over a summer session. The class was conducted using a hybrid approach that approximated 50% internet and 50% face-to-face time. The researchers felt it was important to select a professor whose field of expertise was not technology but rather another discipline, in this case research methods, in order to examine the potential for use among faculty who do not consider themselves tech savvy. Likewise a hybrid course was chosen in order to better examine whether or not the presence of video feedback was useful to the students both in terms of strengthening the connection with the professor and learning the course material even though in-person contact was also occurring. Twelve students participated in the class and subsequent study.
Prior to the semester starting, the instructor was given a Flip video camcorder and a personal desktop tripod. She was previously unfamiliar with the device and was not provided any training on how to use it although she was sent a sample email from the lead author to demonstrate the video quality. The Flips are designed to be simple not only to operate but also to share videos with other people. It connects through the standard USB port for the purpose of recharging and uploading video. Software, that launches automatically when the Flip is plugged into any computer, instantly allows the user to share the compressed video through a variety of avenues without any editing required through a user-friendly interface. By clicking on the email option, which was used for this study, the video was sent directly to a student’s email account.
A sequence of three assignments was given to the students. The first one required them to create a problem statement about the research topic for the semester. This paper was printed and the instructor made comments and suggestions on the hardcopy which was then returned to the student. The second assignment was to write a literature review plan on the chosen topic. This paper was printed and the instructor again made comments and suggestions on the hardcopy. This time, however, the instructor also created a personalized video for each student that explained the remarks made on the printed copy. The videos were approximately five minutes in length and were distributed shortly before the hard copies were returned to the students. The final assignment was for the students to generate a research design plan for the topic and submit it via email to the instructor. Although comments were initially recorded on printed copies, those pages were not returned to the student. Participants received feedback on the assignment only through the individualized video that was sent to them. This video was also approximately five minutes in length.
At the end of the semester, the instructor was interviewed for approximately thirty minutes and the student participants were asked to complete an on-line survey. The lead author met with the students in a computer lab adjacent to the regular meeting room and asked them to fill out the survey which consisted of both direct questions and open-ended responses. The data was not shown to the instructor until after grades were submitted for the session and no names were associated with the responses.
Analysis of the data must be dealt with both in terms of the student experience and the instructor experience. In reference to the latter, an interview was conducted to find out about her perceptions of using the Flip camcorder to provide individualized feedback to students. She stated that she is usually intimidated by using new technologies, but the simplicity of the process made her feel comfortable very quickly. She also reported feeling initially nervous about creating videos of herself, but gained confidence as the semester progressed. When asked to discuss any technical difficulties that she had during the project, the instructor listed only two minor annoyances but no major problems. The two things that were frustrating was the lack of a pause button during the recording phase and one crash during the upload phase. If she was interrupted for any reason, she had to re-make the video or send the file in halves to the student which she choose not to do. In the case of the upload crash, she just had to restart the software.
She felt that it was easiest to create the videos a couple at a time so that the feedback information that she wanted to convey to a particular student was fresh on her mind rather than using a batch creation approach. In the future, she would say the student’s name in the greeting on the video rather than just ‘hello’ for the purpose of rapidly identifying the videos on the user interface rather than relying on sequencing. This professor also explained that she was able to convey much more through the video than through the written comments especially in terms of encouragement and praise for parts of the assignments which she might have simply marked ‘good job’ on a hardcopy. She said she could elaborate and give more detail than she has been able to previously.
When asked if she received any informal feedback, she said that several students told her how much they appreciated the videos, but one person stood out in her mind. This student never talked during the face-to-face meetings, but sent an email immediately after the first video saying it was helpful and continued to appear more engaged after that. Another student told her that the videos had made such a big difference that she was going to show them to her principle for possible implementation at her school. The last question posed to the instructor was if she would continue using video feedback in her classes now that the study was completed to which she responded in the affirmative and said it was a positive, fun experience that she felt was worth her time because of the benefits to the students.
Turning now to the student surveys, the researchers downloaded all responses and comments entered into the on-line form. All participants reported having a high-speed internet connection at the location where they watched the videos. Of the twelve subjects, eight were majoring in ‘Teaching and Learning’, two were majoring in ‘Educational Technology’, and the remaining two were non-degree seeking. When asked if the videos were easy to retrieve and watch, 100% responded that they agreed (33.3%) or strongly agreed (66.7%). Likewise, when asked if the technical quality of the video was acceptable in terms of sound, size, and clarity, 100% responded that they agreed (58.3%) or strongly agreed (41.7%). A finding in the data that was especially noteworthy was the manner in which students used the videos. All but one participant reported that they watched the video multiple times.
Table one shows student response to selected statements regarding assignment feedback. The percentage of students who strongly agreed that feedback was easy to understand and beneficial to learning the material increased slightly when video was introduced as the medium to convey comments. More strikingly, however, was the positive change in the number of students who reported feeling as though they had a closer connection to the professor after the feedback moved from written to video-based. Only 25% experienced that connection during assignment one, but the number jumps to 83.3% after assignment two that incorporated video feedback. Interestingly, the students sensed that the instructor cared about their performance from the very start.
The responses to the open-ended questions on the survey perhaps provide an even clearer picture of the attitudes and perceptions of the students. Eleven of the twelve subjects wrote remarks about the study and all but one was positive, with the outlier citing poor sound quality as a stumbling block to the video usage
Student Response to Feedback
Statement to Evaluate
Percentage of Students who Strongly Agree
both Hardcopy & Video
Assignment Three Video
Feedback on this assignment was easy to understand.
The feedback on this assignment was beneficial to my learning of research methods.
I felt the instructor cared about my performance on this assignment.
I felt like I had a closer connection with my professor after receiving feedback on this assignment.
The following excerpts are representative of the remaining responses:
I really like the video feedback. I better understand what corrections need to be made, but most importantly WHY I need to make them. I love how I have access to them later.
This was such a neat way of getting feedback. It’s like having that one on one time with the instructor that you need without the whole class knowing your business!
I found the video was easier to follow along with. Looking at all the corrections on the paper was a bit overwhelming and the video forced me to take them one at a time.
I thought the video feedback was a great idea. It was more personal than just a corrected paper, and you have the benefit of referring back to it.
Through this video feedback I felt more connected to my professor, that she knew me personally, and that my response to assignments were important to her. One aspect of this video feedback is that that the person making it becomes viable and approachable to the receiver.
Conclusions and Discussions
The goal of this study was to determine if personalized video feedback with a Flip camcorder was realistic from the professor’s view point and/or beneficial from the students’ view points. Based on the data collected, it appears that this approach is both simple enough to not be a burden on the faculty member, but powerful enough to have a positive impact on students. A major limitation of this study, however, is the small sample size. The authors recommend this line of inquiry be continued with additional studies that include a larger number of participants and a wider variety of instructors. For example, while it may be practical to implement video feedback in a small graduate class, it may be difficult to replicate the success in undergraduate courses with a large number of students.
Two distinctive themes emerged from the findings that should serve as a catalyst for future research. First, the students valued the video for its permanency. Overwhelming, the participants reported that they watched the videos multiple times which is consistent with the findings of Rose (2009). Second, the value of the feedback goes well beyond increasing knowledge in the content area. The actual primary benefit of the videos appears to be in developing the bond between instructors and students who reflected that the clips created an atmosphere of caring. Since the course in this study was of a hybrid nature, the students had a dual opportunity to connect with the instructor both in person and through the personalized videos. It is possible that the videos would have an even more dramatic impact on students who were taking an on-line only course where they never met the professor face-to-face.
The Flip camcorder was chosen as the tool for this experiment because it offers what most video equipment does not – simplicity especially in terms of the uploading/sharing process. Until very recently, if a person wanted to use video it was a cumbersome process of recording the clips, transferring the material to a computer, using editing software to compress the video into an appropriate format, and devising a way to deliver the file to the recipient. In practice, very few professors wanted to take the time to learn those skills. The availability of tools to automate these tasks, however, is increasing; thus, it is recommended that this study be duplicated with other user-friendly video recording devices such as an iPhone which will also transmit compressed videos via email without any editing. In general, research in the area of teacher-created, personalized video feedback is one that has the potential to lead to improved educational experiences for students and professors.
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About the Authors
Dr. Becky Sue Parton has a PhD in Educational Computing and a Masters in Deaf education. She is well published in the field and has given over 40 international conference presentations. Recently, she and Dr. Hancock were awarded a Stepping Stones of Technology federal grant and were selected as Technology Educators of the Year in Louisiana. She currently teaches graduate level courses in technology at Southeastern Louisiana University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Mindy Crain-Dorough holds a PhD in Educational Research from Louisiana State University. She specializes in qualitative research and previously worked with the state department. She currently teaches graduate students and mentors doctoral candidates at Southeastern Louisiana University. email@example.com
Dr. Robert Hancock has over 15 years of experience in Educational Technology and Administration. He received the 2007 best research paper from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) for his work linking technology to achievement. He was named the 2007-2008 Post-secondary Professor of the Year in Louisiana. Prior to becoming a professor, he was a technology director for a North Dallas area school district. His PhD is in Educational Computing and his Masters is in Administration. firstname.lastname@example.org