Over the last couple of years, I have become increasingly aware of and concerned with the cost of textbooks. At the same time I have also begun teaching online. These two things have led me to use, and in some cases, rely on, YouTube videos for relaying course content.
It first started with Introductory Psychology. One of my colleagues told me about the Crash Course videos for psychology. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are approximately 10 minute videos that covers the very basics of all of the topics (chapters) covered in a typical Introductory Psychology text book. I started off posting them online as a supplement to reading the assigned text. Later though, my teaching of Intro began to change; I started significantly scaling back the material that I covered, focusing instead on making sure that students actually learned the basics. For example, when I teach classical conditioning, I focus on breaking down the components and what classical conditioning is like in real life, but simplify other topics like generalization, discrimination, and extinction. I actually merely mention them in passing. With this more simplified approach to the course, it didn’t make sense to require students to read 40 pages on the intricacies of each of the topics.
About this time I was assigned my first online class teaching Intro. I wanted to make sure students had a rich, interactive experience with their learning, so I didn’t want to just assign a reading or a power point presentation. I also didn’t want to spend a ton of time making my own narrated lectures, not when I knew there was already stuff out there. Instead, I created lessons (on the Moodle platform) where students would watch the Crash Course (and other) videos, read some additional written content that I compiled from my lectures, and answered questions about the material. With that, I began assigning the videos, and offering the text as supplementary reading.
There are some caveats to note about the Crash Course videos. First, the narrator (Hank) talks pretty quickly; I tell students that if they have trouble with this, they can find the video on YouTube and either slow down the speed of the video, use closed-captioning, or view the video transcript. This also helps students with their note taking. Second, it takes students some time to get used to interacting with the material in this way. Sure, most of our traditional undergraduate students are used to watching videos for entertainment, but it takes practice to learn from them. They will need time to adjust to stopping or rewinding the videos to make sure their notes are correct.
Still, students have reacted positively to this method of learning. One, students are relieved they don’t necessarily need an expensive textbook to learn material. Second, I see more notes from the videos than I did with textbooks. Students can’t just highlight and re-read the videos like they do with textbooks (they can re-watch of course, but it doesn’t seem to work the same). I have students watch the videos before coming to class and I can see them rifling through notes when I ask questions, and adding to their notes as we go through new examples. Third, the videos are accessible for students immediately. There is no time period where students are waiting for their textbooks and need to either have copies of the first chapters posted, or for them to use the book on reserve in the library.
Since I have adopted this new strategy in Intro, I have begun using it in other classes. In my statistics class, I use videos to cover some research methods topics that aren’t covered in my chosen text. I also started teaching an online section of History and Systems of Psychology this semester and I am taking the same lesson approach that I did with Intro. As an upper level class, it has been more difficult to identify videos that cover the material I want. So far, I have relied on a variety of video series and standalone videos. Curating these videos have taken significant time. I estimate it takes me about two hours to identify the 5 - 7 videos I use in a lesson based on one chapter.
Here are some of the things I look for in the videos I choose:
As I mentioned earlier, using videos as content is not something that has occurred overnight. It has taken a lot of time to curate these videos. In fact, the transition I took for Intro to Psych came when I was teaching over the summer and only had that course to focus on. My current History and Systems class is taking a significant amount of time during the week and is only possible because it is my only new prep. I will also say that this is not a one-size fits all approach to content. As I mentioned, I currently use videos relatively limitedly in Statistics (although will probably increase this in time since reading about math is not always the easiest to do). And certainly, there are textbooks and tools out there that cannot (and should not) be replaced with videos. But, consider using the plethora of video resources that are out there as supplementary resources!
If you are interested in using video resources and want some help to get started, here is a compilation of the current video resources Karly, Jen, and I have used in our classes. We are always looking for new resources. If you want to add the videos you use, click here.
Written by Ciara Kidder