How can we best engage home-based learning students with self-directed learning videos?

From our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent address to the nation, all schools and institutes of higher learning will shift to full home-based learning from next Wednesday, April 8, onwards. As teachers race to prepare online classes for students, ensuring that students stay engaged during lessons can be challenging, especially when there are no physical interactions between teachers and students. With limited time to develop engaging yet informative classes, more teachers are turning to educational videos to enhance learning.


Many pedagogical benefits come with using videos during classes, such as enhancing learning experiences, facilitating thinking and problem solving and many more. As we shift to home-based learning, self-directed learning videos would become a great tool for students. But how can we best engage them with such videos, especially when distractions are constantly present at home?


Before we jump right into how we can best engage students with videos, we have to understand what are the approaches students use when studying. According to Noel Entwistle, there were 3 approaches to learning.

1. Surface approach

Students who use a surface approach are more likely to study what is required for an exam and nothing beyond that. These students are passive learners and see studying as coping with requirements so that they can pass.



2. Strategic approach

Students who use a strategic approach are high achievers. Their motivation to study comes with a positive outcome like achieving good grades, hence they memorize information that is required to ace exams and spend time practicing from past exams.

3. Deep approach

Students who use a deep approach have a genuine curiosity in the subject that they are studying. They will dive deeper to understand ideas, apply knowledge to new situations, and discuss differing points of view.

When it comes to home-based learning, it is important to encourage a mindset shift in the students from the surface/strategic approach to a deep approach as it is the most ideal for self-directed learning. Videos used during online classes should make students want to understand more about the topic, relate to ideas and apply knowledge. Videos that are bombarded with information may overwhelm students and end up causing them to resort to memorizing. On the other hand, touch and go videos where they cover only basic information would underwhelm students and leave them clueless.

While it is a great way to include videos to make home-based learning more engaging, teachers should also consider what they hope students can learn from it. By being able to plan out how to help students learn, and how to understand if they have grasped the topic, they are then able to more effectively use videos to engage students and enhance their learning.



Here are 2 steps teachers can do to improve student’s engagement when using a video:

  1. Before asking students to dive into watching a video, provide a few questions that drive focus to what you believe is important in the video. Get your students to submit their answers via Socrative or other electronic resources. This ensures that students pay attention to the video and engage themselves in the learning process. Furthermore, teachers are able to receive varying answers and opinions which can lead to online discussions. Such an approach would be useful for students who are shy to speak up in class.

  2. After watching the video, evaluate their learning. Asking questions like: “Did this video help in your understanding of the topic?” encourage students to self-reflect on their progress on the topic. Self-reflection and self-evaluation are essential for self-directed learning, hence students should always learn how to apply them when learning something new.


Lastly, we should not forget that the videos used for home-based learning should be optimized for playback. It is important to ensure that self-directed learning videos are made available to students across any device. If videos are taken from online platforms such as YouTube, a link should be attached to lesson slides or shared with students so that they are able to easily retrieve and bookmark it for future references.

The length of these videos should be considered as well. Students have short attention spans, so if a long and dreary video is used, they get bored and disengaged easily. ‘Bite-size’ videos (1 - 3 minutes in length) are more suitable for online classes as they are more effective in disseminating concise yet important topics to students. This also encourages them to be self-directed learners and dive deeper into the topic in search of a more profound understanding.

Home-based learning may pose a challenge for teachers to keep students engaged, and with the help of self-directed learning videos, it can ease this challenge teachers faced. However, these videos must be used effectively so that students are fully engaged.


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