Friday, May 03, 2013

Six features I want in an educational video player

The London Olympics were streamed by NBC in the US and the BBC in England. I watched both and blogged about the experience. After it was over, I gave my "gold medal" to the BBC -- they did a better job. One of things I liked about the BBC coverage was their video player, which was more interactive than NBC's -- it was designed for the Internet, not adapted from television.

Video players for teaching should also be interactive -- we need more than a timeline with VCR pause and play buttons. Let me suggest a few things I would like to see in a video player for my students.

1. Clickable chapter headings I currently make teaching videos using Camtasia, which lets me create clickable chapter headings on the left side of the screen as shown here:

The BBC Olympic player also had clickable chapter headings, and they are on my feature list.

2. Variable playback speed When I listen to podcasts, I speed up the playback. As shown here, Coursera's video player allows the student to do the same:

I applaud their innovation, but it has to be combined with clickable chapter headings. When the student changes the speed, the chapter entry points must be recalculated.

In addition to adjusting the chapter start points, the player should be instrumented to see what speeds students use and when they change speeds. This data could be correlated with comprehension and retention as well as the underlying concepts being covered when students speed or slow playback. (My hypothesis is that retention and comprehension would not be diminished by, say, a 15% speed increase).

3. A quick-replay button NBC made a simple, but handy addition to their video controls. They added a button that backed up 15 seconds every time in was clicked. Click it once and the video backed up 15 seconds, click it twice and it backed up 30 seconds, etc. That would be great if a student missed a word or point and wanted to hear it again.

4. Programmed pause points with click to continue This is very simple. As a teacher, I want to be able to insert breakpoints, causing the video to pause while the student thinks about or does something. He or she would simply click a resume button when ready to continue.

5. "Tell me more" button The BBC Olympic player allowed the user to display ancillary information -- record times, athlete's statistics, current standings, etc. as shown here:

A teacher would use tell me more to add context to or paraphrase the point being made in the current chapter, simulating what happens in a classroom when a student is confused and asks for clarification. The teacher does not simply repeat what they had originally said, but uses different words, examples, images, notation, etc.

The student would learn to click this button when he or she found the current chapter confusing.

6. Study-group support Michael Wesch has pointed out that the architecture of our classrooms and lecture halls discourages student interaction. They face forward, looking to the teacher for information. I bet small children relate to each other in school, but I find my university students reluctant to work with or talk to each other during class.

I want a player that lets groups of students study the same video together at the same time. Sharing a video during a Google Hangout would be a step in the right direction, but control of the video would have to be distributed among the students. It would also require a search to discover study partners who were on line on the same lesson at the same time. Study-group support would require more thought and HCI design than my other suggestions, but it would be a terrific addition to the video player I would like for my students.

Well, those are my six suggestions. What would you like to see in a video player for education?