Taking risks in education is, well, risky. As I have mentioned in several previous posts, one of my SIF assignments is to work on the hybrid U.S. history sections being offered at GSU this fall. The course is innovative in a number of ways: it takes full advantage of the D2L platform, it has it’s own, custom made (and free!) textbook, and it uses video segments, essentially little documentaries, to supplement instruction and to create a class that meets in-person once a week, and in a virtual classroom on the other. The film segments, in combination with reading from both the textbook and from primary sources, become the material on which the class is based. So, the classroom is also flipped, meaning that it replaces time often spent in lecturing with time spent on discussion or other types of activities that usually get little time in survey courses.

As great as this sounds, there is a little bug in the system so far – very few students are watching the videos. Because they are accessed through D2L, the number of students accessing each video can be tracked, and the results to date have been discouraging. This is frustrating – not only because of the many hours that go into producing each video segment but also because the videos are an attempt to engage learners who are supposedly visual, and who will tell you that they don’t keep up with reading because of the medium, not because they are averse to learning.

Now, as Jeff Young (one of the instructors of the course) pointed out to me yesterday, this failure may look worse simply because D2L allows it to be quantified. We can suspect that many students don’t read their books, but this is something we can’t quantify. So, the poor rates of accessing the videos (and the rapidity with which they are abandoned) may be less of a reflection of the course than of the work habits of college freshmen.

But, it also reflects the importance of finding a way to maximize the leverage of the videos, to tie them into the course in such a way that students feel compelled to watch them, or are more immediately rewarded for doing so. In the scheme of things, this is a normal bump on the road of innovation, which like many things is built on failure as much as it is on success.

Discussions are ongoing about how to increase the use of the videos. Any suggestions from the SIF crowd?


Dylan Ruediger