When Dr. Jeff Lewis started teaching online business courses back in 1998, student presentations were a huge challenge.
“The original solution was asking students to record themselves to a VHS tape, and that changed to DVDs, then flash drives,” the professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver recalls.
But there was a huge gap in the student experience when it came to feedback. Students would record a presentation at the end of the semester, mail in their video, and by the time the professor’s feedback got back to them, they had already moved on and it became irrelevant. It also meant there was no opportunity for peer review.
“I needed something to speed up that cycle, and not replicate the classroom experience, but provide something that was at least as valuable.”
As online video became more popular, he tried various platforms, but still ran into issues around providing meaningful feedback. Even though the technology had evolved, the feedback still suffered from the same challenges: if it was possible at all, feedback was aggregated at the end of the video, and had no direct association to specific aspects of a learner’s performance within the video. To make matters worse, existing solutions lived outside of the school’s LMS and had no tie-in to the system’s calendars, class lists, or grade books.
“In 2009, I said ‘I have to solve this online presentation problem or I need to stop teaching online.’”
Lewis hired programmers to come up with his own (rudimentary, at that time), solution that he could use in his class. Soon he found that other colleagues wanted to use it as well, and he took on a part-time administrative role of Director of Online Learning.
“In starting to interact with nursing professors and speech professors and math professors who were teaching online, I realized it wasn’t just business classes that had the problems I was facing, there were similar issues across the board. So it was encouraging that if I could find a solution that solved my problems, they were facing the same pain points.”
His solution eventually evolved into Bongo—a video assignment platform that allows for authentic, timely assessment and feedback.
The benefits of video-based assessment
Since creating Bongo, Lewis has discovered several key benefits of video assessment. Thinking about incorporating it? Here’s a few ways it could work for you:
- Personalized feedback: Lewis is able to use video to provide individual responses to each student, and speak to them on a one-to-one basis, which is easier and saves more time compared to written feedback. He can also add time-stamped feedback to students’ videos, so he can bring their attention to specific points of the presentation where they could improve.
- Assessing soft skills: Completing a traditional quiz might give you a sense of what a nursing student (for example) knows, but it won’t reveal his or her bedside manner. Similarly, using video assessment for corporate training in areas like sales allows you to evaluate things like pitch delivery and objection handling. Historically, these skills have been difficult to teach and assess in an online environment. “How you say something is even more important than what you say,” Lewis notes.
- Going beyond presentation skills: While video assessment is great for oral presentation skills, it can also be used to see how well a student is understanding a concept. In a math class, for instance, a student can capture and share their desktop as they’re working through a problem, or talk through it so that the instructor can assess their level of understanding.
- Practice makes perfect: An unintended consequence of these video presentations was that Lewis’s students were recording several takes of their presentations because they wanted them to look and sound great on camera, thus further improving learning through repetition and revision. Lewis could look at the recording logs and get data on how much they rehearsed.
- Accommodating different learning styles: Not everyone learns the same way—some do better with written communication, while others struggle with it. “I have a niece who has learning disabilities, and asking her to answer a question in writing—she struggles. But you sit down and ask her a question, and she has a chance to verbalize and explain it to you, she’s got it,” says Lewis. Video assessment opens up a new way of evaluating students with different strengths.
- Students are more invested: Lewis says students have a higher level of commitment when they are presenting themselves – their face is attached to the work, they aren’t just a name on a test sheet, so they become much more invested.
- Faster grading: Because the feedback is also video-based, instructors can grade in much less time, while giving the students more and richer feedback, he says. “I can say more in 60 seconds than I can type in five minutes, and the student gets something better, because now it’s a personal connection.” he says.
Emily leads the content team here at D2L. She is a former journalist and magazine editor, and has written about everything from corporate strategy, to healthcare in Africa, to the infamous Ikea monkey. She is passionate about education, technology, storytelling and the Toronto Blue Jays.
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