Video Improves Learning in Higher Education

By Marisa Graser

Online learning increasingly becomes a part of the University learning experience. This often includes a mix of synchronous (real-time) conferences via Zoom or Skype, and asynchronous videos that are pre-recorded. Both approaches stimulate the auditory and visual system simultaneously, which - according to the cognitive theory of multimedia learning - is the most effective way to present information (Mayer, 2008). Whilst the effect of synchronous teaching has been readily explored, the effects of videos on learning in higher education are less well known. So how do videos compare to other asynchronous media like textbooks or static websites?

Using videos improves learning outcomes

Noetel et al. (2021) conducted a systematic review to answer this exact question. They identified and analysed over 100 randomised trials that used video in higher education and found that the majority reported better learning outcomes when compared to other methods.

Two factors seemed to be most important: From a teacher’s perspective, editing the videos before dissemination to distil important key points helped to convey learning objectives in a targeted way. From a student’s perspective, the ability to control the cognitive load by pausing and rewinding appears to greatly enhance learning.

Importance of editing

Most research Noetel et al. (2021) identified suggested that editing is an essential process to optimise the advantageous effects of videos. For this, it is helpful to make content coherent and add design principles, i.e. by timing key points with slides or highlighting important information.

Noetel et al. (2021) also strongly advise to keep videos as short as possible by reducing them to core content that is important to meet the learning objectives. Scaling down the content in videos might be even more effective than covering the same information in a longer class, as Rey (2012) suggests: It removes “seductive details”, i.e. irrelevant information that occupies part of the students’ working memory.

Implementation of videos

Noetel et al. (2021) noticed that videos were most effective in an interactive environment. Obviously, direct peer- and student-teacher interaction are limited in asynchronous videos. However, Noetel et al. suggest integrating online discussions into videos or embedding questions, for example through H5p or EdPuzzle.

They also recommend that even if technically not required, videos should be used in addition to traditional face-to-face classes. Some might fear that students will skip lectures for online videos. However, Noetel et al. (2021) stressed the strong positive effect videos have on student learning and that they would complement traditional lectures well. They therefore suggest implementing additional measures like frequent formative assessments to ensure that students remain engaged.

Impact of videos on student learning

According to Noetel et al. (2021) the success of videos comes down to giving control to the students. With the asynchronous setup, students can study at their own pace with the option to pause and rewind when they don't understand something. It essentially allows them to control their own cognitive load. Additionally, videos also allow for an authentic perspective of real skills, for example when showing videos of a surgery through the eyes of a doctor for medical students. This can be particularly beneficial when teaching skills rather than knowledge.

Overall, videos can have a high impact on learning outcomes and are a great tool to implement not only into online courses but also as a supplement to traditional in-person lectures.


Q: How do students perceive the effectiveness of videos compared to traditional textbooks and static websites?

A: Students often find videos more engaging and effective for learning compared to traditional textbooks and static websites. This is because videos can deliver content in a dynamic and visually appealing way that can capture the students' attention more effectively. Through the concept of student voice, it's clear that many students appreciate the ability to control the pace of their learning by pausing, rewinding, and re-watching video content. This aspect of videos supports diverse student needs and needs, making the learning experience more inclusive. However, the exact preferences may vary among students, with some still valuing the depth and detail that textbooks provide. Engaging with student voice can help educators understand these preferences better and tailor the learning experience accordingly.

Q: What role does student feedback play in the creation and editing of educational videos?

A: Student feedback plays a crucial role in the creation and editing of educational videos. By incorporating student voice, educators and content creators can ensure that the videos meet the learners' needs more effectively. Feedback can inform various aspects of video production, such as the clarity of content, the pace of delivery, and the use of visual aids. It can also highlight areas that may require further explanation or simplification. Through text analysis of student feedback, educators can identify common themes and areas for improvement, making the content more engaging and easier to understand. This process underscores the importance of listening to student voices in creating educational materials that are not only informative but also accessible and enjoyable to learn from.

Q: Are there any studies or analyses on the text complexity and readability of video transcripts versus traditional textbooks?

A: While specific studies or analyses directly comparing the text complexity and readability of video transcripts to traditional textbooks might not be widely cited in general discussions, the principle of adapting content for diverse learning needs is well-recognised in educational research. Video transcripts can play a vital role in making content accessible to students who prefer or require text-based learning materials, including those with specific learning preferences or disabilities. Text analysis tools can be used to assess the complexity, readability, and engagement level of these transcripts compared to traditional textbooks. Such analyses can help educators ensure that the language used in video transcripts is appropriate for their target student audience, potentially making complex subjects more accessible and understandable. However, the effectiveness of this approach largely depends on how well the transcripts are crafted to match the educational content and objectives of the videos, highlighting the need for careful consideration of text complexity in educational resources.


[Source] Noetel M, Griffith S, Delaney O, et al. (2021) Video Improves Learning in Higher Education: A Systematic Review, Review of Educational Research, 91(2):204-236.
DOI: 10.3102/0034654321990713

[1] Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction, The American Psychologist, 63(8), 760–769.
DOI: 10.1037/0003-066x.63.8.760

[2] Rey, G. D. (2012) A review of research and a meta-analysis of the seductive detail effect, Educational Research Review, 7(3), 216–237.
DOI: 10.1016/j.edurev.2012.05.003

Related Entries