We’ve all been there. We sit down to watch a movie. The storyline is a little slow in the beginning and our minds start to drift. As we try to bring our attention back to the screen, we decide we’re a little hungry. We get up and go to the kitchen to make a snack, all the while telling ourselves that we didn’t need to pause the movie because we can hear it in the kitchen. We return to the living room and settle-in to watch the movie as we munch on our pizza rolls and soda. The food rouses little Gizmo from underneath the couch and she sneaks out to investigate the enticing aroma. We offer her part of our snack and give her a little scratch behind the ears. Before we know it, we are involved in an all-out tug-of-war with a 10 pound ball of fur. The movie is long forgotten.
Now replace the movie in this scenario with the carefully constructed video lessons that you have created for your students so that they would be eager to delve into the latest lesson on solving equations or factoring polynomials. The truth is that most students endure video lectures as a means to an end but struggle to stay engaged enough to absorb the material. It would be easy to say that this is just an issue for developmental or freshmen level students. The harsh reality is that it is true at all levels in all subjects. I witnessed first-hand as my son, who was finishing a master’s degree in Biosystems Engineering, struggled to stay awake while watching online lectures for a required statistics course which was only offered in an online format. He would stop every ten minutes, literally take a lap around the house, and then sit down to try and watch a few more minutes.
While there is no universal solution to this difficulty for students, we can supply them with tools which will help to mitigate the time lost to distracted viewing. When I created full lesson videos for my online students several years ago (pre-covid), I included colorful guided notes to help them stay engaged with the material. Using PDF files deployed in our learning management system, I supply my students with word-for-word, picture-for-picture materials that match the video they are watching. I have strategically placed blanks and empty boxes on these guided pages, so that the student must fill-in-the-blank as they watch the video. If their mind begins to wander, they will miss a blank or box and will have to rewind to get the needed information. Sometimes the blanks are words that are being said in the audio. Sometimes the boxes are specific letters or numbers that are relative to the problem being shown. It is important to include three keys for creating and successfully implementing guided notes in your course: Color, Active Learning, and Grading.