• Academic Technology

Student Perspectives on Blended Learning: Getting the Most out of Video and the Classroom

A guest blog post from Associate Professor Till Winkler, Associate Professor, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in collaboration with Viducon Denmark.

In previous guest blogs with Panopto (which you can find here and here), I outlined some of my initial experiences with embedding video-based learning into my teaching practice. Inspired by my students’ positive reactions to the video content I had produced, I decided that with my next cohort of learners I would move to a truly blended learning approach.

In an elective course on Managing IT in the Digital Age, run with my colleague Associate Professor Matthias Trier, we decided that our blend would adopt the flipped classroom model. This means that we provided a series of online lecture videos in advance to the students then used the valuable classroom time for workshop-based teaching, which focussed on student interaction and discussion.

Video and workshops – making the blend work at CBS

So first, the flip itself – how did we power that? Well, as I had recorded lectures from the previous year, we decided to repurpose this content. I had already worked on producing short recorded lectures that were designed to be easily digested online (as opposed to traditional hour-long lectures) so most of the digital content was already in place. It was easy to copy these recordings into a new course folder and each week my students were granted access to the relevant video via our learning management system (which is integrated with our Panopto instance). We demanded students to watch a set of these videos each week and we injected additional active learning elements by asking them to complete short online tasks related to the videos, such as completing quizzes and responding to open-ended questions.

The lecture videos mainly covered conceptual content such as theoretical frameworks, empirical findings, and practical insights. I think that allowing students to access this type of content online so they can absorb it at their own pace and really consolidate their understanding has a lot of advantages, so I was confident that this flipped approach would work for the students.

Having watched the videos and completed the online activities in advance, students came to the face-to-face workshop sessions fully prepared and with the expectation to engage. In the workshop sessions, we asked them to apply the concepts they had learned in the online video content to a concrete problem faced by a case study company and then to present their ideas to the rest of the class. We chose a learning space that lent itself perfectly to this kind of workshop format to maximise the opportunities for peer interaction amongst the students.

After the course had finished, our partners from Viducon independently conducted follow-up interviews with a number of students to see what they thought about the blended course format we had adopted. The feedback was very encouraging, with students saying that they had really appreciated our efforts to try a different teaching approach on this course. Overall, they thought that a blended learning format had advantages from both an academic and a social perspective.

Student views on the online part of the blended learning

When asked about the online part of the course, the students commented that having access to video content in advance helped provide them with a ‘mental map’ of the field of study and an important overview of the key concepts. One of the students commented:

“The video material was divided into clear subcategories and topics. This provided a lot of structure and a good overview. The videos served like an online library, where we could easily go back and select a topic and then watch the videos again, for instance, for the exam.”

The students also appreciated the short, condensed explanations of theories in the videos, each of which was between 4 and 7 minutes in length. They could see the time we had invested in preparing these videos and commented that this succinct content helped them hone in on the most important messages. As one of our learners put it:

“In video lectures, the teacher is forced to be very specific. Explanations are clear-cut. There is not so much ‘noise’ in the transaction of knowledge from the sender to the receiver.”

Our use of video also helped create a sense of engagement with the students before we had even met, with one student even going so far as to say:

“I had seen many hours of video of you before I met you in the classroom. When I first saw you in class, it felt like meeting a celebrity.”

From the feedback interviews, we also found out that students had developed different ways to work with the videos. Some made extensive use of the pause button, or others slowed down the playback speed in the Panopto player to be able to take their own notes. One student commented:

“When I try to learn about theory, I often feel that I need more frequent breaks. So in class, I often feel forced to keep on learning even though my brain is not ready for this. But with the videos I could just pause, have a 5 minute break and then press play again. […] I can reflect on what was said in the video, take notes and see if I got everything right, and only then continue.”

One key thing we learned from the interviews is that, even for a user-friendly platform like Panopto, learners can benefit from a short introduction to the features the platform provides. With Panopto, for example, learners can not only regulate the speed of the videos and pause the content, but also take individual time-stamped notes. They can either share their notes with their fellow learners or keep them private. By helping students become more familiar with the functionality available to them in a platform like Panopto, I believe we can make the online aspects of blended learning even more effective.

Student views on the face-to-face part of blended learning

When we asked students about the face-to-face part of the blend, many of them commented that while they greatly appreciated the online learning elements, social interaction with their professors and fellow students was still of vital importance to them. One said:

“If you had a purely online course then I think you would miss the […] interaction with other classmates. So the combination of having both – online and offline – that is what made the course strong for me.”

Most students emphasised that in-depth discussions, exercises and talking through case studies simply works better in a classroom scenario – in the words of another student:

“I would like the theory lectures to be 100 percent on video, and the case studies should be in the classroom. Because in practice it becomes alive.”

Looking ahead: implications for teachers

The general view of the majority of the students on the course was that blended learning, combining video and classroom-based workshops, was more effective than either of these elements alone. As one student put it:

“The combination of having the theory more or less online with video and the practical cases offline – that is a good combination”.

Consequently, it wasn’t surprising to see that many of the students expressed their hope that more courses at CBS would adopt a blended format:

“If I could improve anything, I would make all lectures at CBS like this!”

It seems that the message this sends to teachers is clear – we need to rethink some of the more traditional ways we’ve previously taught students to embrace new approaches that can lead to better student engagement. We need to assess what material is best delivered online so it can be reviewed at a student’s own pace and what content is best delivered in a classroom scenario. Of course, teachers will need to find their own approach to the blended format depending on the nature of the subject they teach. But, what seems to be evident is that students benefit from blended learning as this teaching method can facilitate improved learning outcomes.