Summer of Video

Is there a difference between watching Sal Khan on the internet and having him teach you face to face? According to Sal’s cousins there is. In his TED appearance, Sal reveals that his cousins told him they prefer his internet videos to his in-person tutoring. The reason they prefer their virtual cousin to the real one is that they can pause, rewind and playback his teachings – at least that’s the reason they shared with Sal.

A more data-based answer to the above question may exist, but in my limited survey of research I found only a few relevant studies to help us out here. Both studies were in the post graduate medical education field and indicated that virtual teaching in that environment is about as effective as face to face teaching (Cardall, Barker). Your first question is probably the same as mine, “What if the learners are not quite as highly motivated as training professionals?”


I think the answer to that question is soon to be found. For the last several summers I have dedicated some time to finding online video resources for my students. You might call it a hobby of mine. I want to give my students access to as much free help as they can get. Last summer Sal Khan was the big thing. Several of my students over the last few years have been using Khan’s lectures to supplement the lectures I had given to them in class. Sal’s grant from BMGF allowed him to singularly focus on video production. Last year his site took off like a rocket. But Sal is one man, and no man can meet everyone’s needs.

Over the last three weeks I have conducted my same annual survey of internet video. This summer something happened. Maybe the flipped classroom movement has taken root or perhaps the startup world smells opportunity, but the result is awesome. There are no fewer than thirty excellent sources of online video instruction for middle and high school students. And by the way, the summer is not over. Learnzillion, one of the many sites that hosts online video instruction for students free of charge to anyone, hosted a teach fest in Atlanta this month that is sure to produce many more great instructional videos. Knowmia, a site that hosts video, but also offers tools to help you make your own video, is sponsoring fellows to produce more online video as well. By the end of the summer it is likely that there will be so much online video instruction that those seeking quality resources will be overwhelmed with choices.

Supply usually meets demand. Next school year, we are likely to see many more classrooms flipped and/or blended. Curious as we all are to know if these new models for learning are as effective as what came before them, I suspect we will see at least a few good action research studies that will clue us in to the answer. I have already written about my pilot with blended learning this past spring. The tremendous success I experienced has led me on a psychotic path to create a one to one environment in my physics classroom. Having tasted the ambrosia, it would be difficult for me to go back to traditional stand and deliver teaching.

While we may not yet have a suitable answer to the question of whether video based instruction or live instruction is more effective for students, Sal’s cousin’s can bank on one thing.. If they tire of their cousin’s voice, there will be many other teachers for them to choose from.

About Jack West

Consultant, writer, analyst, teacher, coach, maker.

6 Responses

  1. Jack, great post! Cheers to Khan for raising public awareness around blending the classroom (and to Gates and TED)! Two cheers to everyone else who has joined in to make videos. With so many free content providers we might actually be able to differentiate our instruction if we blend and flip. Now, where can we find all the needed free hardware ubiquitous WiFi to make it happen?

  2. Super interested in this! I am starting at a new school with many tech resources. Unfortunately, I have to miss the third and fourth days of school thus year. Both me and my admin are terrified about the consequences this might have on long term classroom expectations. . . Thinking a lesson from me via video tape might help! Need to start putting it together and processing effects on learning.

  3. Great blog entry. KSL (Khan Style Videos) are great but alas not for all students. What YouTube and the interwebs offer is true differentiation. We need teachers to be both content creators and content curators. ~Keith Hughes ~HipHughes History

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