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Annotate Videos for Use in Your Courses

In the world of online, blended, hybrid, and “flipped” courses, video is one of the things that separates an average learning experience from an exceptional one. Unfortunately, the majority of videos–70%? 80%? quite possibly more, based on personal observations over the past several years–in these types of courses follow the same general model: a narrated slide presentation or screencast, sometimes a recording of a live lecture or webinar-style presentation. Video, in these cases, is really just a substitute for conducting an in-person lecture. And, like it or not, that isn’t something most students¬† consider particularly exciting.

But course videos don’t have to be warmed-over lectures. Video has some real strengths when it comes to things like establishing social presence (a topic I’ve written about previously on this blog), demonstrating actions or phenomena that need to be observed visually to be fully understood, or leveraging the potential of multimedia learning to draw out and illustrate connections between concepts. Of course, making videos that do those things can be both difficult and time-consuming–and if there’s one thing that most faculty don’t have a lot of, it’s time.

So what can you do if you want to create more than a voiceover of your lecture slides but don’t have the time or skills needed to do so? One potential answer is video annotation. The idea is simple: take an existing video that someone else has produced and generously uploaded for public viewing and then add annotations that guide students through it, thereby connecting it to the specific topics or activities in your course. Carefully annotated, a video becomes something more than a lecture intended to convey information. Instead, at its best it functions as an exercise in modeling for students a thought process or a line of inquiry. An well-annotated video can establish a kind of dialogue between the video’s content and the larger conceptual or theoretical structures of the course or program of study. It can invite students to explore or understand a topic more deeply, and to connect that topic to others they have studied, rather than passively view and process simply for its informational content.

Video annotations can work in a number of different ways, depending on the specific tool being used to create and display them, but the general idea is to attach notes, usually in the form of text (although some tool support images and multimedia), to specific spans of time within the video. Once the annotations have been created, many annotation tools allow the viewer either to watch the full video and see the annotations displayed in a synchronized fashion as it plays or, alternatively, to jump immediately to specific portions of the video based on a selected annotation.

Some video annotation tools can also facilitate individual or group annotation by students, opening up a variety of possibilities for student projects or, potentially, for moving course discussions out of traditional threaded forums or message boards and into a world where comments are attached directly to the object of study itself.

Used thoughtfully and creatively, annotated videos provide numerous ways to move beyond the conventional video lecture in an online or hybrid course. In a companion post, coming soon, I’ll highlight a couple of free tools that you can start using right away to experiment with video annotation in your own courses. Stay tuned!

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