Online Learning Pedagogy

Do Students Even Read our Announcements?

"I skip right over those!" 

"They're a waste of time!"

"What announcements?"

I often hear that students don't care about the announcements that many of us take the time to craft and post in our online courses. Many of these perspectives, however, have come from campus students taking online courses who have a very distinct educational experience from our online student populations. First, campus students have a face to face experience even if they are taking a few online courses along the way. Second, their campus-course professors who choose to use I-Learn organize their content in I-Learn very differently from how we organize our online courses.

BYU-Idaho's online learning program puts a lot of stock in the announcements widget, meaning we tell instructors to put a lot of effort into those announcements because it is one of the ways we can communicate presence in our courses. Whether students actually engage or consume those announcements is one of great debate amongst teachers. One year ago, I posted a discussion called "Do Students Watch Our Instructor-Made Videos?" The discussion that ensued among instructors was wonderful! And I am happy to report that my videos have gotten better.

But what about announcements in general?

Does the benefit of posting announcements outweigh the cost of making them?

The only data I have to determine if students read our announcements are the videos I often embed in those announcements. For context, I try create an intro video each week and I keep those videos to three minutes or less. I try to cover important content for the week and infuse my personality into those videos to foster "social presence" theory. Because I post my videos in YouTube I can get view rate analytics on those videos. My experience has been that around 2/3 of my students watch the videos for at least 2 of the 3 minutes. Not great, but at least I know something about the extend to which they consume my content. 

What are your thoughts about announcements? I will likely submit an evaluation project request to our on-campus course improvement evaluation team to help us determine "announcement impact" on students, but I am interested in your take.

What return have we experienced from our investment in announcements?

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  • Last semester, every time I embedded a video, I got a lot more traffic on my video than I did when I simply posted a link, as in 20+/29 in a class viewing a video vs. 2-3/29 students viewing a video. It is useful to use Screencastomatic or similar software that tracks the video. Some of my videos have been longer even than 5 minutes and have had a lot of traffic simply because they've been embedded. I still try to keep them to 5 minutes or less. But embedding the video makes all the difference, as does referring to it frequently on feedback and emails and linking to it from wherever I can. If they know students exists and is important and full of useful information, they tend to refer to it.

    • I did not know that if you embed the video you can see how many views a video has!  Does anyone know if that works with Loom as well?  Or just Screencastomatic?

      • I believe Loom tracks, whether it's embedded or just linked.  My computer doesn't like Loom very well for whatever reason.  But you can test it yourself.  Make an embedded video, post it somewhere, then click on it.  See if it tracks.  I think it's supposed to.  

        • Great idea, thanks so much!  If not, I will have to play around more with Screencastomatic, I guess. :)

          • You're welcome. Loom uploads quickly, but I find it's a little less reliable. Screencastomatic is more reliable but takes a while to upload. I'm still seeking the perfect program, the one that uploads quickly and is reliable.

            • Thanks for sharing these observations, I am happy to hear them from someone's firsthand experience. 

              • Loom has the added advantage of people being able to add responses at any point in the video (text-based communication thread), but you have to link out to the video on loom's website to utilize that feature. I tried it once last semester with minimal positive results (fewer views than embedded videos), but I did get one or two comments on that video. I suppose if I tested it for a whole semester it might inculcate a culture of viewing and responding. Only trying it once wasn't sufficient experimentation to make a judgment call on the effectiveness of that feature. Loom has been easy to use. My default screen cast software has been screencast-o-matic. and for $15 a year you can have added editing features without the screencast-o-matic branding. Well worth the $15 a year from my perspective.

                • I too love Screencast-o-matic but I'm too cheap to fork out the money for the paid version. Is there any way BYU-I would ever make it available to the instructors? It's such a great tool.

                • Thanks for your insights as well, Jerrod.  These are helpful too, and it looks like embedding videos is definitely the way to go!  I really love embedding YouTube videos too because then there are not ads or "watch next" on the videos.

                  • Agreed. And for what it is worth, I always upload my screencast-o-matic videos to my YouTube channel and embed those videos into my I-Learn announcements to get my analytics. Maybe the same could be achieved through saving my videos on screencast-o-matic's website/database. I haven't tried that.

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