As instructors design instructional content for their blended and online courses, many turn to YouTube to search for videos on different subjects. While YouTube can be a great source for content-rich presentations, lectures and lessons, some videos are not always ideally suited for our courses. I’m sure you’ve run into similar scenarios as these. I find a great video but it’s fifteen minutes long and I really only want students to watch a middle section. Or I’ve found a great video, but it’s so littered with pop-up advertisements that students will be distracted by links to improve their abdominal muscles, lose 25 pounds or buy the latest gadget. Or I find a great video but the “suggested videos” at the end are inappropriate for most serious academic environments. What can an instructor do? This week I thought I’d feature some YouTube tricks that you can use to focus students’ attention and reduce some of the cognitive load that can impede their learning.
1. Embed, embed, embed. Want to keep students from getting distracted by other YouTube videos? Try embedding the content in your course management system (CMS). The process is pretty simple. By copying the embed code from the “Share” button for a specific YouTube video, you can embed almost any video into the content section of a course. This way, students can focus on the video without being distracted by the related videos that appear on the margin. By embedding videos, you keep the students within the CMS and don’t risk losing them in the wild forests of the open Internet. One suggestion: You’ll want to be conscious of “mixed content” for different browsers and want to use the secure HTTPS whenever embedding into your CMS. Sounds pretty technical but it’s really not. Here’s a walkthrough from YouTube that should help.
2. No suggestions needed! Whenever embedding, be sure to uncheck “Show suggested videos when the video finishes” before copying the embed code. This will keep possibly inappropriate videos from appearing at the end of the video. It will also keep students from being distracted by some loosely related video featuring singing cats.
3. Chop that video! Want to just show a section of a YouTube video? TubeChop lets you easily select the beginning and ending points of a video and create a unique embed code and link for the tailored video. The video also strips the advertising from the video so students can solely focus on the content without a barrage of popups that increase students’ cognitive load (and decrease their learning).
4. Dub it. Want to show the visuals from one video and the audio from another? Surprise.ly lets you easily do this. Simply copy and paste URLs from similar videos and you’re on your way. The Surprise.ly site is amazingly simple but the process is really powerful. You can also use the site to create custom start and stop times and remove advertisements like TubeChop. The one advantage is that the tailored video will open full-screen without any fanfare, margin distractions or extra content. Students focus on the selected content and nothing else.