Engagement and Interactivity in Online Lectures: Exploring TED-Ed

In the best circumstances, a lecture attended in person is an exercise in engagement and interactivity as well as instruction.

Understandably, this too is what we strive for in online education, but we are presented with additional hurdles.

  • The instruction being given is prerecorded, has already happened, and cannot be influenced in real time by ideas in the classroom.
  • Students are experiencing the content asynchronously, at the different times that are convenient to each of them.
  • Students cannot ask follow-up questions while instruction is being given.
  • In the same manner, the instructor cannot assess in-the-moment understanding of the instruction being given.

There are a number of tools for addressing the challenges listed above, but one of the most important aspects to delivering quality online instruction is to see that same list in a positive light. In addition to allowing for different approaches to engagement and interactivity, there is a nearly limitless supply of virtual components that can supplement online lecture: Various simulations; Basic and complex gamification; Adaptive learning platforms that customize assessments and feedback based on a particular student’s needs. The introduction of technology affords options that could never be realized in a lecture hall.

Enter: TED-Ed.

Many are familiar with the service that the global non-profit, non-partisan, TED, has brought to the global community since its inception in 1984. They bring important ideas and conversations to a stage, allowing intelligent and accomplished and visionary persons to inspire others. In this spirit, they have provided a resource for educators to build off the ubiquity of YouTube. YouTube, an unrivaled provider for serving up video content, certainly gets the job done, but how do educators build on that? The learning process should not be a passive one, a one-way road where the student simply takes in instruction. Fundamentally, TED-Ed functions as a “wrapper” for a YouTube video. Any video can be linked, whether it is an original lecture or a resource provided by a published authority or subject matter expert. Youtube is your playground when you’re using TED-Ed.

The tools of TED-Ed allow course designers to lead learners, from passively viewing a video, through basic formative checks, into deeper engagement with the material. Each level is loosely correlated with one or more level of Bloom’s taxonomy.

I’ll use one of the Ted-Ed Original Series presentations as an example.

  • Watch
    • Students view the video
  • Think
    • Aligns questions with parts of the video to assess in-the-moment, basic understanding. If the question is answered incorrectly, the TED-Ed platform can give guidance and direct the viewer back to the relevant part of the video.
  • Dig Deeper
    • This is where additional resources can be linked that further explore the topic and the ideas that come along with it beyond what may have been in the video.
    • Additionally, this is space for the instructors to add their two cents as well. This is especially useful for when the students are watching a video from a party other than the instructor, in which case the instructor can add additional insight as a subject matter expert, or even assign follow up work.
  • Guided Discussion
    • If your LMS does not have a discussion board, or if you are looking to engage students outside of the walls of your institution, this is the place where it can happen. This basic discussion board area allows for voting on responses and moderation.

The applications for this platform are, like those for YouTube, seemingly limitless. There is a trove of public free to use individual lessons, series of lessons, and even student support clubs available within the TED-Ed website.

We’re eager to begin integrating this into our courses to improve not only engagement and interactivity, but the quality of instruction and the general student experience as well.

One thought on “Engagement and Interactivity in Online Lectures: Exploring TED-Ed

  1. Amy

    Wow! What an awesome resource and already can see how Ted-Ed can be a great tool for our classrooms. For starters, I have reviewed a Ted-Ed related to what are the universal rights and what a great way to not only present a short video on the topic, yet also invite students to think, dig deeper and have some thought provoking discussions. I look forward to integrating this resource in future courses and thank you for sharing a great tip!

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