My friends Enrique Canessa, Carlo Fonda and Marco Zennaro, at the ICTP (International Centre for Theoretical Physics) in Trieste, who also produced a brilliantly innovative lecture capture system, have come up with a clever form of video assessment that solves this problem. They have a system which places spoken, unique to every download, randomised numbers in the silences detected by their software. As a student you need to pay attention to the entire video to hear the numbers and write them down. Note that you can’t just fast forward to hear the numbers, as they’re modulated to match the sound on the original video. Clever or what? The idea has been used successfully on TV shows such as ‘Watch & Win’ and in advertising, where viewers watch out for codes then submit these for prizes.
The idea is to provide online certification on submission of these numbers. This is an improvement on the current certification for simply attending lectures and seminars and can be awarded for remote attendance. A certificate of attendance is provided on the fly.
Increased recall through increased attention
They don’t pretend that this is sure-fire assessment, as there’s no evidence that the student has paid enough attention to learn, retain and recall the content. However, it does, by definition, force you to sustain attention for the entire length of the video. In this sense it is psychologically sound, as attention is a necessary condition for learning and one of the main causes of failure in learning is lack of attention. By raising attention you’re likely to increase the effectiveness of the learning.
Increased recall through note taking
Id add that we know that attention falls away in lectures, as does heartbeat, the performance of the lecturer and note taking. This technique may also encourage more consistent note taking, again increasing retention. This is not a trivial point, as note taking can increase retention by 20-30%.
Now let’s think of some concrete applications. One problem, perhaps the most serious weakness, of the flipped classroom, is to identify whether the student has actually made the effort to attentively watch the videos at home. This system could add some psychological punch to the flipped model. Those educational establishments that record lectures could also increase the effectiveness of the recorded viewing by adopting this technique.
It also got me thinking. A possible enhancement could be the insertion of words, not numbers; those numbers being ‘cues’. Tulving, the man responsible for the semantic/episodic distinction in memory, also identified ‘cues’ which overlap with memories, as playing a key role in recall. If you encode memories with these ‘cues’ it makes them easier to recall, like attaching a handle to your memories making them easier ti pull back out. So, imagine placing cues in these silences, so that you note the cues, improving later recall. (I've written about this here.)
At first this sound a little mechanical but on examination it has some sound psychological principles that make it an indirect and possibly very strong form of assessment. As we move, inevitably, towards recorded lectures and video content as a feature of blended, learning experiences, this is a solution that could have a powerful effect in ensuring that actual learning takes place.
"On-line Certification for All: The PINVOX Algorithm" Inter. J. Emerging Tech. in Learning (iJET), Sept 2012