Learning from lectures that are recorded and uploaded online is becoming a commonplace. Video lectures offer students the flexibility of learning at their own pace if they are unable to attend the lectures in person or if they want to revisit certain concepts again when they are studying. It is also the main form of learning activity in most Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Instructors often explain concepts using video lectures. Given the high usage of video lectures in educational settings, it is important to ensure that video lectures are organized and produced in a manner that will support learning.
Optimal learning requires students to be paying attention and actively integrating the information to prior knowledge. However, students have difficulty in sustaining their attention for long periods of time. It is not unusual for one to have thoughts that are unrelated to the task at hand while watching a video. This negative shift in attention is known as mind wandering. In 2013, Szpunar, Khan, and Schacter found that interpolating memory test in video lectures helped students to sustain their attention, reduce mind wandering, increase active learning and enhance learning scores.
Extending the study in 2016, Jing, Szpunar, and Schacter conducted another two experiments to examine the effects of interpolated testing on changes in students’ task-related attention and ability to integrate information when learning from a video lecture. Results of the first experiment showed that students who watched the video lecture with interpolated testing did better than students who watched the video lecture and studied the lecture materials, even though both groups of students had the same level of mind wandering. The same results were found in Experiment 2. In addition, the results showed that students who watched the video lecture with interpolated testing had more lecture-related thoughts while students who watched the video lecture and studied the lecture materials had more lecture-unrelated thoughts. In conclusion, interpolated testing appears to influence the type of thoughts students have when watching video lectures, helping students to stay focused on relevant information, integrating information to be learned and enhancing learning.
Jing, H. G., Szpunar, K. K., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). Interpolated testing influences focused attention and improves integration of information during a video-recorded lecture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 22(3), 305.