Peppi Anita Pörhönen
Anna Zita Nyilas
Peppi Anita Pörhönen
Anna Zita Nyilas
Our redesign aims to improve the quality of higher education by tackling the issues prevalent at today’s universities such as high rates of burnout among professors due to work overload and lack of inspiration. Based on a series of eight interviews conducted with professionals from three universities and two organizations involved in higher education within the Netherlands we propose the introduction of short educational videos (such as the videos of Khan Academy) at universities as a partial solution to the issues mentioned above. Our redesign, therefore, is such ashort educational video that aims to convey what principles to keep in mind when creating one. Suggestions are made after a thorough investigation of the scientific literature into the effective use and potential (dis)advantages of educational videos. The video was made by simple technology that most teachers are already using on a day-to-day basis such as a slide show creating software like Microsoft PowerPoint. Our solution is feasible insofar that it does not require additional training or resources, what is more, it alleviates time for teachers to gain more inspiration which could contribute to a better quality of teaching at universities.
We began our project with a focus on the quality of teaching at university. As three students at university we noticed from our own experiences that the quality of teaching wasn’t always that good. We all had experiences with teachers that gave us the feeling they did not like their job, looked very stressed during teaching or did not have a capacity or take the effort to explain the teaching material in a good way.
The problem was that we didn’t know much about the teaching job and what was behind it. The first thing we all came up with was underpayment of the teachers and that this could be in connection with the quality of teaching. The underpayment of teachers is a problem that is generally known in The Netherlands. We also came to the conclusion pretty fast that this wasn’t something we could easily solve with our project since it needs real action from the government. Because we didn’t really know where to start, we decided to start doing interviews with teachers at our university (UvA) and organisations that were involved in teaching at universities. We also started to look for research that could help us get a better understanding of the main issues within the teaching profession at a university.
We conducted eight interviews in total, a few of those were with professors, but we also got feedback from VSNU and the LEARN! Academy. The interviews were very insightful and we got a better picture of what, according to the interviewees, were the problems within their job/the teaching job that could have an influence on the quality of teaching. One problem that came out very clearly was the workload of the teachers. Besides this, low appreciation of teachers, a competitive work environment, repetition and the pressure to publish were factors that the interviewees considered as problems for the teaching job. Also, it became clear that teaching at universities in The Netherlands is seen as ‘secondary’. Doing research and publishing is seen as most important and teaching more as a side job:
‘Teachers are being valued for publishing. Not for educating. Educating really requires intrinsic motivation of the teachers since this is not really the ‘career making’ part.’
When delving into literature, what again became evident, is the excessive workload of teachers. We discovered WOinActie, a movement organising strikes and other events to address this problem and that this organization is already working together with universities. Dutch newspapers are also covering the issue regularly. One of the factors of the increasing workload of teachers at university is the immense increase of students while the budget per student decreases. Besides this, there is an overload of administrative work for teachers. In addition, there is a financial uncertainty that is making it more difficult to offer staff at university a permanent contract. This creates stress for job security for the teachers.
Hannah Arendt addresses in an article she wrote the ‘publish or perish principle’. This principle describes the pressure to publish for academia in order to succeed in an academic career. According to Hannah Arendt, academia’s are being forced to publish, which can have very negative consequences:
‘The one who really loses is the person who has a passionate interest in matters of the mind, who is an excellent reader, who can establish contact with his students and make them understand that his subject is important, but who will not write. Or, if he is forced to write, will not write well. And, by doing something which he is forced to do because of ‘publish or perish,’ he will become a lesser person.’
All the factors that are mentioned above are of course in connection with each other. In figure 1 you can see a mind map of all the problems emerging from the interviews and the research.
Why should universities shift towards modern technology, replacing traditional mass lectures into short topic-specific videos? As mentioned in the analysis, our starting point was to help teachers to help us learn. How do we ensure the quality of education, with the limited resources available? The last thing we need is to put more requirements and burden on the already strained teachers. Replacing a significant portion of lectures with video material is a
solution with excellent potential.
Initially, it took us almost one working day each to learn the process and to produce our video, this guide for teachers that we call our redesign. It was the first time for all of us creating a video based on a slideshow presentation, and although it was a slow start, over time the effort needed for making such a video will drop drastically (el Bouhassani, 2019). We could notice the process getting easier already while making the first video. The more you create, the easier it becomes. Youssef el Bouhassani, an awarded lecturer at HvA, estimates that he spends around 2 hours per video when generating his educational material on applied mathematics (2019).
Now, let us do some maths. If a teacher invests 2 hours in creating a video, and we consider that a traditional 2-hour lecture covers perhaps content equal to 10 of these 6-minute videos, totaling 60 minutes of watch-time, then in the short run, one teacher would save 2 hours of lecturing by working 24 hours instead, a loss of 22 hours. Not very efficient in the short term. Maybe they spent another 2 or 4 hours preparing for the traditional lecture, but it doesn’t tip the balance yet. We have to take into account the longevity and accessibility of the video. It only takes 24÷2=12 watch times for that video to pay itself back time-wise, this means replacing 12 two hour lectures at any given university, location or time. Of course, switching to these short video lectures does not have to happen from one moment to another but over a longer period of
There are disciplines that require frequent updates or face-to-face interactions during lectures thus better stay partially or fully with the traditional way of lecturing, however, most topics relating to mathematics, such as statistics, economics or accounting; and topics in historical humanities, philosophy, for example, withstand time very well. There is no need for every teacher in the world to teach the same phenomena using their own materials over and over
The redundancy is unnecessary and wasteful. Instead of forcing uninspired teachers to repeat themselves year after year, we should have those who are best capable to teach the subject. While we cannot bring Martin Luther King to every classroom, technology has lifted the limits of where, when or how many times his words can be listened to. Collaboration between Dutch universities would allow for the crowdsourcing of the creation of the educational video
materials and would save reduce the time and cost of making the videos and save immense resources in the future.
Once lecture times have freed those teachers who used to give the traditional type of lectures will have more time for small-scale and in-depth, personalized tutoring and inspiring projects which provide students with the opportunity to ask their questions unlike during the mass lectures. Teachers then will have more time to get inspired, train and improve themselves and do research. Hopefully, this will contribute to a more healthy work environment with less
stress and free from burnout.
Although our initial aim was to increase education quality by reducing the workload on teachers, the benefits of the videos would spill over to other areas and bring upon advantages for students and the university as well (see Figure 1.). According to a case study of six universities graduation rates increase and more students finish their programs without delay when they have access to video lectures saving resources for both the students and the universities. Consequently, students can start their careers and enter the workforce earlier. Moreover, due to the switch to the use of online material, the universities increased their revenue and saved on operating costs (Bailey, Vaduganathan, Pugliese, Laverdiere, & Henry, 2018). For instance, there would be no need to rent out enormous lecture halls anymore. Last but not least, the study suggests that videos can increase access to higher education, especially for disadvantaged groups (Bailey, Vaduganathan, Pugliese, Laverdiere, & Henry, 2018).
In a study, they found that using video material was at least as equally effective as standard teaching lectures (Nikopoulou-Smyrni & Nikopoulos, 2010; Bailey, Vaduganathan, Pugliese, Laverdiere, & Henry, 2018). Besides this, videos offer functionalities that cannot be offered at mass lectures. These advantages, as presented in our redesign, are watching & rewatching the videos anytime. Videos can be adjusted to the needs of both early birds and night owls. They say learning takes practice. Videos create the possibility of reinforcing knowledge from time to time. The pace of videos can be adjusted, students might speed them up or slow them down, skipping what they know already which saves them time (Woolfitt, 2015). But not only the adjustability of the videos is what saves time for students, but their proximity as well. Videos free up travel time and make lectures more accessible for students living with disabilities (Bailey, Vaduganathan, Pugliese, Laverdiere, & Henry, 2018).
Lastly, we would like to make some suggestions for future improvement of our redesign. Although videos can contribute to improved student learning outcomes if made engaging (Brame, 2016), videos sometimes receive the criticism that they are just a different form of mass education that leads to a passive learning experience (Woolfitt, 2015). However, videos have the
potential for more personalized education. For instance, exercises can be added to the videos to provide students with the opportunity to practice and test their knowledge they gain from each of the videos. Students can afterward get feedback on what they have mastered and what exactly they have to revise. Softwares based on artificial intelligence are able to track students’ progress and take them to the exact point in the video where students need to go over a concept again to be able to proceed with studying successfully.
Bailey, A., Vaduganathan, N., Pugliese, L., Laverdiere, R., & Henry, T. (2018, 05). Making
Brame, C. J. (2016). Effective educational videos. Retrieved October 16, 2019, from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/effective-educational-videos/
Digital Learning Work. Retrieved November 5, 2019, from
el Bouhassani, Y. (2019, October 04). Personal interview.
Nikopoulou-Smyrni, P. & Nikopoulos, C. (2010). Evaluating the impact of video-based versus traditional lectures on student learning. Educational Research – October 2010.
Woolfitt, Z. (2015). The effective use of video in higher education. Lectoraat Teaching, Learning and Technology. Inholland University of Applied Sciences. Rotterdam, 1-49.