Why Won't The Students Watch the Videos?

Does this sound familiar?

You spent all summer at workshops and conferences learning how to flip your classroom. You spent a lot of time online getting advice about how best to do it. You joined social networks and you participated in numerous Twitter conversations. You even started making the videos and posting them to YouTube. The experts say that the more engaging your class is, the less you’ll need to worry about non-participation. You’re excited, you’re optimistic, on day 1 this year, you were ready for your flipped class…

The problem is- your students weren’t and the experts were full of crap. Sure the students were excited about all of the technology at first- they even watched the first couple of videos and filled out some Google Forms. However, now it is a month into school and you notice the number of views for your videos went from 100 to 27.

Yep. The students are done with the honeymoon phase and have realized that no one is holding them accountable for watching the videos, no matter how important or engaging they may be.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Yes.

I’ve spoken to some old pioneers of flipping and they’ve given some sage advice that may be able to help. Thank you Mr. Cockrum and Mrs. Kirch.

How do we get students to do their homework?

Wait, what? Homework? Yes. Teachers who flip sometimes forget that people in our field have been asking that same question for over 100 years now. Troy Cockrum reminded me that teachers have never had a 100% homework completion rate. He’s right, it’s silly to think that just because the type of homework changed means the students will start doing that homework. It helps to remember that some students will avoid homework at all costs no matter what.

Okay but what about the others, why aren’t they doing it? I am positive that my homework completion rate has never been as low as 27% before. My problem is two-fold.

  1. I am an adult who understands intrinsic motivation- I complete things for the happy feeling it gives me. I forget that my students are all about the grade. It is almost as if they have only one thing in mind at all times at school- “How much is it worth?” For teachers who have read Daniel Pink’s Drive, we fantasize about a world where there are no grades. Students are in class because they want to be there- because they are motivated intrinsically. I would like to believe that because I put my engaging and enlightening information in video form on YouTube, my students will rush to my channel and be granted the academic-bliss my videos will impart on them. Nope.
  2. Because my students only care about the grade, I must hold them accountable for watching the videos. If I don’t, they will not watch them. They have football and jobs and weekends to care about, not a video that doesn’t offer them any credit in class. I am not currently holding them responsible. They have figured it out. Now I know exactly how many students are either intrinsically motivated or a bit slow to catch on.

Some Ideas:

  • Pair the video with the Google Form. It would be lovely if my LMS would figure out a way to automatically shoot completion points over to it from Google Form but alas, they haven’t done it yet. It only takes about 10 minutes to scan responses, enter in a quick completion point, print the names and points, and then hand it to my student aide to record in my grade book. Yes it’s a few steps and yes, it’ll be easier if you automatically carve 10 minutes in your routine to do this. I’ve found that if I scan/grade scores when I first arrive at school in the morning, I am able to field questions and address them in class that day.
  • As much as I idealize a paperless classroom, it hasn’t happened yet. What does happen is that I’ll hand out a worksheet or assignment to be done in class and then ask them to write their comments for tonight’s video on the back. This way I’m killing two birds with one stone- I am already going to have to grade the in-class assignment so glancing at the back isn’t going to be to much more to do.
  • TechSmith’s Camtasia (PC Version) has come out with a nifty tool. You can embed quiz questions into your videos/screencasts and quickly gather information there. Sadly, it costs a lot of money for Camtasia (educators get a discount) and they haven’t made this option available for Mac users yet so I can’t give you much more information than that.
  • A quick quiz in class- either traditionally with paper or with Socratic. Ask a rather obscure but important question from last night’s video. Again, you have to collect, grade, and record. Or you spot-grade (go up and down quickly and stamp if correct) and have them collect a week or two’s worth and then have them compile the grades and hand in- overall grade on top.
  • If you notice a student who is consistently not watching the video, a short pullout with him/her with a one-on-one discussion will usually work. If it doesn’t a quick call home almost always will.
  • This may be enabling (I call it a sanity pill): Create a QR code with a link directly to your video for students who didn’t do the homework to scan as soon as they walk through the door. I make those students sit in a corner to watch it and allow them to rejoin the class only after I have questioned them about why they didn’t watch it. Generally, they don’t like to answer to me more than once.
  • One more thing to remember- if it is a video directly related to a common concept like quadratic formulas, the student might not be watching it because he/she already knows the material. The question then becomes, do they really need to watch it?

So what does my classroom look like? Probably a lot like yours. Now that it is a month into school, I will have sit down with the students and again emphasize the importance of doing their homework. No matter what though, I will always have a group of students who come to class and are put into the corner; students who’ve let down me and their groups because they couldn’t be bothered to do a quick homework assignment.

Clearly there is a need for an all-in-one log in/watch the video/answer the questions/grade computed immediately/applied directly to student’s grade PROGRAM. If you know anyone who wants to make some money- have them invent this. Although, I’d appreciate a discount.

The flipping world is begging for help. If you have an idea please share in the comments below.