Manipulating online video resources to enhance learning

Instructors are no longer limited to pressing play on a VCR to show a video. With the advent of online streaming video, students can watch media independently of their peers on individual devices or workstations. This autonomous viewing experience involves navigation and audio controls. Online video technology has rapidly evolved to allow teachers and students more engaging features during a video viewing experience. These features are discussed in relation to enhancing the online video learning experience through various feature-rich websites.1

Online Video and Learning

Online video can enhance learning when the technology is cooperating. At its best, online video offers ubiquitous access to learning content through dedicated media hosts. Video sharing sites such as YouTube, institutional servers, and third party genre specific sources such as ESL video provide dependable streaming of millions of videos with a click of a button. This access allows students video content both inside and outside of the classroom. Video now streams onto all device types through wireless technology permitting viewing in an anywhere-anytime model resulting in heightened learner autonomy.

Video offers students enhanced variations of concepts through demonstrations, simulations, and scenarios. These communicate details of concepts, events, trends, personalities, and processes through visual and aural representations. When combined with interactive resources, potential for learning opportunities with online video escalates.

Ubiquitous access to these resources coupled with the possession of hand-held devices allow students to individually pace their interaction with play bar control keys. Many online video players provide further controls with a speed option. Students can by slow down or speed up video playback as required. This has become a common feature on video play bars and is a welcome addition to the more traditional stop and rewind buttons.

Contemporary Video Features

Over the past 15 years, there have been several innovations with online video that can be applied to education situations. Teachers can enhance online video experiences with questions, polls, comments, closed captioning, discussion prompts, hyperlinks to additional resources, and editing videos into reduced and more manageable clips.

Although there are many streaming video services available on the Internet, experience has demonstrated that YouTube works well with the following innovations. For the purposes of this article the source of videos will be assumed to be YouTube. Apologies to MetaCafe, Vimeo, DailyMotion, TeacherTube, LearnZillion, KhanAcademy, and National Geographic!

Closed Captioning (CC)

Closed captioning is familiar to most through viewing movies and television broadcasts. There has been a concerted effort to generate closed-captioned and described videos due to government legislation. In the United States, Section 508 specifies mandatory closed-captioning requirements for all educational video. In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) also mandates closed captioning as a means of breaking down communication barriers. Other nations and regions have enacted similar legislation. This has made CC a common feature of online video.

Adding closed captions to course videos improves the viewing experience with a third input mode. This is a text caption that appears over the video itself. The closed-captioned option can be utilized or hidden with a toggle button on the video play bar. YouTube or EdPuzzle, for example, provide a closed-captioning (CC) toggle button. This allows the instructor or students the ability to display or hide the captioned text.

Closed captioning can speed up a search for a specific point in the video through a visual scan of the CC text. This can save students and instructors time while searching for a specific starting point on a lengthy video.

The YouTube video manager is required to add CC to YouTube videos. Unfortunately, you must be the owner of a YouTube video to add closed captioning to the video. As CC is becoming more common, there is a good chance that serious video content will include closed captioning. The process of adding CC is laborious when attempted manually, but the automatic transcription feature speeds up the process. As with any automatic speech-to-text tools, careful review is required to ensure that the text matches the audio. Comments (see below) are a means of supplementing the video experience with additional text if the original video does not have closed captioning.


Comments can be added to online video through a variety of tools. Comments manifest themselves as a text note, an audio clip, or a pop up image. Deliberately placed comments improve viewers’ experience with activity instructions, hyperlinks to an external resource, highlights of significant concepts and details, prompts for reflection, and guidance through an activity, all while maintaining the viewer’s autonomous experience.

EdPuzzle offers three types of comments. Its Audio Notes feature allows teachers to insert an audio comment anywhere along the video’s timeline. Short text comments and images, used for concept clarification, can be inserted as well with EdPuzzle. Within the text comments instructors can place a hyperlink to another web resource for additional information, images are linked from this tool. There is a basic equations editor for math and science videos as well.

Another video resource, Vibby, displays comments in a column on the screen. This column allows instructors to prompt and clarify video elements during playback. Students have the option of hiding or displaying the comments column during video playback.

Playback speed

Most online video services offer playback speed control. Although the scales vary, students can easily change playback speed based on their requirements. Depending on the video and the player, speeds set to the extremes on the scale can result in temporary loss of audio. Setting the playback speed of a video is in the control of the students when viewing the media on a device. Playback speed is in the teacher’s control when they are playing a video from the front of the class.

EdPuzzle and TubeChop allow YouTube’s speed control on their service.

Video length

A common experience for all teachers is dealing with the frustration of locating the starting point of a scene within a longer video. This situation has the potential for students to lose focus. If teachers preset the in-point and out-point of a video clip this increases the efficiency of the onset of the video viewing activity. Cropping a video is simply setting a start point and end point to the video.

Reducing the length of a video clip or cropping a video is the specialty of TubeChop but EdPuzzle and Vibby also offer this functionality.

Segmenting a video

A variation of cropping a video is the ingenious innovation of segmenting long videos into a shorter continuous clip. The teacher identifies and locates the scenes of a movie required for a lesson. These are then selected by setting a series of in-points and out-points resulting in a continuous video of only the desired content. As an instructor, this offers potential to become creative when selecting videos for lessons. Now a video does not have to be shown as the original but in sections as fits the lesson.

Vibby, the segmenting tool, also allows instructors to insert titling in-between the video segments to notify the students that fresh content is forthcoming.


Navigation features commonly on playback bars are rewind, fast-forward, play, pause, and stop, along with a time-elapsed display. One of the more advanced features for education offers a rewind to a preset start point. Teachers can set these points at the start of important sections of the video. Students can take advantage of this feature after they have missed a concept or incorrectly answered a question on an interactive video quiz.

EdPuzzle and TEDEd Lessons offer this capability to ensure students can quickly focus on the essential section of the video related to a question or a prompt.


Sometimes audio is considered to be difficult for the students to understand due to inferior recording quality, an unfamiliar narrator’s accent, or an unwanted audio background track. At other times, a video that fit your instructional requirements may not be suitable for viewing because of missing audio, inappropriate scripting, or a language other than English. A solution to this is to record your own audio track over top of the video. A teacher can simply strip the existing audio from a video and replace it with their own voice.

EdPuzzle offers this ability to replace an audio track as one of its standard features. A drawback of it is that the whole length of the audio must be replaced, not just a section of the track.


A poll embedded within a video is often used as a check-in to ensure that the student is attentive to the media. Poll data can be tabulated and reported during or after the viewing activity. Poll results are not tallied unless the teacher and students are on a specific account and linked to a common class. Many teachers do not take advantage of virtual class features offered by online resources as the administration of multiple third party classes becomes complicated through multiple locations, credentials, graders and analytics data.

EdPuzzle’s multiple choice quiz feature allows teachers to incorporate polls into their video activities.

Comprehension checks

Adding questions to an online video is a popular feature for instructors. Students are given the responsibility of answering open-ended, multi-select, or multiple-choice questions to ensure comprehension of a video. These ensure that students pay attention to the video instead of multitasking or fast forwarding to the end. Multiple-choice and multi-select questions are assessed instantly to individual students. Open-ended question are problematic as they are best marked by the instructor and not automatically. If teachers want to put in the extra effort, they must set up an online class and access student responses through the teachers’ portal on these resources.

YouTube cards, EdPuzzle, TED Ed Lessons, and ESLVideo are a few resources that provide this possibility.


Promoting relevant dialogue between students is a fundamental aspect of teaching. Inserting a discussion alongside of a video with the expectation of student participation is a reality with online video. These exchanges can be facilitated by an online forum linked to an online video.

TED Ed Lessons allows instructors to bind a video with a forum to encourage and facilitate communication.

Further research

As already mentioned, connecting to resources from within a video is a possibility through hyperlinks. TED Ed Lessons provides a feature, Dig Deeper, which allows teachers to create a webpage with additional information, images and links to relevant resources. In addition, TED Ed Lessons also offer the “And Finally” feature that prompts students to move further into another related activity, resource, or concept. Students can be challenged by these elements to a degree dependent on their teacher’s talents.


Contemporary digital video’s clarity, combined with the development of online resources that facilitate a myriad of functions, allow educators the ability to manipulate online video to enhance their delivery of course content. Assessment features can assist with mastery learning. Cropped video increases the potential for granular learning allowing students to focus on specific elements. Carefully seeded comments and questions can maintain student interest. Closed captioning can support learners that require an additional input to comprehend the video if the language elements are challenging. Additional research can also be included through hyperlinks and teacher positioned prompts. Communication and critical thinking is also possible with video connected forums.

Online Tools Referenced


Government of Ontario. (2015). Education Accessibility Plan 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2017, retrieved from

EDUCAUSE. (2008). Grassroots Video. NMC Horizon Report: 2008 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium, 10–12.

United States Government. (n.d.). Quick Reference Guide to Section 508 Requirements and Standards. Video and Multimedia products. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from


1. This paper is based on the TESL Ontario session, Enhancing Video Learning Events with Free, Online Tools. While the session focused on the tools used to manipulate online video, this article concentrates on the features offered by online video resources that can be manipulated to enhance learning.

Published In:
Contact Spring 2017

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