Center for Teaching and Learning

April 2, 2020

40 – Does Watching Lecture Videos Improve Grades? Lessons from ENVIR 100

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Yen-Chu Weng, Program on the Environment, College of the Environment, UW Seattle


ENVIR 100 is a large introductory course to Environmental Studies (150-200 students). This course is taught every quarter – with the spring quarter taught in the online lecture format. I have co-taught the spring hybrid course for the last three years. All lectures were delivered exclusively online via Panopto recordings on Canvas. In theory, students should watch the lecture videos as a major part of their learning. However, viewing statistics showed that each lecture video was viewed by less than 80% of the students. Nevertheless, the median and distribution of grades from the hybrid courses were similar to the grades from traditional in-person lecture courses.

This observation made me wonder: Does watching lecture videos improve grades? In this study, I analyzed the correlation between Panopto viewing statistics (independent variables) and student grades (dependent variables). Results showed a weak positive correlation between video viewing and grades. Students who watched more videos tended to earn higher grades. However, for students earning higher than 85% in grades, there were also a significant number of them who watched very little lecture videos.

Here I offer two possible explanations of this inconsistency. (1) We provide detailed lecture slides on Canvas. Perhaps studying the lecture slides was enough for students to grasp the course materials. (2) Exams only accounted for 40% of the course grade. The other components of the course grade (section participation, research papers, and poster project) were not directly related to watching lecture videos.

As more courses are now offered in the online format to enhance accessibility and student reach, findings from this study suggested instructors to evaluate the role of lecture videos in student learning. Interactive videos with embedded quizzes and shorter videos intermixed with readings are some potential ways to keep students engaged in an online course.