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Educators and Students Benefit from Video's Power to Connect
Whether it's in the classroom or not, video can play an important role for teachers, students and coaches, helping them build one-on-one connections.

These days we all do it. We meet someone new in person or online and then we do a search of his or her name on Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Perhaps we want to stay in touch, or maybe we’re interested in learning more about what that person does. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who is a little disappointed when I don’t find a profile picture. We don’t just want to read about someone; we are naturally drawn to photographs and want to know what someone looks like. It helps us build a connection.

Obviously—at least to us video producers— video amplifies that connection by allowing us to see a person speak and act; it’s more like if we were in the same room together. This is the same reason why videoconferencing and video chatting have become popular technologies among both business users and consumers.

Education, I argue, depends on these kinds of personal connections, whether it’s between a teacher and a student, between two peer students, or between a student and a coach. As educators, we want to build similar connections online for our students, teachers, and mentors.

The potential to use the power of these connections is present in nearly every sort of educational video. The key is identifying how to best create that connection. Let’s consider the prospective student who is checking out colleges online. He or she is probably going to surf around a college’s homepage and check out the pages designed for prospective students. There will be pictures of smiling faces of students engaged in all sorts of classroom and extracurricular activities. The admissions office hopes the prospective student can relate to at least one of those happy kids performing experiments in a chemistry lab or playing Frisbee on the quad.

Still pictures, however, are limited in the stories they can tell. When a school also posts videos featuring current students, it provides a clearer and fuller picture of what it’s like to attend the college. The prospective student has an opportunity to see the kinds of people he or she will be in class with, perhaps live next door to in a dorm, or meet in a campus club. More importantly, the student might see someone he or she can identify with, imagining what it will be like to take those classes or join those activities.

Video’s power of connection can be leveraged in class just as well. It can be particularly important in distance learning classes, where students are not seated in the same room as their instructors and peers. Making a quick video podcast will allow an instructor to engage many students who might otherwise check out when reading a forum post. Having students shoot their own video responses builds connections between them that engender more empathy than words on a screen can.

Traditional on-the-ground classes can reap these benefits too. Students who are shy in class have a chance to blossom and connect to their peers in a different way when given the creative option of presenting on video. Teachers have the opportunity to bring in the stories and experiences of people who can’t physically be in the classroom, permitting them to speak for themselves. And a teacher’s extra video podcast can help maintain the classroom connection when class is not in session.

When producing video in education, consider how you are going to build and maintain that connection with your viewers. Too often we think about what the video is about and forget about who—who is in the video and who is watching it too.

Remember that prospective students want to picture themselves at your school. Distance learning students want to connect with their teachers and fellow students. Students in a classroom will be more interested in watching others who are like themselves rather than strangers in lab coats performing a chemistry experiment.

You’ll be putting video’s ability to build connection to work for you. 

This article was originally published in the August/September issue of Streaming Media magazine under the title "Video and the Power of Connection."

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