My Journal



Using Asynchronous Video in Online Classes – Griffiths

Griffiths, M.E., & Graham, C.R. (2009). Using Asynchronous Video in Online Classes: Results from a Pilot Study. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 6(3).

Recently, I discovered that Michael E. Griffiths, Senior Project Manager in the Center for Teaching and Learning at BYU and Charles R. Graham, an Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology also at BYU, conducted a study that is extremely close to my own dissertation research topic, even drawing on many of the same theories and scholarship. While such a find could prove to be frightening if it were an exact replica study and intent, rather, I find that their study supports and accents my own research, as oppose to preceding any points I was trying to discover, glean, or even prove.

Just as I am, Griffiths and Graham are looking at how asynchronous video communication between instructors and students in the online classroom captures certain verbal and non-verbal cues to establish a high level of social presence and instructor immediacy. However, they are also looking at a few different perspectives than I am. For example, while social presence theory is foundational to my research, I am using the theory in regard to its ability to bring clarification of meaning, emotion, emphasis, and intent to communication, whereas Griffiths and Graham are discussing it in terms of projecting individual personalities, an element I do address, but not as the predominant value of the theory.

Why Students Take Online Classes
In FtF classes, it is often difficult to gauge the pace at which students prefer to work and proceed through projects and through the entire class. This individual level can be affected by learning pace, interest, technology skills, schedule, and workload outside of class. This situation is one reason behind why students take asynchronous online classes; they can set their own schedules and take as much time as necessary to comprehend and retain the material and to complete projects. According to Appana (2008), the benefits of online instruction over FtF instruction include increased access, improved quality of learning, better preparation of students for a knowledge-based society, and Lifelong: learning opportunity. However, online instruction also has limits, such as the ability to replicate the social interaction, prompt feedback, engaging activities, instructional flexibility, the dynamism of a knowledgeable scholar, and adaptation to individual needs. (Larreamendy-Joems & Leinhart, 2006). While text-based asynchronous learning environments can replicate certain elements of social interaction (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison & Archer, 1999), textual communication does not have the ability to replicate all of the verbal and non-verbal cues that FtF communication can provide. This is why using video in online classes can be so beneficial; it provides the missing verbal and non-verbal cues not existent in textual communication.

Synchronous Online Video
In discussing the Online Video Conversation (OVC), I generally tout its potential benefits and draw out its limitations. I also have discussed other forms of online video methods, as well as specific tools, and how they could be used in the online classroom. Being that one limitation of the OVC its inability to offer immediacy–from instructor or fellow-students–an obvious alternative is synchronous video, such as the video conferencing often used in the workplace, which offers that missing immediacy while still providing the verbal and non-verbal cues present in the OVC. In fact, the immediacy of feedback would even enhance non-verbal cues, since they would be reactionary; one making a given comment would see the responsive facial expressions of a participant. However, synchronous online video is not without its limitations. Griffiths and Graham address this point well:

“Live video conferences require a high-level of coordination, and are now subject to many technical problems that can cause the experience to be negative for students. There is an expectation of video conferences that they will replicate the essence of a close physical location experience, and while expensive video conferencing equipment that is often used in commercial settings works well, the most available inexpensive technologies involving video through the internet are subject to bandwidth restrictions, and software/hardware issues. When these problems occur, a video conference can often be a disappointing experience. Also, video conferences take away one of the main benefits of online learning; learner time flexibility. Online students have the benefit of choosing the time and circumstances of their learning experience, and that benefit is removed when they are required to participate in live video conferences” (3?).

Asynchronous Online Video
Griffiths and Graham go on to discuss asynchronous video, noting many of the aspects I have discussed in the past, such as the idea that the video clips that student and instructors send to each other may potentially solve some of the issues of establishing higher levels of social presence in online environments. Furthermore, while asynchronous video offers some of the benefits of FtF communication, it is not as “rich” as the live experience. Although the authors do not reference media richness theory directly, I am assuming this is the concept to which they are referring by selecting this term.

Additionally, asynchronous video is not bound by the same issues as live video conferences. For example, if need be, an asynchronous video can be (re)recorded innumerable times before posting; whereas any issue occurring in a live setting, be it technical or person, can be far more serious and irreparable.

Differences in our Research
Their study is not so unlike my own in that they look at the use of video as a communication tool in the asynchronous online classroom. They also collected feedback from both instructors and students. The students found the course to be helpful, enjoyable, and valuable due to the use of video. Some found it even more personal than a FtF class. Griffiths and Graham also note that students might be more comfortable using the video than with actually being in a class. “It may also be the case the students can respond more freely and naturally to the assignments on a webcam than they could if they were in the physical presence of the instructor. With that being the case, it appears that using asynchronous video combines the benefits of face-to-face personalized communication and evaluation with the efficiency and flexibility of asynchronous online education” (11?).

One difference between Griffiths and Graham’s study and the OVC (my own study) is that in addition to looking at videos that instructors deliver to the entire class, they are mostly looking at online video clips delivered directly from the instructor to an individual student and from an individual student to the instructor. This may seem a minimal distinction; however, while neither communication setting is necessarily any more or less important there are rather large differences. In regard to what the online video method might be attempting to replicate, the directly-delivered videos aim to simulate instructor-student feedback as might occur on a single assignment, in an instructor’s office, or even over email. Conversely, the videos that instructors and students post for the entire class to see aim to simulate the conversations that might occur within a live FtF setting.

In their conclusion, Griffiths and Graham determine that “Asynchronous video communication may well be a technological method that can bridge the gap between the worlds of online and face-to-face education, and gain the best from both worlds” (12?). While I cannot let this affect my own study by pre-empting any results that may come from my research or giving me a false sense of the benefits of this communicative and instructional method, one cannot deny the positive outlook that this suggests for such benefits. Just as the authors suggest that further development in the use of video in the online educational setting is needed, my study, while including the noted differences, will add to the general advancement of video use in this way.

    • Mike Griffiths
      Aug 12, 2010 at 10:44 PM /

      What a great surprise to find this online! I am Mike Griffiths the main author of the cited article. We now use the Asynchronous Video Learning Model that came out of our studies for the BYU Hawaii Online program that I now direct. I would be more than happy to share further results and start a discussion with the author of this blog. It seems like we can learn a great deal from each other.

    • Time Barrow
      Aug 16, 2010 at 9:00 PM /


      Great to hear from you. I was actually planning to contact you in the next couple of months. I find great value in using the asynchronous video in the classroom, and was very pleased to find someone doing very similar research. Also, after the 1st of the year, I am plan to conduct some online interviews with instructors who use such an instructional model. However, I’ve not yet begun the quest (nor even obtained IRB approval), so it would be great to also include you and your colleagues in that venture.

      Right now, I am plugging away and preparing for the qualifying exams for my doctorate. But I am blogging about almost everything I am reading in this vein. So, I’d love to connect and discuss any of these topics/scholars or our different angles, theories, approaches, findings, etc. I must concur; I think we have much to share.

      Talk to you soon,