This week's MicroCPD comes from a HEFi-funded project, and asks what works in the use of Teaching Films?

The use of Teaching Films in distance learning: what works?

A teaching film is 'a film created to meet a specific learning outcome, for the purposes of enhancing student learning and / or experience.'  

79 postgraduate campus and distance learning students, studying  Social Science courses at the University of Birmingham, completed an open question survey. An important finding was that the quality of the teaching rather than the technology itself is perceived to have the most impact on student learning and experience.

'They [students] like them [teaching films] but that doesn't mean they are learning from them, but it is a good proxy for that...It could be that they are just livening up the module and making them generally predisposed to learning. It could be indirect. I don't think we have the answers there.' D/L Programme Lead

Popular enhancements -

  • 78% of 79 students said on screen prompts, such as questions, helped increase engagement and critical thinking.
  • Over a quarter of students said they learnt more from just reading the transcripts, when available, than watching the films.
  • Slides, highlighting key information, are popular to accompany longer films.

'I like the prompts and quizzes at the end because it does make me reflect and if I can't answer it, I will go back and watch it again.' D/L Student

Students' preferred length of teaching film

Of 79 responses:

less than 5 mins 36%

5 - 15 mins 39%

16 - 25 mins 8%

25 mins plus 17%

The type of film also influenced the preferred length of film. Filmed lectures, documentaries, TED style talks and on-location films were considered more desirable to be of longer duration than animations, talking heads and interviews.

 Further information on the research project's findings can be found on this infographic

For further information contact Dr Tom Harrison at

This research project was made possible through funding from the Education Enhancement Fund at the University of Birmingham