What works and why? TEL Teaching Films

A student looking at a teaching film.

This project undertook empirical research into the use of teaching films in distance- learning programmes in the College of Social Sciences. Received wisdom is that these films are ‘liked’ by students but a more important question is; what is their impact on student learning and experience?  Academics running distance-learning programmes in the Schools of Education; Business; and, Government and Society partnered on the project to research this question.   Mixed-methods, including interviews and surveys with students and tutors, were used to collect data.  The findings were compiled into a research paper as well as a MicroCPD (link below) and infographic that highlighted the key findings. The results were also disseminated at university-wide and national HE conferences to ensure wider impact.  Early evidence shows that the teaching practice of colleagues involved with developing and leading distance learning programmes in CoSS has changed as a result of the research.

Key findings from the research can be seen in the forthcoming paper by Harrison (2018 forthcoming) entitled ‘The Impact of Teaching Films on Distance Education Student’s Learning and Experience’. 

Some of the main findings from the study support previous research; others expand or add greater nuance to them.  For example, decisions about length of film should be made on a pedagogical as opposed to a technological basis.  If teachers are able to hold attention then the films should be the length required to cover the learning content.  For example, contrary to previous research longer recorded lectures were found to be popular with many students.  Further, although a focus on technology enhancements such as adding quizzes and questions to films is helpful, ultimately it is the quality of the teacher that impacts on learning.  The study shows it is the teacher that holds attention and keeps students committed to the films, but also that the teacher’s style, tone and body language is important for learning.  It is the teacher not the quality of the technology production that is responsible for student engagement and learning.  Any positive effects from teaching films might best be attributed to the teacher’s style on film as well as the use students make of the films rather than the technology per se.

The research findings have started to change practice within the College.  Colleagues are reporting they are considering either integrating films into their courses for the first time, or considering using different types of films.  

MicroCPD: The use of teaching films in distance learning: what works? https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/hefi/news/2018/11/MIcroCPD-The-use-of-teaching-films-on-distance-learning-what-works.aspx

Project Category:

Distance learning

Funding Allocated:


Funding stream:

Education Enhancement Fund


Dr Tom Harrison, Department of Education for Social Justice (ESJ), School of Education, College of Social Science (t: 0121 414 4812, e: t.j.harrison@bham.ac.uk)


For more information, contact the projects office on hefi.projects@contacts.bham.ac.uk, quoting reference CSLP181.