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Hey there! This week is a bit bittersweet, as we’re moving to a new format over the next few weeks (so it’s my last time with you in this exact space). However, we’re excited to see LSW grow!

In the research world, this week we’re chatting about improving videos! Specifically, the article asks:

  • In educational videos, do learners benefit from enhanced visuals, embedded questions, both, or neither?

We also jump back to an article discussing posing questions to learners prior to viewing a video!

Embedding, Engagement, & Enhancement

When trying to manage cognitive load (i.e., keep it low for learners), we might question: should I actually have “enhanced visuals,” or is that a distraction? Although we don’t want to add unnecessary components, keeping learners engaged is also important. So, what about embedded questions? Considering the need to reduce extraneous processing, while managing essential processing, it is important to evaluate which facets of video actually aid learning and which may serve as a distraction (Mayer & Fiorella, 2022). A recent study from researchers at Harvard University aimed to evaluate two components of videos: enhanced visuals and embedded questions (Kestin & Miller, 2022).

In order to evaluate the effect of embedded questions and visual enhancements, four different versions of the same physics demonstration video were developed. Version 1 included embedded questions and enhanced visuals, version 2 included embedded questions but was not visually enhanced, version 3 was visually enhanced but did not have embedded questions, and version 4 included neither (Kestin & Miller, 2022). In this study, “enhanced visuals” references features “such as signaling, temporal contiguity, and modality” (see image for reference).

Kestin & Miller (2022)

The embedded questions appeared roughly every 30 seconds (over a 3 to 4 minute video) and were multiple choice, requiring the learner to answer before advancing in the video. Researchers employed pre-video and post-video tests to evaluate learning (Kestin & Miller, 2022).

Learners that watched the video version (1) with enhanced visuals and embedded questions performed significantly better than all other video versions (Kestin & Miller, 2022).

Kestin & Miller (2022)

Interestingly, enhanced visuals or embedded questions alone were not enough to improve learning outcomes. Instead, the combination of the two is what pushed learners to retain more information!

There are a few points from this study that should probably be noted. First, embedding questions not only serves to engage learners and review pertinent information, but also is a segmenting tool. Second, the learners were sourced from MTurk, which the authors point out may mean that their learners are particularly “tech savvy” (Kestin & Miller, 2022).

Overall, the results from this study are incredibly beneficial when it comes to optimizing educational videos for learners! Following multimedia principles within video, alongside promoting learner engagement through embedded questions, appears to improve learning gains.

Key Takeaway(s): To optimize educational videos, be sure to create enhanced visuals (utilizing signaling, spatial contiguity, etc.) AND place embedded questions throughout to improve learning. Enhanced visuals or embedded questions alone were not enough to improve learning in this study - so remember to include both!

Read More (Open): Kestin, G., & Miller, K. (2022). Harnessing active engagement in educational videos: Enhanced visuals and embedded questions. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 18.

“To maximize learning from active engagement in videos, interactive questions and enhanced visuals need to go hand in hand." - Kestin & Miller (2022)

⚡🔙.✌️.Issue #31

While now we know that we should embed questions throughout our videos, what about before the video? Check out LSW Issue #31 for more!

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week, we're fortunate to meet this beautiful baby with some big brains! Reader Jill V. shared her cutie, Phoebe 🐯 Clearly she "wanted to play too!"

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Katie Vanhardt, Ph.D.

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