Improving Online Learning from Tutorial Dialog Videos

Principal investigator

Michelene Chi

Direct sponsor

National Science Foundation

Award start date


Award end date


The challenge

With the dramatic increase in the popularity of online learning, video lectures have become the predominant content-delivery format for the majority of online courses, including MOOCs — massively open online courses. Today’s technologies enable a variety of ways of creating videos: “talking hands,” embedded simulations and branching link options are three examples. However, despite these new functions, most existing learning videos are surprisingly uniform in format: a monologue style of lecture. Monologue presentation leads to “passive learning,” which has been shown to be a less effective way to learn compared to “active learning.”

The approach

This project proposes an approach to online instructional videos using the ICAP framework of engagement developed by principal investigator Michelene Chi. ICAP defines cognitive engagement activities by students’ overt behaviors, categorizing those behaviors as Interactive, Constructive, Active and Passive. The ICAP hypothesis predicts that as students become more engaged with the learning materials, learning will increase. This project will use a new video format that captures tutorial dialogues between an instructor and a tutee — dialogues that contain not just correct information, but incorrect and misinformation, expressed by a struggling tutee. Students viewing the dialogue videos will be provided an online collaborative learning space requiring them to post comments as they discuss the video content with peers. The online collaborative space will allow observing students to be both constructive and interactive.

Both dialogue and monologue videos will be introduced in four introductory-level college science classes, and their learning effectiveness compared. Two hypotheses will be tested:

  • Students’ learning from dialogue videos exceeds their learning from monologue videos
  • Online dialogue patterns of the dialogue-video observers are more Constructive and Interactive than those of monologue-video observers, accounting for learning benefits

A stratified randomized sampling technique will be used, and students’ learning outcome measures (i.e., pre- and post-tests) and process/product measures (i.e., online dialogues and worksheets) will test the hypotheses.

Findings and impact

This ongoing project runs from Aug. 2019 to Aug. 2020.