How to create better how-to videos, using computer science

Educational researchers have long held that presenting students with clear outlines of the material covered in lectures improves their retention.

Recent studies indicate that the same is true of online how-to videos, and in a new paper researchers at CSAIL and Harvard University describe a new system that recruits viewers to create high-level conceptual outlines.

Blind reviews by experts in the topics covered by the videos indicated that the outlines produced by the new system were as good as, or better than, those produced by other experts.

The outlines also serve as navigation tools, so viewers already familiar with some of a video’s content can skip ahead, while others can backtrack to review content they missed the first time around.

“That addresses one of the fundamental problems with videos,” says Juho Kim, a CSAIL graduate student one of the co-authors of the paper being presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing in March.

“It’s really hard to find the exact spots that you want to watch. You end up scrubbing on the timeline carefully and looking at thumbnails. And with educational videos, especially, it’s really hard, because it’s not that visually dynamic. So we thought that having this semantic information about the video really helps.”

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