62.2, May 2015

Reviews of Four Books on Digital Video for Online Learning

Gregory Zobel


Creating effective learning content is an ongoing challenge for instructional designers. As online education expands, more face-to-face classrooms are adopting online learning tools, like digital video and online communities, for their classrooms. Whether designing face-to-face or online courses, instructional designers need solid understanding of online communities, digital video, and online learning contexts. Single-Camera Video Production and Designing Online Communities give designers and teachers useful support during the content and course design’s formative stages. Both books help designers and teachers to create communities and videos, and to better understand the tools, their power, and how they impact learning. The best use for Digital Video for Teacher Education is during or after teaching—for analyzing screencasts or lectures—to help teachers reflect on and improve their practice, affect, and presence. Learning Online contextualizes the diverse tools with data-driven results and helps frame how instructional designers might use these tools. Designers will find that each book will help expand their understanding and application of two key online learning tools: forums and video.

Digital Video for Teacher Education: Research and Practice


Digital Video for Teacher Education: Research and Practice is a valuable edited collection on working with video of interest to educators and teachers. This collection comprises three sections: Teacher Learning with Digital Video, Facilitating Teacher Learning with Digital Video, and Administering Digital Video for Teacher Education.

Each section contains four different articles, so the reader receives depth and breadth under each theme. Multiple chapters address the importance of noticing: learning how to pay attention to the important aspects of their teaching, and others’ teaching, as recorded in the video. Watching videos is pointless if students or colleagues are not mentored in how to recognize good teaching. Similarly, multiple chapters connect noticing to the value of using digital video for reflection. Multiple authors indicate that the value of video for reflections was limited at best if pre-service teachers or teachers new to using video were not offered specific guidance. Thus, multiple chapters emphasize the importance of not integrating technology without guidance, training, or support.

While much of Digital Video for Teacher Education focused on teacher education, multiple chapters have value for educators interested in digital video. Specifically, Chapter 2 focuses on how analyzing digital video can support educators’ development of a professional pedagogy. McDonald and Rook employ Goodwin’s (1994) twin practices of highlighting and coding to help develop this vision. The authors also emphasize the importance of alternating observation with teaching practice and working with more experienced teachers to learn how to observe. Similarly, Chapter 5 is important as Rich examines the role that others play in impacting digital video analysis and how they can impact the analysis. The roles discussed fell under the categories of administrative, discussant, facilitator, and technologist (pp. 75–76). People preparing to use video can draw value by reflecting on how to put together video discussion and reflection groups as well as considering who will see the videos afterwards.

Chapter 12 made the distinction on the impact that audience has regarding the video. Are the videos being made for low-stakes uses, such as internal assessment, portfolio video, or self-improvement, or are they going to be used for professional recognition and external assessment?

While targeting teacher educators, Digital Video for Teacher Education offers multiple articles and resources for improving video work. Calandra and Rich’s book is a definite consideration for teacher educators interested in remaining current with digital video technology.

Learning Online: What Research Tells Us About Whether, When and How


Means, Bakia, and Murphy provide an eight-chapter overview of the use of online learning in K–12, higher education, and settings outside of traditional schooling. The authors in Learning Online: What Research Tells Us About Whether, When, and How accomplish a great deal and do it well. This book gives a well written and accessible, quick, holistic view of online learning grounded in meta-analysis of research articles about the effectiveness of online learning. The solid index and numerous citations offer significant value.

Online learning and its booming history is covered well following the Introduction. Means, Bakia, and Murphy next discuss other online learning variables: context, instructional design, implementation, feedback, and outcomes. Chapters 1 and 2 are arguably the most important for readers new to or interested in obtaining a quick overview of online learning, its variables, and its effectiveness.

Subsequent chapters focus on specific interests or questions, such as higher education, K–12, and interest-driven online learning. These chapters are informative for those readers seeking an overview of diverse online education areas.

Readers may find Chapter 6, which covers online schools and universities, more relevant than others. This chapter discusses private and public organizations, for profit or not, and presents a short history of these institutions. Means, Bakia, and Murphy then address advantages, controversies, barriers, and reasons to have online courses, programs, or schools. Unfortunately, they provide less than three pages about the effectiveness of fully online courses and programs (pp. 132–134).

Many K–12 and higher education readers will value the chapter on online learning for less-prepared students. This is a rich, thorough examination of the challenges in developing quality online education; it also discusses the effectiveness of diverse programs as well as factors that affect the outcomes for less-prepared students. Many readers might have an interest in Chapter 8 because it addresses the common conception that online education is less expensive than face-to-face education and thus, potentially, online education could help rescue financially struggling schools. While short, this will help in better understanding the economics of online learning, or, if facing online learning promotions, a means to educate and ground colleagues’ and peers’ discussion about the costs of online learning.

The Conclusion, besides the first two chapters, is probably the most important to read because it offers suggestions on how to improve online learning and proposes multiple directions for future research in online learning and education. Overall, Learning Online is a pleasurable dive into a well-organized, clearly written overview of online education.

Single-Camera Video Production


The sixth edition of Single-Camera Video Production is informative, packed with details, and serves as an effective reference for those wanting to integrate more video into their research, teaching, or content creation. This book provides the scaffolding needed to build your understanding and experience in shooting and recording video.

Musburger and Ogden cover video production basics, such as the audio and video equipment limitations, as well as understanding how to measure and capture audio signals. They review different calibers of equipment, from consumer to professional, video compression, and optics for the camera. The authors clearly explain and present topics that have always eluded me, such as the effective selection and use of microphones, and setting up proper lighting.

Single-Camera Video Production serves well as a handbook to use when recording your first video. The book walks the readers step-by-step through the pre-production, production, and post-production processes using multiple screenshots, visual examples, charts, and tables. It’s a great reference resource to have on one’s bookshelf.

Designing Online Communities


Owens’ background not only provides credibility and nuance to his discussions about online communities and forums, it also shapes his twin goals for Designing Online Communities. His first goal is studying how those who create or maintain communities appear to have increasing control over the community’s identity. The second goal is to build on existing research methods for online research and offer an effective framework for approaching online communities. He blends these goals in the book as part of a larger approach to working and researching online. Owens writes, “Realizing that researchers need to disaggregate the web into a set of distinct platforms and systems that are enabled over the foundational protocols that enable it requires us to think about the ideas and perspectives that inform how particular features, tactics, designs, and configurations are enabled to create particular kinds of results” (p. 11).

For researchers new to studying online communities, Chapter 2 is where Owens synthesizes research methods from multiple fields and then provides a framework for studying online communities.

In Chapter 3, he presents his key research questions on presenting and discussing the specific methods and setting out a model for future studies. These questions set the stage for Chapter 4, where Owens does an engaging analysis and close reading of a user guide. Chapter 5 is broader and offers an historical overview of online communities, their histories, and their rhetorics by evaluating and analyzing books that taught and guided the creation and operation of these online communities. It covers multiple facets of online communities, from reputation and control to motivations for starting online communities. Most interesting was the analysis and discussion of how social networking differs from online communities. These chapters are engaging and can provide excellent models for faculty teaching graduate students online research methods.

Owens, in Chapter 6, focuses on how online community authorities—the creators and managers—enact and keep control. He retains attention on how authoring software that enables online communities also embodies the authors’ individual and community rhetorics and values. Owens uses objects like the “Post” button in an online forum or turning off email notifications to thread participants to distinguish and illustrate the diverse interests, agendas, and goals of software designers, community moderators, and community participants.

Designing Online Communities is a fast read with many chapters working well together to show examples of what Owens’ methods can achieve through the different examples and scopes of his research.


Calandra, Brendan, and Rich, Peter J. eds. 2014. Digital Video for Teacher Education: Research and Practice. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-0-415-70626-1. 226 pages, including index. US$48.95 (softcover).]

Means, Barbara; Bakia, Marianne; and Murphy, Robert. 2014. Learning Online: What Research Tells Us About Whether, When, and How. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-0-415-63029-0. 222 pages, including index. US$39.95 (softcover).]

Musburger, Robert B., and Ogden, Michael R. 2014. 6th ed. Single-Camera Video Production. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. [ISBN 978-0-415-82258-0. 308 pages, including index. US$31.95 (softcover).]

Owens, Trevor. 2015. Designing Online Communities. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing. [ISBN 978-1-4331-2846-2. 140 pages, including index. US$36.95 (softcover).]

About the Author

Gregory Zobel is an assistant professor of educational technology at Western Oregon University. Trained in technical communication, usability, and rhetoric, he supports and trains educators employing technology to enhance and enrich learner engagement, accessibility, and content delivery in person and online.