2013. Vol.4, No.7, 465-469
Published Online July 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2013.47067
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 465
Software for Annotating Videos—A Resource to Facilitate Active
Learning in the Digital Age
Kalyani Premkumar1, Niel Cowie1, Cyril M. Coupal2, Kevin Boechle r 2
1College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
2Informati on a nd Communications Technology, University of Saskatchewan, Sask atoon, Canada
Received March 15th, 2013; revised April 15th, 2013; accepted April 23 rd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Kalyani Premkumar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is p roperly cited.
In many areas of study—especially health professions, visual demonstration of concepts, processes and
procedures form an important strategy for teaching and learning. Video recordings can be invaluable in
capturing visual components. Annotations add another all-important dimension to the learning value of
the video. Our Annotated Video Software is an innovative e-learning tool in support of experiential and
self-directed learning. Annotations are independent of the video and the separation of annotation and
video provides a robust learning environment that supports content. The tool is user-friendly and instruc-
tors can add annotations, without the need for intervention by programmers. Annotations can consist of
notes of explanation, complementary videos, links to additional information and questions to engage
critical thinking. Students’ answers to questions may also be collected and collated. Upon submission of
answers feedback can be displayed, thus transforming evaluation into an immediate learning opportunity.
We have already created educational resources for health professionals. Next steps include dissemination
of the software to educators, provision of software access by mobile devices and better strategies to in-
corporate the annotated videos into existing learning management systems.
Keywords: Video Annotations; Instructional Design; E-Learning; Active Learning
Since the hours available in a day have not increased to ac-
commodate the growth of knowledge in every sphere of educa-
tion, the only realistic alternative is to improve utilization of
students’ time by embracing learning strategies that are self-
paced, competency-based, engaging, that use educational prin-
ciples that improve retention (Prober, 2012). Research has iden-
tified a number of factors that help with engagement and reten-
tion of information. For instance, in medicine, patient cases—
paper or otherwise, are used to help students situate the infor-
mation to be learned in context. It is well known that informa-
tion is retained longer if it is in the form of patient stories, elic-
its emotions in the learner, is professionally relevant and evokes
curiosity (Moon, 2010). In higher education, podcasts and lec-
ture recordings are made available to enable students to learn at
their own time and at their own pace (Prober, 2012).
Apart from using sound educational principles, the nature of
students in this era has forced educators to re-examine mode of
delivery. Students of the Net Generation (also known as Mil-
lenneals, born between 1982-1991) consider technology vital to
education (Prensky, 2001). Technology is helpful to absorb
abstract concepts easily and faster, it allows students to learn as
much as they want virtually about any topic and connect with
friends to help or get help (Threshold, 2004). Net Generation
students have been described as intuitive visual communicators
with the ability to weave images, texts and sound naturally.
They have high visual-spatial skills, and learn better through
discovery by themselves or with peers (Oblinger & Oblinger,
2005; Prensky, 2001). They crave interactivity and are more
comfortable in image-rich environments than text. There is
evidence to support that many hours devoted to playing video
games and watching TV up to College graduation have physi-
cally changed brain pathways in these digital native students
Since the Net Generation grew up with interactive video
games, social media, video-on-demand, and educational inter-
active multi-media, they expect the educational environment to
be similar, and tend to loose interest very quickly if taught in
the traditional talk-text-test environment (Howe & Stauss, 20 00).
Given the social nature of the net generation, affinity for visual
environment and preference for experiential learning, video te-
chnology can serve as a useful tool for teaching and learning.
Broadcast Video and Le arning
Videos are the most common media used in educational set-
tings (Merkta, Weigand, Heier, & Schwan, 2011) and are likely
to be used more extensively with the availability and afforda-
bility of video production and editing tools. Video has been
shown to be an effective learning tool in many educational
disciplines (Shepard, 2003). Video imparts much more than
explicit factual information. Not only is “a picture worth a
thousand words”, but a video is worth much more than that,
since it has the power to express the implicit subtleties of emo-
tion and character interaction that is key to understanding the
K. PREMKUMAR ET AL.
way in which, for example, medical problems evolve or are ma-
naged. In a multi-step procedure, video is extremely helpful in
isolating each step and imparting information that simple text
would be unable to fully describe economically.
Videos provide visual dynamic effects that are particularly
helpful for learning dynamic processes (Be’trancourt & Tver-
sky, 2000). They have the capacity to combine multiple mo-
dalities such as text, pictures and audio that can be advanta-
geous based on Paivio’s dual-coding theory (Paivio, 1969; Pai-
vio, 1971). According to this theory, verbal and pictorial codes
are processed in functionally independent but interconnected
channels that integrate later. When these two contents comple-
ment each other and overlap, they enhance retrieval and recall.
Videos can take advantage of the modality principle which
states that pictures and spoken words are superior to pictures
and texts in terms of recall and retention (Paivio, 1969; Paivio,
1971; Mayer, 2001; Mayer & Chandler, 2001; Leahy & Sweller,
2011; Sweller, van Merrienboer, & Paas, 1998).
The use of trigger films (TF) or videos of very short duration
is another teaching and learning strategy commonly used to fa-
cilitate learning. A TF is defined as a 2 to 4 minute cinemato-
graphic vignette that simulates a real-life situation, the inter-
pretation and analysis of which can take place later in a safe
learning environment (Baud & Pearson, 1979; Alroy & Ber,
1982; Hartland, Biddle, & Fallocaro, 2008). Adult learning the-
ories support that not only do humans learn from their own mis-
takes, but that they can learn vicariously from observing the
successes and failures of others (Clark & Paivio, 1989) and TFs
promote such learning.
In addition to the multiple learning benefits, videos have
some limitations. Although videos enable consistent delivery of
the same videos to all students, no matter whether they are a
novice or an expert, they are linear in that they tell a story that
has a beginning, middle and end, but contain no metadata to
impart additional information to the student. Another drawback
is inadequate learner control. The effectiveness of broadcast vi-
deo with minimal learner control has been questioned by many
(Furnham, Benson, & Gunter, 1987; Furnham & Gunter, 1985;
Walma van der Molen & van der Voort, 1997, 2000).
Knowledge acquisition using such video has been shown to
be inferior to that of print especially for learning complex and
semantically rich content (Schnotx & Kurschner, 2008). One of
the reasons cited for this difference is the lack of control the
viewer has in altering the pace and sequence of information
flow according to cognitive abilities. There is evidence to show
that learning is improved if the learner is given even simple
control such as stop and start of video (Hasleer, Kersten, &
Sweller, 2007). Learning is also enhanced if the learner has
control over the sequence (Wouters, Paas, & van Merriënboer,
2010; Wouters, Tabbers, & Paas, 2007; Schwan & Riempp,
2004). In print, readers are able to manipulate the content in a
number of ways such as skip information, reread difficult and
complex content. On the other hand, in broadcast videos, be-
cause the information is transient, there is scope of cognitive
overload of short-term memory if there is mismatch between
the video pace and cognitive capabilities of the viewer (Merkta
et al., 2011). According to Lowe (2004), such a mismatch can
lead to poor learning outcomes and lower retention of informa-
tion. A number of strategies such as cuing i.e. highlighting re-
levant information (de Koning, Tabbers, Rikers, & Paas, 2007),
breaking up the video into segments (Mayer, 2001; Mayer &
Chandler, 2001; Hasler et al., 2007) have been used in videos
and animations to reduce this mismatch. However, it may not
be useful for all types of learners and situations as, those with
high working memory capacity may not require segmentation
(Lusk, Evans, Jeffrey, Palmer, Wikstrom, & Doolittle, 2009)
and short videos may not require cuing (de Koning et al., 2007).
Interactive videos have been found to be superior to broadcast
A review of the usefulness of interactive videos in educa-
tional settings (Wetzel, Radtke, & Stern, 1994) concludes that
the higher the level of interactivity, higher the accomplishments
by learners. Interactivity can be in a variety of ways such as
questioning, giving learner feedback and allowing for learner
control. Recent studies have shown that students learn better
with interactive videos (Schwan & Riempp, 2004) and require
less time to learn complex skills. Given these findings, a num-
ber of interactive videos are available to learners, especially in
health professions (Daetwyler, Cohen, Gracely, & Novack,
2010; Cook, Erwin, & Triola, 2010; Chu, Young, Zamora, Ku-
rup, & Macario, 2010; Barbarav, 2008; Magenheim, Reinhardt,
Roth, Moi, & Engbring, 2010; Meixner et al., 2009). Software
has been developed that combines streaming video with teacher
initiated and student initiated annotations. Such programs allow
students to record audio comments or enter written comments
that pertain to video seg ments (B arbarav, 2008; Magenheim et al.,
2010). This technology has opened up the option where stu-
dents can share comments with each other and with the teachers
(Magenheim et al., 2010).
In medicine, videos with annotations are used to help stu-
dents learn communication skills (Daetwyler et al., 2010; Co-
wie et al., 2012), improve diagnostic skills (Cook et al., 2010;
Chu et al., 2010), among others. With annotations, the video
becomes non-linear, enabling the teacher to assist the student’s
interpretation of video. However, these annotated videos are
standalone packages, typically crafted using HTML program-
ming of webpages that require professional programmers for
even minor modifications to the learning resource. As such, the
same video cannot be easily reused to train higher level trainees
by modifying the content depth of the annotations.
We have developed an annotated video player (AVP) that
allows instructors and/or students to attach annotations such as
explanatory text, audio or a link to other multi-media informa-
tion annotate videos without the help of programmers.
University of Saskatchewan’s Annotated Video
The AVP was developed to 1. Enhance broadcast videos with
interactions 2. Help instructors to easily create interactive edu-
cational resources using existing videos without the interven-
tion of programmers 3. Allow recycling of existing videos among
multiple levels of trainees by keeping the creation of annota-
tions and the video independent of each other. This enables
instructors to use the same video, but alter the annotated con-
tent according to trainee level. The productions take the form of
a playlist of videos presented in a portion of the screen with
interactive annotation material appearing in the surrounding
screen regions at prescribed tim es (Figure 1).
Annotations can be in the form of:
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
K. PREMKUMAR ET AL.
A screenshot of the annotated bibliogr aphy.
Links to information presentable in a browser window e.g.,
webpages and pdf documents
Links to additional videos
Timed images i.e. static images delivered over a specific
time as seen in slideshows
AVP is an online program that can be accessed using a pre-
ferred browser such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari. The AVP pro-
gram displays three basic views: producer, facilitator and self-
directed learner (SDL). In producer view the user is able to
watch, create, modify, and delete a production’s content. In fa-
cilitator or SDL view one can only navigate media in the play-
list and interact with the annotations presented by the produc-
In this view, the producer can organize the media items to be
annotated in a playlist (Figure 2).
Producers can navigate between and within each media item
in the playli st. Once a me dia item has been added to the playlist
the producer can attach annotations to specific points called
cues, during the media’s playback. The productions only main-
tain media location, annotation locations and cues, so all origi-
nal media is untouched and can be reused. Like bookmarks or
links in a browser, locations may change. The system provides
the mechanism to update locations in a production should they
change. Comments and quizzes are stored by the system in a
Facilitator and SDL Views
The facilitator and SDL both restrict the user to navigating
the productions content and interacting with the annotations.
The facilitator view is designed to be used where an individual
is presenting a production to an audience. The facilitator is not
able to respond to quiz questions or receive the suggested an-
swer feedback. The SDL view is designed to be used by an
individual as an instructional resource. The learner must re-
spond to quiz questions to receive the suggested answer feed-
back. Individual’s responses are saved for reporting purposes.
A snaphot of the producer view.
Operation of Software
A production is based upon a primary video. That video (ei-
ther MP4 or FLV) must first be loaded into the streaming server
by accessing the URL. Similarly, any other videos to be linked
to the original should be loaded into the server.
The managing producer/student view is separate from the
streaming server site, and accessed by a different URL. Once
the original video files are copied to the folder in the server site,
entering the source in the AVP program will link the file name
with the original video. The source address follows a specific
format for each file type.
MP4 files need to be entered as
FLV files need to be entered as
Clicking on the file name in the media playlist will load the
video and make it play in the content video screen (Figure 3).
At particular time periods during the video, the producer can
insert cue points which will link the video to questions, com-
ments, links to other videos, or other media and links to media
on the web.
The student can enter answers in text boxes, to questions
posed, click submit, and then be shown the correct answer se-
lected by the teacher. For a more complete understanding, the
student can click on a link to access library articles, or refer-
ences on the web that are given as annotations.
This AVP is an innovative e-learning tool that supports ex-
periential and self-directed learning. The prototype of this soft-
ware has been showcased to local and international educators
and the software has been improved based on their feedback.
This software has already been used to create an educational
resource on teamwork and communication skills (Cowie et al.,
2012). We have embarked upon two projects using the AVP as
a proof of concept, with the assistance of two summer students.
The first project allowed the student to compile videos already
available on You Tube (videos were used with permission). The
theme of the videos allowed the student to link in-depth discus-
sion of the topics with credible websites, and with library based
articles in pdf format. Comments were used to highlight events
on the video that were of interest to the learner, and were usu-
ally followed with a link to questions and answers as well as
reference material. We are exploring the use of the same videos
for creating more complex learning modules for students at
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 467
K. PREMKUMAR ET AL.
A snapshot of the content video screen.
a higher level of training. The second project was more expen-
sive, requiring the creation of a video prior to introduction of
Educators in post-secondary institutions may already have
videos that have been used previously for student education.
Unfortunately, older videos may cease to be useful for educa-
tion once the original project is over and exist untouched in
library archives. Old videos can become new again when in-
corporated as learning modules with new links to more con-
temporary reference material using our AVP.
There is ample scope for our AVP to be used in a variety of
situations and areas. For example, the AVP may be used to
enhance procedural videos such as placing a central line in the
body where not only the procedure is shown, but learners can
review the anatomy of a region, learn more about the equip-
ment used, or indications for a central line by a click of a button.
Videos of good and bad procedural techniques can be explained
in detail using text, links and probe questions. In drama classes,
videos of a play could be easily enhanced with director com-
ments, language translations, among others. Educational uses
for the AVP can be found for teaching with videos of learners
in K-12, higher ed u cation and continuing professional learning.
The limitation of this software, however, is the availability of
video material. When videos do not exist, the daunting task
may be to find resources required to film and edit custom-made
videos for the project. Limited server space and slow streaming
speed are other barriers to the use of software.
Our AVP is a tool that can be used for creating interactive
resources based on sound educational principles. With the ad-
vances of technology and introduction of a variety of mobile
devices, access to the video resource by these devices is an
issue that needs to be addressed. As more video resources are
created using the AVP, mechanisms for sharing the resources
and incorporating the resources within existing learning man-
agement systems have to be put in place.
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