Live Die Repeat

Live – Die – Repeat’, is for me a better description of the 2014 sci-fi shoot ’em up movie ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ staring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. It also, majestically, explains why repetition in e-learning courtesy of the video recording of a class, or better still, ‘learning element’ within a class, matters so much.

It matters to Emily (not her real name) – a textiles student who struggled in their first year – forever calling out to her tutor, to explain this, or redo that, or to check something-or-other with the same old phrase : ‘I don’t get it’.

Emily was getting behind – and in a busy workshop there was only so much ‘one-to-one’ her tutor could give her. Come lockdown and remote teaching Emily went spookily silent and for a while nudging out engagement from her proved difficult. Though she was on the radar, if, for her, uncanningly quiet.

It turned out that Emily was happily settled into a new working routine where she would watch the class – the bits she needed to understand, mutter complaints at not getting it to herself, cursing herself that at the moment, in her frustration, she felt she was clearly doing a course that was beyond her – and then she’d hit replay.

“OK,” she’s now thinking, “it’s not that bad. I think I can figure this out for myself.”

She’s tempted to tap out an emial or slap down a message expressing her frustration that she ‘doesn’t get it’, that it ‘makes no sense’ – but not liking how the words look and feel when written down compared to the satisfaction she got from saying them out loud to a workshop of fellow students – she resists.

Instead, Emily hits the replay of the recorded class for a third time. She now knows which bit she needs to get her head round. She’s resigned to watching a particular 3 minute segment a fourth, even a fifth time – and then she smiles inside and says out loud ‘I get this’ – and means it.

And so Emily progresses.

In due course Emily’s tutor, once again seeking engagement, and now having delivered praiseworthy feedback in a thumbnail video embedded on Emily’s work, they slip into an educationally constructive conversation – something the tutor could not have imagined before lockdown. Not only does Emily ‘get it’, but she knows how to figure a thing out, feels more confident about overcoming areas where before she was stuck – and thrives on the challenges. Emily feels that once she has gone back over the video a few times she will be able to tackle most things herself – and for anything else she can direct questions-to-specific-problems to her tutor.

Emily was not ‘fighting the alien invaders of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ alonside Tom Cruise. She did not have to die a thousand times – that heart sinking feeling she had in the past when faced with something she didn’t get first time over.

As we return to the face-to-face class or workshop, surely video recordings of key demonstrations or explanations, should become part of teaching best practice?

These days all it requires is a carefully placed webcam or phone pointed in the right direction, with a little thought given to sound quality – and perhaps the use of a tripod, or better still – ask a student to do the video for you.

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