Improving Online Learning with Tutorial Dialog Videos

Michelene Chi
Arizona State University

Online courses have become a cost-effective, flexible alternative form of delivery for college-level courses, especially during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowing college students to maintain an effective learning experience in online courses has become critical. In traditional online courses, content delivery mainly relies on videos where students can view, pause and replay the video to learn and reflect upon the knowledge. However, most of the videos in online courses have delivered instruction in a lecturing monolog format. This form of information delivery actually leads to students’ passive learning in terms of the ICAP theory of cognitive engagement (Chi, 2009; Chi & Wylie, 2014). Recent laboratory studies found that watching dialog videos, in which the videos captured the dialog on the course topics between a tutor and a tutee, enhanced students learning significantly more than watching monolog videos (Chi et al, 2008), in which the videos captured an instructor’s presentation in the format of an expository lecture (Roscoe & Chi, 2007), involving only the instructor/tutor. The learning advantage was achieved when students watch videos in dyads. Moreover, observing dialog videos collaborative in dyads can be as effective as being tutored individually, which is the most effective form of instruction (Chi et al., 2001; Lee et al., 1998). One reason for the superior learning from dialog videos is that the dyad observers are more likely to engage in active and constructive learning rather than passive learning, when observing dialog videos instead of observing monolog videos (Chi et al., 2017; Muldner et al., 2014; Muller et al., 2018). The purpose of this project was to investigate whether learning was better from observing dialog videos (in which students learn by watching a dialog between an instructor and a student discussing instructional materials), compared to observing monolog videos (in which students watch the same instructor giving an expository format of lecture presentation, Roscoe & Chi, 2007).Four experimental studies with a between-subjects pretest-posttest design were conducted in college-level biology and calculus courses. The findings of this study confirmed that observing dialog videos are more effective than observing monolog videos in authentic classrooms, even when students are watching individually without a partner, and especially in improving student understanding of difficult questions. Our results confirmed that our laboratory findings can be translated and scaled up in authentic classrooms. A synthesis of empirical evidence suggested three reasons that account for the benefits of observing dialog videos. First, observing students are more likely to understand statements or remarks made by tutees in the tutoring video given that they may have a similar level of relevant expertise. Second, observing students may imitate tutees’ manner of performing constructive learning such as asking questions and generating substantive comments (Rummel & Spada, 2005). Third, research has indicated that watching conflicts or tutees’ errors in the tutorial dialogs can help facilitate learning, particularly encouraging observing students to be more constructive and interactive (Chi et al., 2017).


Yi-Chun Hong, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ