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Teaching YouTubers

This article introduces the H5P website—an innovative, free, practical, and easy-to-use tech software that English teachers and students can use when engaged in teaching and learning English.

Two events brought my focus toward employing interactive video technology as a teaching resource. First, online teaching is now a reality. Second, today’s students are not only more tech savvy than their teachers but they also expect to be entertained while learning. They prefer their edutainment in video or images, not text, and they retain more knowledge via video or images (Steffes and Duverger, 2012). When I understood the relevance of these two concepts, I changed my teaching and began advocating video projects employing H5P in all of my courses.

My learning curve took time and focus. In fall 2016, my dean asked me to convert all the TESOL endorsement courses to a 100% online format. I quickly understood that, in the U.S., online courses are a massive trend in higher education because online classes accommodate more students while costing less money in infrastructure (Allen and Seaman, 2007). In a series of workshops and trainings designed to teach faculty how to convert f2f courses into engaging, relevant, and project-based online courses, I also became acquainted with Quality Matters, an organization that recognizes and supports excellence in online teaching.

Good online teaching parallels f2f teaching in that the goal is to engage students. It offers projects, activities, and assessments that allow students to experience, practice, collaborate, and incorporate materials so that authentic learning happens. For English language learners, this means activating prior knowledge and motivating students to learn by making the learning objective relevant (Eschevarría, Vogt, and Short, 2017). 

Using interactive technology supports both online and f2f classes. Approximately 95% of my students—English language learners and aspiring TESOL educators—are millennials. They are tech savvy. When surveyed, they all reported watching video more than reading text. Because of this, online and f2f courses often bore them. As one multilingual Ethiopian stated, “I’m sick of death by PowerPoint and reading dry textbooks.”

“How do you best learn?” the survey queried. “After my classes, I go to YouTube, or special sites where I can watch animations or colorful lectures that are short but useful,” my Ethiopian student wrote, explaining that he references the Internet for all his academic courses, both f2f and online. All other questionnaires greatly resembled his answers. It soon became clear to me that students, ESL or otherwise, are captive audiences. They cannot shop and choose professors. Unless fabulously wealthy, students cannot switch universities when seeking an endorsement or a degree, no matter how dull their professors. So they make do and endure boring classes, learn little, and then independently seek out engaging videos to compensate for poor teaching.

The Solution 

My answer to this quandary was to create interactive videos for my students and also to require the students to create interactive videos for me and for their classmates. My ratings went up wildly, and I also received letters of appreciation for allowing students not only to learn content but also to acquire a relevant tech tool. You can learn to use H5P in less than one hour.

We have all seen videos on the Internet that have pop-up questions. These interactive clips help students learn via a variety of formative assessments; they also engage students to enhance their knowledge by offering hyperlinks to related information. H5P is a free coding program that creates such interactive videos. English language teachers and language students can use it to offer information and to demonstrate competency. The format is simple:

You can use a YouTube video or create your own. Watch their tutorial and upload your video to YouTube. Set it as unlisted.

Go to and import your video.

Watch the short and clear H5P tutorial titled “Interactive Video.”

Add labels; true/false, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and open-ended questions; a hyperlink or image; and/or a summary question to the video.

Embed or link the video into your online course or distribute the link via email.

For my TESOL endorsement students, I have videotaped different aspects of teaching a lesson (sample: Next, endorsement students were assigned to videotape their own lessons. I asked them to use the various H5P labels to clarify or justify what specific task or instruction they used while teaching and why. This request has several advantages in training ESL teachers:

By videotaping oneself at work, strengths and weaknesses become self-apparent.

Video can be reviewed repeatedly.

Adding an assessment component (i.e., label and justify) positively promotes self-critique.

An engaging media format can be shared with others or placed into teaching portfolios

The H5P format is useful for English language students as well:

Teachers create videos and via H5P prompts ask students to correct/improve words, grammar points, phrases, or speech acts.

Students create their own videos and test their peers.

Students are engaged with relevant technology while learning English. They learn a valuable tech skill in addition to language. 


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2007). Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning. Sloan Consortium. Newburyport, MA.

Eschevarría, J., Vogt, M. E., and Short, D. (2017). Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: The SIOP Model. NY: Pearson.

Steffes, E. M., & Duverger, P. (2012). “Edutainment with Videos and Its Positive Effect on Long-Term Memory.” Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education, 20(1): 1–10.

Dr. Valerie Sartor joined the University of Akron in Fall 2016, after serving as a Fulbright Scholar in Siberia. Her research interests include multilingual youth and identity, incorporating instructional technology into the classroom, and best practices for teaching academic writing. 

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