In the last 30 years, as first televisions and now computers and mobile devices have proliferated around the world, learning by video has become one of the fastest growing fields in education. The market for educational videos is massive, and runs into the billions of dollars per year. It makes sense: video learning is an innovative model teachers are using to revolutionize education.

But video learning isn’t universally acclaimed. Some teachers prefer traditional classroom learning. Others see technical issues holding up the pace of progress. It’s a complicated field with a lot of potential, and a subject we’ll be covering more in the future.

For now, let’s dive into some of the pros and cons of learning by video.

Pros of video learning

1. Videos are portable

Between the spread of the internet, battery-powered mobile devices, and electrical grids, video lessons can be watched just about anywhere on the planet. This enables widespread learning of lessons that were once geographically isolated.

This has many benefits. In rural settings, it eliminates the need for the student to head to a classroom or a university that may be located far away. In some regions, video training can preclude the need for expensive travel for in-person training.

2. Visual learning is powerful

Educational videos are primarily visual. While the audio is obviously a critical aspect of the learning, the combination of sound and visual content allows the viewer to grasp information more easily, especially information that is inherently visual.

Even if your subject isn’t very visual, a video is superior to a podcast or audio recording since it can capture nuances of meaning, body language, and context that won’t otherwise carry through.

3. Pausing and rewinding allows flexible learning

One of the best benefits of video learning is that a person can pause, stop, rewind, and otherwise manipulate the timeline of learning. Unlike a traditional classroom or in-person training, a video learner need never miss something: as long as they have time to try again, they can go back.

Cons of video learning

4. Video learning requires equipment

Perhaps the most fundamental problem with video learning is that it requires equipment of one sort or another. There will never be a substitute for one-on-one or small group learning, which doesn’t require any equipment—only minds.

For this simple reason, video learning is out of the reach of many people around the world, especially the poor. However, there are some interesting projects working around these issues with innovative approaches. For one great example, check out this flip book created to educate about public health across language barriers.

5. Videos are hard to edit

One issue with video learning is that once created, a video is mostly static. It’s a lot of work to edit and reissue a video if corrections are needed. However, there are some other ways around this. For example, video creators can use annotations on YouTube or other popular video platforms to correct errors without having to re-edit a whole video.

6. Videos are individualistic

Another big drawback to learning through video is that it promotes individualism, which can make learning harder. If one of the main benefits of video learning is that you can learn alone in the privacy of your home, this is also one of its drawbacks.

Group learning facilitates communal problem solving and builds teamwork and collaborative skills that are critical in life, and video learning isn’t a good medium for this. However, this isn’t set in stone: more and more video learning is taking place via 2-way webcam, which allows teachers to remain in a central location and reach students all over the world. This innovation alone could change everything about education in the future.

The future of learning

There is no doubt that video learning is part of the future of education. However, it's probably a more effective way to introduce a topic.

Video works best when paired with other study methods such as note taking or Brainscape's adaptive flashcards, which can accompany the videos and repeat the concepts in a personalized pattern suited to the learner's pace.

Either way, video learning is here to stay. Instead of resisting video learning, you should consider how to integrate it into your learning or teaching process. It’s an innovative tool for education that is a game changer.

[For more ideas about making education effective, check out our guide to improving your students' retention of knowledge]