Personally I’ve never been a fan of watching YouTube at 2x speed because I’m already distracted as is. If I’ve got a video up on my phone, chances are I also have the TV on in the background, a cat loudly puking in the other room, and my drunk neighbor stomping around upstairs. Yeah, it gets a bit loud at my place and I have the attention span of a squirrel in a nut farm. But whatever, we’re not here to talk about that. Today we’re going to talk about how science shows you might be able to shave off a bit of study time by cranking up the speed on those review course videos.
Published in Applied Cognitive Psychology late last year, Learning in double time: The effect of lecture video speed on immediate and delayed comprehension explains a formula you can apply to help you better retain concepts, especially right before exam time. Here’s the abstract:
We presented participants with lecture videos at different speeds and tested immediate and delayed (1 week) comprehension. Results revealed minimal costs incurred by increasing video speed from 1x to 1.5x, or 2x speed, but performance declined beyond 2x speed. We also compared learning outcomes after watching videos once at 1x or twice at 2x speed. There was not an advantage to watching twice at 2x speed but if participants watched the video again at 2x speed immediately before the test, compared with watching once at 1x a week before the test, comprehension improved. Thus, increasing the speed of videos (up to 2x) may be an efficient strategy, especially if students use the time saved for additional studying or rewatching the videos, but learners should do this additional studying shortly before an exam. However, these trends may differ for videos with different speech rates, complexity or difficulty, and audiovisual overlap
What’s interesting about this is that when the researchers tested their 231 participants who were sorted into normal speed, 1.5x speed, 2x speed, and 2.5x speed groups, they found the 1.5x and 2x groups performed as well as the normal speed group when given comprehension tests a week later, but the 2.5x group did poorer. So the takeaway is that performance drops off higher than 2x speed but watching videos up to 2x speed leading up to an exam is a smart strategy as long as you watch it again prior to test time.
When the team surveyed a separate group of UCLA students, they found that a massive 85% usually watched pre-recorded lectures at faster than normal speed. However, 91% said they thought that normal speed or slightly faster (1.5x) would be better for learning than 2x or 2.5x. These new results certainly suggest that this isn’t right: double-time viewing was just as good as normal viewing. It seems, then, that as long as the material can still be accurately perceived and comprehended, it’s okay to speed up playback.
So, a student could just watch videos at 2x speed and halve their time spent on lectures….Or, according to the results of other studies reported in the paper, they could watch a video at 2x normal speed twice, and do better on a test than if they’d watched it once at normal speed [emphasis ours]. The timing mattered, though: only those who’d watched the 2x video for a second time immediately before a test, rather than right after the first viewing, got this advantage.
The team also explored whether watching the videos at different speeds on separate occasions — initially at normal speed but then at double time, or vice versa — might make a difference to test performance immediately afterwards or a week later. Though 76% of the participants in this study said they thought watching first at normal speed then rewatching at double time would be best for learning, the order actually made no difference to test results. “Thus, although students may prefer certain study schedules or techniques, there are instances where their beliefs about self-regulated learning do not enhance learning outcomes,” the team writes.
Those of you who already do this can now gloat that science backs up your seemingly reckless study strategy, while those of you who don’t should be inspired to give it a try. Next time you sit down to study, try watching a video at 2x speed, watching it at 2x speed again a week or so later, and then jump into a practice test to see what happens. Of course this advice only applies to the courses that offer this option; as I understand it most do.
Watching A Lecture Twice At Double Speed Can Benefit Learning Better Than Watching It Once At Normal Speed [Research Digest]