Collaborative Video

The Challenge:

Create a quick digital prototype that allows people to learn cooperatively with a YouTube video.


Our Solution:

We developed a prototype that leverages the context of videos to help intermediate English language learners learn together.  We invite you to try it out yourself – try the collaborative video!

This is how it works.  A user is watching the video; at a random time, the video stops and the user is prompted to write a question for another learner to answer (the question goes into a database).  Then, at a different time, the video stops again, a different question is pulled from the database and the user is prompted to answer it.




We ended up picking the domain of English as a Second Language because people who are learning English can benefit from having a video as a visual reference with a context that they can follow. The other type of content we considered was International Culture because of the potential of having people from a target culture answering questions posed by people from outside the target culture.

English ability level

We ended up targeting intermediate-level English learners because we felt that they would benefit from crowd-sourcing questions. Initially we considered targeting beginner-level English learners, and building a prototype with text boxes they could drag to form questions and answers. However, we felt that they would get a similar experience if we would removed the collaborative aspect from the system.


After posing a question and an answer, our system asks the user a prompt to “write another sentence” that adds to their answer. Initially, we considered different wording for the prompt, like “can you elaborate?”  or “can you choose a more specific verb to use in your answer?”  We decided against these options because the former was unclear and our target users might not be familiar with the word ‘elaborate, ’ and the latter makes it seem like their original answer isn’t good enough.

Timing of prompts

Currently, the system picks a random time between 0% and 70% into the video, or at the very end of the video, and asks the user to pose a question about either what is happening or what already happened in the video.  Initially, we thought about prompting the user at any time during the video. We decided against this because we thought that interrupting the user’s video-watching experience near to the end, potentially at the climax of the story, would be unenjoyable.




Since our video content was entertaining, and the activity’s directions were clear, our “students” were interested in writing questions about Mr. Bean. They had very little trouble in formulating a question based on the content of the video, and were able to generate good, concise questions as they worked through the exercise. Prompting students to elaborate on their initial answers with an additional sentence was also very successful. Our students noted that they wanted to elaborate on their answers, but weren’t sure how long their questions should be initially. This prompt gave them a good opportunity to do so.

Areas for improvement

The experience for answering learner questions was a bit mixed. Our students became engaged by the story of the video, and our prompt read “can you ask a question about what is happening, or what happened?” This odd combination meant that questions targeting a section of the video in the past would be confusing, or jarring. Students also noted that they wanted to edit the question part of their ‘submission’ before finally submitting the question and the answer. Statically accepting answers and not allowing for edits acted as a pain point.

Question for the future

One dilemma that a student posed was whether they should be able to pick when they ask a question. By asking him to think aloud, we noticed that he enjoyed certain parts of the videos more than others, and wanted to ask a question in that moment. However, when we debriefed, he said that having this agency would probably have caused him to stop thinking about questions that he could ask. Also, if they had agency to ask when they want, would people forget to ask questions, or not ask questions at all? These are issues we could potentially resolve after user testing with our target audience.



This was one of my favorite projects because it opened my eyes — I had never seen a tool that could be added onto something that already existed (YouTube videos).  To me, it turned YouTube videos into teaching and learning resources.  I also really enjoyed working with my partner Luca on a quick project.  Due to time constraints, we had to brainstorm and prototype possibilities through sketching very rapidly.  Finally, I believe that this program, with some more work, could be a legitimately useful tool.  As a former ESL teacher, I know that I have colleagues who I could recommend it to.


Time: 2 weeks

Team: Luca Damasco

Methods: prototyping, user testing

Tools: HTML, CSS, Javascript, YouTube API

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