Initial Publication Date: December 6, 2013

Learning outcomes for audiences

Can student-produced videos educate beyond the classroom?

While video is clearly a medium that can be broadly disseminated, our focus is on learning through the media production process (i.e., learning outcomes of students directly involved in media production), not the product. However, we have found that providing students with a means to add their voices to the broader public's discussion of climate change has a positive impact both on student engagement with climate change science and on audience awareness of climate change beyond the classroom.

While student-produced media pieces are generally not intended to provide in-depth scientific information to the broader public, they can be successful in conveying some of the key, basic concepts needed to understand climate change and can also convey the student producers' perspectives and points of view on climate change. Some examples of key concepts that students have effectively conveyed to audiences include:
  • The causal relationships between fossil fuel-based energy systems, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and climate change
  • The distinction between natural and anthropogenic processes in the carbon cycle; impacts of climate change on ecosystem services
  • The transition to renewable energy systems that do not emit carbon dioxide is necessary to avert 'dangerous' climate change

Research has shown that visual media such as video is an effective tool for communicating complex scientific concepts, including climate change science (Avraamidou and Osborne 2009, Graber 1990, Nisbet, 2009, Trumbo 1999). We showed youth-produced videos to an audience of 53 university students and found that nearly all of the participants felt that youth-produced videos had at least the same, if not more, impact as professional videos. The videos were also effective in increasing the audience's level of interest and concern about climate change.

Not surprisingly, students related well to their peers as 'messengers.' For example, one audience member commented, "As college students, we are able to relate more the youth than adults who seem to explain this scientifically without explaining how we, as the generation now, will suffer the consequences of climate change."


Graber D.A. 1990. Seeing is remembering: how visuals contribute to learning from television news. Journal of Communication. 40(3): 134-156

Trumbo J. 1999. Visual literacy and science communication. Science communication 20(4): 409-425.

Avraamidou L and J Osborne. 2009. The role of narrative in communicating science. International Journal of Science Education. 31(12): 1683-1707.

Nisbet MC. 2009. Communicating climate change: why frames matter for public engagement. Environment. 51(2): 14-23.