A Tiny Evaluation of TED-Ed

Congratulations to Simon on his promotion! He is well on his way to achieving his goal of world domination.

Since we’re on the subject of British imperialism, or maybe imperialism in general —

I recently stumbled across this Ted-Ed video on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Watching the video produced a vague sense of dissatisfaction despite the eye-grabbing animation. I decided this deserved additional, more formal exploration, so I evaluated the video using these previously-posted instructional design criteria. So here we go . . .

  • Learning objective: greater knowledge about the Ho Chi Minh trail.
  • Content: the video is in fact about the Ho Chi Minh trail, but I don’t think it’s as informative as it could be. More on this below.
  • Organization and delivery: on its surface the video is logically organized, but at a deeper level it is constructed mainly as a series of facts. Facts are important for “domain knowledge,” but in my opinion their relationship to bigger questions should be more apparent. A reading assignment or lecture would do a better job of explaining why relations between North and South Vietnam “deteriorated” after the 1954 Geneva Agreements, and why North Vietnamese cadre began infiltrating into South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1959.
  • Practice and application: a multiple choice quiz.
  • Assessment and feedback: automated marking of the quiz questions.

At just under thirteen minutes, this Crash Course on decolonization and nationalism is about three times longer than the Ted-Ed video, but it places the Vietnam War (or rather the American War, since the Vietnamese also fought the French for similar reasons) in a much broader context. As a means of providing engaging and rich content — whether to the elementary, high school, or college students — the Crash Course is by far the superior product.

The lesson here is that even though a piece of technology is new and shiny it might not be better than other technologies that are available, and explicit evaluation can help identify why.