January 23, 2019

Edutainment: Is There a Place for it in Higher Education?

by Anna Kathryn Ward, PharmD, PGY1 Community/Public Health Pharmacy Resident, Mississippi State Department of Health Pharmacy

Whether you are known as a mentor, teacher, preceptor, and/or facilitator, all forms of teaching are moving toward an innovative and creative way of presenting instructional material. “Edutainment”  is growing in popularity, mostly due to the growing number of students that have grown up with ubiquitous technology and entertainment venues. Edutainment is the “presentation of informative or educational material in an entertaining style.”1 An entertaining style encompasses four different processes known as signaling (e.g., highlighting keywords, changing font color), segmenting (e.g., short videos, short chapters within videos as well as question prompts), weeding (e.g., eliminating extraneous information), and matching modalities (e.g., auditory and visual channels to convey information).2 There are many examples of edutainment including the use of short television and movie clips to introduce a concept, the use of board and computer games to learn and/or apply a concept, as entertaining videos that explain topics (e.g., YouTube; Kahn-Academy).

As educators have come to a greater understanding on how people learn and that “one size does not fit all,” edutainment is one potential solution that’s creative and has been used successfully. Edutainment is widely used by preschool and elementary educators, due to popular children’s programming such as Sesame Street that provides educational topics with an entertaining delivery. With new advancements in technology, teachers can now create their own videos and games. The need for a large budget and staff to produce edutainment elements has become unnecessary. But is there a place for edutainment in higher education?

While I am a recent graduate from a professional program, in my current role I now have the responsibility to teach and help millennial students gain knowledge and grow as future pharmacists. This generation seemingly has the expectation, need, and wish to be entertained throughout their learning experiences.3 Because of this expectation, multimedia presentations and the integration of edutainment is gaining momentum and popularity in many college classrooms.3 Strategies, reasoning, and rationales for integrating edutainment elements into the college classroom have received attention in the educational literature in recent years.

One study investigated the use of instructional YouTube videos by faculty to augment instruction in college classes. An online survey was distributed to health and human performance faculty at a southeastern university in the United States. Information about the course levels taught, number of courses taught, and instructional setting (online or in-class) were gathered in the survey. The results showed that slightly more than 40% of the faculty reported the use of YouTube in their courses, with almost all of the participants (>90%) stating an interest in learning how to use of YouTube as a learning resource. The study found that the faculty who use YouTube in their courses consider it to be an effective teaching resource and enhances their course material.3

Another study investigated how online content (e.g., YouTube) could be used as a means to reach today’s students and capture their attention and interest, with the goal of increasing the long-term retention of the course content. The study evaluated 284 college students exposed to two types of videos. The students were introduced to a lesson’s concept either through an emotionally charged video (humorous stimuli) or a neutral video (utilitarian stimuli). Five months later, the students were asked to complete a survey testing their long-term recall of the content. Results indicated that humorous videos shown at the beginning of a class increased the positive mood of students, increasing active learning and attention. Moreover, humorous videos that were congruent with the educational objectives more effectively reinforce the material and significantly increased short and long-term recall when compared to the utilitarian videos.4

There has also been research looking at entertaining approaches to training pharmacy preceptors. A training program was developed consisting of 12 online video episodes providing innovative, entertaining, and flexible continuing education programs for pharmacy preceptors. The 12 episodes combine to form a mini-series that form a professionally produced movie. Each episode is five to eight minutes in length and designed to include entertaining elements, practical scenarios, commentary, and teaching pearls. The mini-series follows a pharmacist and student storyline. Participants in the program completed questions and evaluations after each episode, and three months following completion of the training a survey was distributed to analyze their long-term impact on precepting skills. The 202 participants stated significant increases in their confidence level as an educator when comparing the pre- and post-program survey results. Questions about the entertainment value were included on the post-program survey with 99% of the participants indicating they would recommend the program to others and would complete a program of similar format again.5

Given the conclusions from these studies, the evidence provides positive reasons for using edutainment in higher education. It can be concluded that teaching with entertaining elements can enhance student attention and results in greater recall of the material. Entertaining materials may also increase curiosity and motivate students to learn more on their own. Simple ways to start incorporating these elements into teaching include using short pre-made videos found on the Internet, using a role-playing game for students to apply the concepts taught, and/or simply changing color and contrast of important information in PowerPoint slides. Teachers can easily adjust the use of these elements throughout their lessons. There is some controversy about how often edutainment elements should be used. Finding the right balance and learning what works to teach certain concepts requires careful consideration. Some topics might work well with videos, where others might work better with in-class games. It’s all about trial and error to find what works best for the teacher and their students. Nonetheless, the use of edutainment in higher education is here to stay and, when used appropriately, will enhance students learning.


  1. Collins English Dictionary. Definition of ‘edutainment.’ [Cited 2019 Jan 18]
  2. Brame CJ. Effective educational videos. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. 2015 [Cited 2019 Jan 18].
  3. Burke S, Snyder S, Rager RC. An Assessment of Faculty Usage of YouTube as a Teaching Resource. IJAHSP. 2009;7(1): Article 8.
  4. Steffes EM, Duverger P. Edutainment with Videos and its Positive Effect on Long Term Memory. JAME. 2012;20(1):1-10.
  5. Cox CD, Cheon J, Crooks SM, Lee J, Curtis JD. Use of Entertainment Elements in an Online Video Mini-Series to Train Pharmacy Preceptors. Am J Pharm Educ. 2017;81(1): Article 12. 

No comments: