Stop and Pause for Engagement in Online Video Lectures

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When the majority of instruction takes place in an online environment, it may offer more challenges for monitoring student learning and understanding of course content. Certain pedagogical techniques that combine theories and practices from face-to-face instruction can be infused in online teaching to help address these concerns and keep instruction engaging, rigorous, and responsive to student need. One practice that has research support from the field, particularly at the college course level, is the “Pause Procedure” (Ruhl, Hughes, & Schloss, 1987). This procedure has been researched in the college classroom to enhance factual recall from college lectures, with both short and long-term success, including on examinations (i.e., Hughes, Hendrickson, & Hudson, 1986; Ruhl, Hughes, & Gajar, 1990; Ruhl & Suritsky, 1995). The Pause Procedure typically includes approximately three 2-minute pauses spaced at logical breaks during lectures where students can take time to take notes, engage in brief discussion of lecture content, update notes, or engage in free recall. The idea is that students take a formal period to “encode information in meaningful units” (Ruhl, & Suritsky, 1995, p. 6). This is the time that also enhances student active engagement and thus, academic learning time, leading to increases in student performance (Berliner, 1987).

The online strategy presented here, is adapted from the Pause Procedure and renamed “Stop and Pause Activity Sheet” (Budin, 2011). The Stop and Pause Sheet is used within the context of an online video lecture and allows the instructor to have a permanent product submitted by the student to help monitor practice activities, provide within-lecture review opportunities, and as a tool for formative evaluation. All are critical components of effective teaching for all students.

Stop and Pause Activity Sheets are provided to students electronically and are aligned to each topical video lecture (e.g., one Stop and Pause Activity Sheet per video lecture). The sheets are created in a Microsoft Office Word template form and students are given directions on how to type/record their responses in to the template, save it, and submit to the drop box at the completion of the online video lecture. The content of the Stop and Pause Activity Sheets varies based on the content covered in the lecture, but generally offers opportunities to brainstorm, reflect, and practice or apply newly learned skills.

The unique aspect of the Stop and Pause Activity Sheet is that students cannot successfully complete it without viewing the entire video lecture. There are periodic “cues” embedded in to the lecture (a graphic stop sign and a verbal cue) where students are told to pause the video lecture and respond to a specific item on the Stop and Pause Sheet. In some cases the question or response requires watching a video vignette, examining a case study, or other application task that is based on content just taught in the video lecture. In a 15 minute lecture, there may be 5 to 6 “questions” or responses required on the sheet. A well designed Stop and Pause activity cannot be completed without watching the lecture. In some cases, where appropriate, I provide review and clarification of the prompted responses once students “come back” to the lecture. To utilize the assessment aspect of the Stop and Pause Activity Sheet, students are often encouraged to NOT change their original responses and are sometimes given an additional spot on the template to revise their answer. Students are awarded a small amount of points for submission and completion of the sheet, not for accuracy. I review student responses at the end of the online module and offer clarification on an individual or group basis (depending on the need).

Link to example artifact(s)

  • Instructor: Shannon Budin, SUNY Buffalo State College
  • Course: EXE 634 Applied Behavior Analysis

One example of a Stop and Pause question item is where students watch four short video vignettes of children who are engaging in disruptive or inappropriate behaviors (10-30 seconds each). These video vignettes are embedded within the lecture video on the topic of “Functions of Behavior”. Students are taught to make hypotheses as to why individuals engage in certain behaviors (e.g., is the child’s tantrum used to get attention, to gain/get something, to get out of or escape something undesirable?). On the Stop and Pause Activity Sheet students are asked to predict why a young child is engaging in a particular behavior; in one instance the students watch part of the vignette and see a boy with physical and communication disabilities being placed on a carpet in a play area by his teacher who then walks away. The boy begins trying to take off his shirt and struggles with it as the shirt gets stuck. He then begins hitting himself. Most students “predict” or hypothesize that the boy is doing it because of sensory concerns (he doesn’t like the feeling of the shirt on his skin) and that he is trying to escape the feeling of the shirt. Other students say maybe he can’t vocalize “help me, please” and is hitting in order to get a teacher to come help him. These predictions/hypotheses are recorded on the Stop and Pause Activity Sheet. Later in the video lecture, students must “stop and pause” again and watch the second half of the young boy video. In the next part, the boy’s teacher comes running as he is stuck in his shirt and hitting himself and while saying “oh, Johnny- you need help. Say ‘help me, please'”. But in this second part of the video we see Johnny not caring about the shirt, immediately stops hitting himself and just hugs and crawls up to his teacher, climbing all over the teacher’s lap. It is clear he wanted the affection and attention of the teacher- not help and not sensory. Students have an opportunity to review their response and record their revised hypothesis in a new spot on the Stop and Pause template.

I have attached a sample Stop and Pause Activity Sheet template: File:Stop and Pause Activity Sheet.docx

Link to scholarly reference(s)

Budin, S. (2011). Course information for EXE 634, Applied Behavior Analysis.

Berliner, D. C. (1987). Simple views of effective teaching and a simple theory of classroom instruction. In D. C. Berliner & B. Rosenshine (Eds.), Talks to teachers (pp. 93-110). New York: Random House.

Hughes, C. A., Hendrickson, J. M., & Hudson, P. J. (1986). The pause procedure: improving factual recall from lectures by low and high achieving middle school students. International Journal Of Instructional Media, 13(3), 217-226.

Ruhl, K. L., Hughes, C. A., & Gajar, A. H. (1990). Efficacy of the Pause Procedure for Enhancing Learning Disabled and Nondisabled College Students’ Long- and Short-Term Recall of Facts Presented through Lecture. Learning Disability Quarterly, 13(1), 55–64.

Ruhl, K. L., Hughes, C. 1., & Schloss, P. J. (1987). Using the pause procedure to enhance lecture recall. Teacher Education & Special Education, 1014-18.

Ruhl, K. L., & Suritsky, S. K. (1995). The pause procedure and/or an outline: effect on immediate free recall and lecture notes taken by college students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 182-11.


Budin, S. (2016). Stop and pause for engagement in online video lectures. In B. Chen & K. Thompson (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

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