Feature-rich platform helps educator keep innovative program at the forefront of effective online learning

Audra Hilterbran
Audra Hilterbran

Meet Audra Hilterbran. Audra likes language. Particularly, teaching English to those who need to learn it to succeed in their academic pursuits. You see, Audra works at Ohio University’s English Language Improvement Program (ELIP). They prepare on-campus graduate and undergraduate students with customized instruction that give them concrete academic and professional communication skills and abilities.

ELIP has been at the forefront of using technology to create engaging, student-centered, and pedagogically sound learning environments. And now, ELIP would like to expand to share their knowledge and teaching methods with English language learners around the globe.

But how do you take a successful on-campus teaching program and bring it off-campus? That’s what the Director of ELIP, Dawn Bikowski, asked Audra to help figure out. And she gave Audra a hint to start out: interactive video.

“We know that interactivity is going to be what’s going to expected very soon.” Audra notes. “I was used to working with different online tools and different software. Dawn wanted different features. She was voicing things — and my job was to make it happen.”

So Audra tried out some interactive video tools. Well. Actually, a lot of them. But none could quite lived up to her goals. None had everything on her wish list. And then, in a crowded computer lab at the school, a fortuitous bit of online eavesdropping came to her rescue.

ELIP - Ohio University The English Language Improvement Program at Ohio University
Ohio University’s English Language Improvement Program

“I was in class online one night and I was speaking to a colleague of mine. I said that every tool was missing a feature that Dawn wants to see. There was a guy (at a computer next to me) who was in a Hangout, attending a different class.”

Then, from the speakers of that computer next to her, a voice grabbed her attention. ‘Hey. Who was speaking right now? You need to try this tool called HapYak. It’s got everything you just described.’

He was right.

‘He’ was Larry Hess, an Instructional Technologist at Ohio University’s School of Nursing, who had used HapYak to train faculty using the school’s Nursing Simulation Lab.

Interactive Video: Ohio University - School of Nursing
Larry Hess, Ohio University School of Nursing

“I was really excited when Larry told me there was a tool that met all my needs and even more excited when I saw how easy it was to use. HapYak is my favorite. It was the easiest, most flexible, very intuitive, especially compared to other tools that I’ve looked at. I think the user interface is much better. There are more features, more options.”

Audra has succeeded in creating some very forward-thinking interactive videos that do two things really well. They set up an expectation at the beginning of the video that it will be interactive. This gets the student used to responding to the video and ensures they start leaning forward right away. Second, she adds annotations throughout the video. This ensures that the student gets used to watching a small section of the video, interacting with it, then continuing on to the next section. In the mind of the viewer, it creates a positive feedback loop.

“As we move forward in this digital age, our attention spans are much shorter. This tool allows me to create short videos that are more engaging, that provide feedback and can be used over and over again.”

“The clicking, and the different options really give people a chance to really internalize what they’re learning.”

Now Audra and Dawn will be showing the result of her work to groups on campus and across the world. “I am going to give a workshop on how to use the tool. Dawn will be showing all the videos to a group in Japan.”

Below, Audra shares a few bits of advice on how to best use interactive video to ensure students internalize what they learn.

Interactive Video at Ohio University


You need some way of letting your audience know that the video is going to be interactive. I added a quiz question at th

e beginning. A better way may be for the person speak at the beginning of the video.


If you are planning on enhancing your own videos – for the content that you’ve created – the interactivity needs to be part of the planning process. Think about what kinds of things you want to add later. And the process will be much easier. The more planning you put into it the more confident you’ll be in production.

You can read more about Audra’s research on her Website or at ResearchGate.