A Focus on the Human Side of Learning


Pearson Originals is a series of mini documentaries that shine a light on complex societal topics affecting communities across the country. The videos are a new supplemental learning tool to help sociology students contextualize what they’re learning.


In college classrooms across the country, the story of a young girl named Maddie is helping students understand what it means to be transgender.

“Her birth name was Joel,” says Maddie’s mom, Katie.

“She was wearing her sister’s clothes a lot. She started saying things like, ‘why did God make me a boy?’”

In first grade, Maddie made the decision to transition her gender.

“It made me feel like I was at home. But it was a different home – for my brain, and for my heart,” Maddie says.

Maddie’s story is one of many profiled for Pearson Originals to help students connect what they learn about in the classroom to the real world.

Content Built for Students

“These videos are a new way of using content to engage students,” says Jeff Marshall, an executive portfolio manager at Pearson who helped launch the video series.

Jeff works closely with students and teachers to figure out what is—and isn’t—working in the classroom.

A common pain point among professors he works with, Jeff says, is that students often don’t do the required reading. The Pearson Originals videos offer a more engaging way of taking in key course themes and ideas.

“The goal is to show students that what they read is not an abstraction—that the Maddies of the world are real people,” Jeff says.

A Strong Start

When the first batch of videos was complete, Jeff put them to the test.

He showed them to his 13-year-old son.

“Teenagers provide unvarnished opinions,” Jeff says.

“His reaction was: ‘these are cool, dad – you’re onto something.’”

Jeff has since received positive feedback from the students and teachers who use the videos in the classroom.

“Students can’t get enough of them and teachers want more,” Jeff says.

“Some people found themselves so invested in the videos that they suggested additional topics to cover in the future.”

The Here and Now

Jeff says the videos have been received so positively because they reflect important narratives driving conversations in real life.

“We’ve found that when content reflects the world students know, they stick with it,” Jeff says.

“If what they’re reading feels dated, they stop reading.”

Catherine Medrano, a sociology professor who uses the Pearson Originals in her classroom through Pearson’s Revel platform, agrees.

“Thanks to technology, students are more attuned to the latest news than ever before,” Catherine says.

“The more current their course materials, the more students are excited and engaged.”

Reaching More Students

So far, Jeff’s team has produced 34 Pearson Originals videos and production is underway for even more.

The most recent additions to the Pearson Originals collection are explanation videos for political science courses aimed at making sense of topics like Federalism by examining state-based marijuana legalization.

“We’re expanding to other disciplines because this content is powerful and it’s working,” Jeff says.

The Power of Storytelling

Jeff says he hopes the videos encourage students to think about big picture issues affecting communities across the country.

“Transgender rights, the opioid crisis, Fake News – We all know someone who has been impacted by these topics,” Jeff says.

“That’s why we want to tell these stories – to help students connect the personal to the macro.”