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Student perspective: creating educational videos

7 February 2013

Biochemical Engineering student Martina Sebastian tells us how she came to spend last summer filming microfluidic processes and what she learned from the experience.

Video camera

In 2012, the Faculty of Engineering offered funding to departments wishing to hire students to help develop e-learning materials over the summer vacation. Staff in the Department of Biochemical Engineering were keen to create videos to help students better understand microfluidic processes, and they employed Martina Sebastian, a second-year undergraduate student, to take charge of the project.

Here, she tells us how she became involved, describing the challenges she faced and how she overcame them.

Martina Sebastian

What motivated you to get involved in this project?

I had some previous experience in teaching and filming and therefore I thought that taking part in this project would be a great opportunity to apply these skills as well as an excellent chance to learn more about the research that is taking place in the Biochemical Engineering department. I also liked the fact that the project offered a lot of freedom in terms of the way you could make the videos interesting and entertaining.

What are the difficulties in learning microfluidics in traditional ways, from a student perspective?

Intuitively, one would assume that fluid flow and mixing are the same at a large scale as when dealing with microfluidics. However, through different experiments in the videos a student can see that the scale does matter. Also, the fabrication of a microfluidic device includes various steps, and a series of videos whose purpose is to show how the device is put together facilitates the understanding of the whole process and the logic that underpins different procedures.

What other advantages do videos provide over traditional teaching?

When I started filming I was unfamiliar with terms such as ‘PDMS curing and casting’, ‘plasma bonding’, ‘milling’ and so on.  Even after they were explained to me the concepts were still difficult to grasp; it was hard to imagine how they would happen in reality. Getting acquainted with all the experiments along with the explanations given from the researchers made it so much easier. I could see how the theory is applied in practice and perceive the bigger picture. Another great benefit of videos is that you can watch them as many times as you want, whenever you want and at your own pace.

What challenges did you encounter when making the videos and how did you overcome them?

The first challenge I faced was the fact that I was very unfamiliar with the subject of microfluidics. It took me some time to gain enough knowledge to be able to plan the videos and identify the key aspects I needed to film. Luckily I received a lot of help and support from the microfluidics team. I regularly attended their meetings, where I listened to presentations through which I learnt a lot about the amazing and diverse applications of microfluidics and the research undertaken in the department in order to push this technology forward. I was grateful to be given time during these meetings to brainstorm with the researchers and obtain feedback on the videos as I made them.

I also faced some technical challenges in terms of finding out what equipment might be needed to film the microfluidics experiments and how to get hold of it. I contacted various departments and even external companies and then Dr Szita, Dr O’Sullivan and I decided on the best equipment to use together.

What skills have you developed as a result of this project?

Through this experience I developed strong organisational skills and a lot of knowledge about microfluidics. It gave me a valuable insight into what PhD research is like. I also developed my filming skills and learnt new video-editing softwares and techniques.

Has your experience influenced your views about teaching?

This experience made me realise that video can be an invaluable teaching tool when it becomes too difficult to imagine concepts and experiments. In my opinion, educational videos provide you with the means to see the bigger picture before gaining a more in-depth and detailed understanding of a subject. 

What advice would you give to other students undertaking similar projects?

I would advise anyone who wants to take part in a similar project to be ready to embrace the challenge of running an independent project, to plan and prioritise their work as much as possible, to unleash their creativity and have lots of fun!

Further information

Page last modified on 07 feb 13 11:55

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