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Sharing student learning via videos

Dr Adrien Desjardins (Medical Physics and Bioengineering) explains why he introduced a video-making element to two of his courses, an idea for which he won a Provost's Teaching Award in 2013.

5 March 2013

"My courses; Introduction to Biophysics (second-year undergraduates) and Optics in Medicine (third-year undergraduates) give students a chance to create videos to explain their approaches to numerical problems and then work with peers to improve each others’ first attempts.

Finding a way for students to share their solutions and explanations

I applied for an E-Learning Development Grant (ELDG) because I wanted to develop a new framework for students to create learning resources for their peers.

Students often find creative solutions to coursework or creative ways of explaining their solutions, but their solutions and explanations don’t typically get shared. My colleagues and I developed a paradigm for students to create videos that demonstrate their understanding of science and engineering topics.

Students increasingly use video as a tool for learning – for instance, they often tell us that they’ve researched topics on YouTube.

In many contexts, watching somebody explain a topic can be more engaging than reading about it, and explaining a topic can be even more engaging than watching an explanation of it. We wanted to provide students with the opportunity to create videos and to critique the videos of their peers. The responses from students have been very positive so far.

Support from Digital Education

I was particularly grateful for the ELDG as it enabled me to employ an E-Learning Coordinator, Teedah Saratoon, and I also received invaluable support from Jessica Gramp in E-Learning Environments (ELE), now Digital Education, who provided many good ideas along the way.

Developing the process to improve the student experience

The first time we did this, the students were allowed to use whatever software they wanted. They each produced a presentation and then recorded their voices over those presentations to create video files. We encouraged them to use Echo360 (the lecture-recording system used at UCL) and most paired it with PowerPoint or Prezi.

The second time, we became more prescriptive, requiring students to use PowerPoint for their slides and speech conversion software to create the audio. This was to maximise the time that they spent generating content, and to minimise the time that they spent recording their voices. We also asked them to improve upon their peers’ videos and create new, improved versions.

The benefit of presenting to peers

The students were comfortable with using technology to create videos and I was impressed with their willingness to share their presentations with others, which they did using Creative Commons licences.

It appears that presenting to peers created a strong motivation for students to learn material thoroughly.

Many of them told me that they wouldn’t have gone into so much detail if the social component had not been there. We also found that they seemed to get more out of the process when they worked in groups of two or three than they did when they worked independently.

The quality of the coursework that was produced as part of this process has been very high. I’m impressed with what the students have accomplished and I expect it will be useful for them in their future careers. We’re hoping to develop a toolbox to help other Lecturers who would like to introduce this idea to their courses."