While the original funding has long since finished the project continues with support from the annual fund of the University of East Anglia and an Individual Teaching Grant from the Higher Education Academy.
To bring interested parties up to date on the flipped lecture and student authored vignette developments from the project Dr Lancaster has recorded a Screencast.
Screencasts and Vignettes: Flexible Teaching Aids for Undergraduate Chemistry
A Physical Sciences Centre funded Departmental Project
Dr Simon J. Lancaster, School of Chemistry, University of East Anglia, Norwich. NR4 7TJ. Email: S.Lancaster@uea.ac.uk. Tel.: 01603 592009
Dr David Read, School of Chemistry University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. SO17 1BJ. Email: D.Read@soton.ac.uk. Tel.: 02380 598 562
The project effectively started in September 2010 with the capture of the first lectures of the new academic year. At UEA the contributing chemistry faculty were Stephen Ashworth, Garth Jones, Simon Lancaster, Steven Meech and Richard Stephenson, additional material was kindly provided by Paul McDermott of the School of Pharmacy. The editing of the screencasts and preparation of the vignettes was conducted by Elizabeth Jacobs, Kiri Addison and Richard Steel. The evaluation was designed by the team from both institutions under the guidance of Joanne Bruce and the UEA focus group was facilitated by Gurpreet Gill. At Southampton the recorded faculty members were Pete Birkin, Richard Brown, Guy Denuault, Sally Dixon, Phil Gale, Andrew Hector, Robert Raja, Peter Roach, Andrea Russell and Paul Wilson. The Southampton screencast archive was maintained by Charles Harrison, who also conducted the evaluation.
The project proposal had two primary objectives: (a) to evaluate the systematic screencasting of as large a proportion as possible of the first year of the chemistry degrees at UEA and Southampton and (b) to determine whether the chemistry vignette was a worthwhile and ultimately transferrable teaching tool. Both objectives have been met, but a full determination of the open educational resource (OER) credentials of the vignette approach will require a further academic year of assessment.
In this final report an introduction to the rationale and methodology of the project will be followed by a summary of the findings and an outline of the routes by which we have and will continue to disseminate our conclusions.
Dr Simon Lancaster at the University of East Anglia had experimented with the use of first audio and later screencast[i] recordings of parts of first and second year inorganic chemistry courses. The recordings were well received by the students and prompted their author to present his experiences at the 2010 Variety in Chemistry Education meeting in Loughborough 2010. It’s easy for individual academics to feel isolated but it was apparent at Variety that there were many such screencasting projects taking place in chemistry departments across the country, particularly Dr David Read and Charles Harrison at the University of Southampton. A joint proposal to the Physical Sciences Centre was submitted having forged a collaboration to gauge the impact of a more concerted programme of screencasting. The objective of both Schools was to provide access to more than 50% of their first year chemistry lectures.
During the preparation of the proposal, it quickly became evident that conclusions about the effectiveness of screencast archives were likely to be relevant across the physical sciences community. However, we doubted that individual screencasts of whole lectures would be welcomed by other institutions. In keeping with the PSC ideal of producing resources that would be of value to the whole community we struck upon the use of vignettes, where the term ‘vignette’ refers to a short segment of a screencast covering a critical concept.
At UEA, the screencasts were recorded during undergraduate lectures by experienced faculty and edited to remove administrative announcements by postgraduate students under faculty direction. Table 1 gives the number of screencasts in the respective archives.
|Table 1: Published screencasts in each of the core branches of first year chemistry.|
|Chemistry of Carbon Compounds (UEA)||19|
|Bonding, Structure and Periodicity (UEA)||15|
|Energetics and Spectroscopy (UEA)||20|
|Special Topics in Chemistry (UEA)||2|
|Fundamentals of Modern Chemistry (Soton)||38|
|Fundamentals of Bonding & Spectroscopy (Soton)||22|
|Fundamentals of Inorganic Chemistry (Soton)||2|
In the second phase the key concepts were extracted and the resulting, typically five minute, vignettes were annotated to introduce highly visual aids and emphasis evolving in real time with the voice of the lecturer (Table 2 provides some illustrative examples of vignette titles). The Camtasia software package employed also allowed the embedding of interactive question elements probing the understanding (and the attention) of the user. Therefore, while screencasts are essentially video files, and vignettes can be provided in such a format, in order to retain the interactivity they must be distributed as SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) folders. SCORM elements are designed to interact with a learning management system. At UEA they are used within Blackboard and installation is straightforward.[ii]
|Table 2: Illustrative Vignette Titles|
|Lewis Structure and VSEPR|
|Diatomic Molecules as Molecular Springs|
|Standard Hydrogen Electrode|
|NMR – Atoms and Molecules in a Magnetic Field|
|Quantization of Energy Levels|
Open Educational Resources
From the outset the vignettes have been created with open access in mind and are available with creative commons licenses to the entire academic community. To facilitate access, a dedicated website www.chemistryvignettes.net has been established (and will go live in the next few days), where the chemistry vignettes can be evaluated and the SCORM packages downloaded. To further encourage institution independent dissemination the project can be contacted by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @ChemVignette . The concept and potential of the vignette is one that needs to experience to fully appreciate, please visit the website http://www.chemistryvignettes.net and access one of the vignettes. The resources will also be made available from JORUM.
Figure 1a: Access statistics for (four selected) screencasts from the UEA archive. The peak in April corresponds to a ‘course test’, that in May the beginning of the revision/examination period and that in June the final examination.
Figure 1b: Access statistics for (inorganic) screencasts from the Southampton archive. The peak in March corresponds to a ‘course test’, that in May the final examination.
At both UEA and Southampton, Screencasts were made available as quickly as possible after the lectures, but access statistics suggest that students tended to access them primarily at the time of associated assessments (Figures 1a and 1b). The access time profiles for UEA vignettes versus Southampton screencasts (Figures 2a and 2b) provide an interesting comparison and a fascinating glimpse into the study practices of students (particularly in the run up to examinations!): these archives are truly “24/7” resources. As has been found in earlier studies, students are strongly in favour of the provision of screencasts.[iii] Of the UEA first year chemistry cohort, which had access to over fifty screencasts by the beginning of the examination period, 92.5% said that they found the screencasts either useful or very useful, with 52.5% of the students watching more than half of the available archive. The focus group remark “Needs a screencast for all lectures – sometimes some can be missed out, and means may forget to revise that section” was both a pleasing indictment of the screencast and a warning of how quickly students can take resources for granted and come to depend upon them.Figure 2: Sampleaccess statistics by hour of day for UEA a(left) and Southampton b(right).
As a result of the greater production time and the novelty to the student of the vignette resources it was decided to release these en masse to students over the Easter vacation and in the run-up to the UEA examinations. The collection was live between the end of April 2011 and the last examination on 8th June. The Blackboard statistics revealed more than 400 hits on several of the vignettes, suggesting approximately 3 accesses for each of the registered students. A more detailed analysis revealed some students accessing the vignettes many more than 3 times, while other students did not engage with the resource.
Student’s perceptions of the vignettes were evaluated through both an online survey and independently facilitated focus groups. The vignettes scored less highly than screencasts with 70% stating that they found them either useful or very useful. The focus group revealed that the reasons for this were largely technical and resulted from compatibility of the SCORM format with personal computer and browser configurations. In the focus group one student commented “Vignettes definitely helpful, condensed a lot of work into a small time – but more as a recap than learning”. The complete results of the UEA online survey and of the focus group are provided as supplementary electronic appendixes to this report.
Trying to determine the effect of additional teaching resources like screencasts and vignettes upon student’s learning and their subsequent performance in examinations is extremely difficult. By an unplanned coincidence, one of the first year examination questions on electronegativity directly addressed material illustrated by the vignette “Electronegativity”. The Blackboard statistics allowed us to divide the class by whether or not they had used the vignette (Table 3). The result is a 6% better examination mark for those who did. It would be premature to read too much into this; it may be that observation of the vignette reflects engagement and motivation as much as it leads to a positive learning outcome.
|Table 3: Statistical Analysis for Electronegativity Examination Question versus Vignette access|
|Those taking question who viewed the vignette||37|
|Those taking question who did not view the vignette||12|
This project confirmed the trends found in earlier preliminary studies of screencasting. Students can and will access the resources 24/7. Students are highly appreciative of the screencast facility and express a desire for them to be available for all lectures. For vignettes, while the initial evaluation is encouraging the real test for the vignette concept will come during the next academic year, when the student have access to a full set of resources throughout the year and can familiarise themselves with the technology in advance of the examination period. It will also be possible to ascertain how vignette resources exchanged between UEA and Southampton are received by the students.
The project has and will continue to be widely disseminated. Table 4 lists the completed and forthcoming presentations. We believe the novelty and potential of the Vignette approach merits publication in Chemistry Education Research Practice but that further evaluation of the impact of the vignettes is probably necessary. The nature of the OER themselves means that if they are well received they will be self promoting.
|Table 4: Presentations disseminating the themes of the project|
|Event||Date and venue|
|More Effective Lectures||Edinburgh, Dec 2010|
|More Effective Lectures||UCL, Mar 2011|
|Geoscience Graduates for the 21st Century||Leeds, Jan 2011|
|Smoothing the Transition with Learning Technology||Belfast, Mar 2011|
|Learning and Teaching Day||UEA, May 2011|
|PSC Departmental Reps Meeting||Leeds, May 2011|
|Variety in Chemistry Education||York, Sep 2011|
|Creative Cross Disciplinary Applications of ICT in Supporting Student Learning||UEA, Nov 2011|
This has been a highly collaborative project drawing on contributors from across both institutions and the PSC. We are very grateful both to the PSC for financial support and to those individuals at the PSC, Hull for their exemplary help, in particular Liz Pickering. We wish to especially thank Tracey Madden, who was too modest to accept acknowledgement as a contributing author on the CC license but without whom the OER ambitions would have been much harder to realise. We thank Eva Roberts for enthusiastic and ongoing statistical analysis of screencast and vignette access versus examination results.
[i] A ‘screencast’ is a digital recording of the evolving image on the screen during a lecture presentation synchronised with the speaker’s audio narration.
[ii] The SCORM technology is not yet perfect, when hosted in a non-LMS environment the software will present a warning message which can be safely ignored. Within a LMS environment like Blackboard, which is used at UEA and Soton, these error messages are not produced, but nevertheless the results are not transferred to the grade centre. This is only a problem if the desire is to use the resources in assessment or to use the grade centre to monitor individual student usage; this is not an approach we wish to pursue.
[iii] Lecture capture: Early lessons learned and experiences shared. C. J. Andrews, R. C. Brown, C. K. Harrison, D. Read, P. L. Roach, New Directions, 2011.