Faculty Use Video Projects to Engage Students
When it comes to gauging a student’s understanding of what’s going on in class, a video can be much more revealing than the average homework assignment.
“Students tend to stretch the limits of the collaborative nature of your average homework assignment and often arrive at the correct answer without understanding the material,” said Ed Greco, an instructor who coordinates half of the introductory courses in the School of Physics. “But when the assignment requires them to problem solve in a short video, it becomes very difficult to hide the gaps in their understanding.”
Greco began using the videos as a learning tool after attending a workshop sponsored by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. At the workshop, Greco met Jarrad Reddick, academic support manager for OMED: Educational Services, who was already using video as a way to urge calculus students to demonstrate their knowledge.
“I became interested in championing video use in class because my master’s thesis focuses on the integration of multimedia technologies into science, technology, engineering and math courses at Georgia Tech,” Reddick said. “In addition to providing Ed with support, I’m currently working with faculty from the schools of Mathematics and Biology to help them integrate video use into classes. And I’ve partnered with the Center for 21st Century Universities to work on other ways to employ video use in the classroom.”
This academic year, Greco gave students the option to submit a short video response to a physics-based problem for extra credit. Last semester, for example, he provided a viral video of people swinging on the world’s largest rope swing (visit tinyurl.com/7lhcdf7).
Approximately 20 percent of his students participated and created five-minute videos that modeled the physics of the swing. Students were asked to respond to questions including, “Where along the trajectory is the tension of the stretchy rope the greatest?”
Greco encouraged students to use whatever video camera was available, whether it was a camcorder or a cell phone. (The Library offers a variety of digital camcorders if students are in need of one: visit www.library.gatech.edu/gadgets.)
Reddick was available to help Greco’s students with the projects and encourages any student who has a question about creating a video to contact OMED for assistance.
“I think one of the greatest misconceptions about OMED is that we only serve minority students. In reality, we support all students,” Reddick added.
In addition to making a video to earn the extra credit, each participant also had to rank eight student videos, which Greco randomly assigned, from favorite to least favorite. The amount of extra credit earned was dependent on the student’s average ranking received from their peers.
“It’s important to emphasize to students that the videos will be judged on the quality of the physics, not the production quality of the video,” Greco said. “This prevents students from inflating their rankings with comedy or satire.”
Greco didn’t provide a specific rubric or solutions, just questions for students to keep in mind as they viewed each video. The problem itself was open in nature, so there was no correct answer, he added.
Each time Greco offers these assignments, he is able to improve the process.
“For example, last semester when I first tried this, I didn’t realize that most students will wait until the last second to submit their assignment, and this was problematic when it came time for students to upload their videos to T-Square,” Greco said. “T-Square couldn’t handle hundreds of students uploading and converting large videos all at the same time.”
To remedy the problem, this semester students were allowed to upload their videos anywhere on the web (e.g., to YouTube or Vimeo). The only requirement was that they had to provide a URL where the video could be accessed.
Another change that Greco will make next semester is to require the videos rather than make them extra credit.
“Students have been receptive to the videos being mandatory, with the understanding that I would need to dial back some other tasks related to the class, given creating the videos takes more time and effort,” Greco said. “And I’m willing to do this, because the videos are much more useful to me when it comes to ensuring that students are learning the material.”