Using video-based chemistry resources to improve student learning outcomes and engagement

Raveena Khatri, JoVE Writer | 8 min read
Raveena Khatri, JoVE Writer | 8 min read

The 2022 JoVE  Educator Innovation Awards have paved the way to highlight the use of video resources to support learning outcomes and increase student engagement in STEM education.

Below you can read the winning entry by the 2022 JoVE Educator Innovation Award winner, Dr. Stephanie Schweiker, Associate Professor at Bond University in Australia. Dr. Schweiker shares how she used video-based chemistry resources to teach a diverse chemistry cohort at Bond University to improve student learning outcomes and engagement during face-to-face, online, and multimodal (hybrid) teaching. 

To bridge the gap in prior knowledge between students, I have developed numerous virtual technologies, including laboratory skills videos, lightboard videos, virtual laboratory tours, and laboratory experiments. These resources are freely available and disseminated through my YouTube channel, Chemistry with Dr. Steph, the Virtual Scientist website, and the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) "learning area news" page. 

The first resource produced for our students were laboratory skills videos in 2012 which aimed to bridge the gap in students' prior knowledge within the laboratory environment and build student competence and confidence. These videos allowed the students to watch critical skills before they entered the lab and when they wanted to test their understanding of the skill. Many students used these videos and formed the basis of our lab skills checkpoint test that ensures all students have these basic skills before entering assessed laboratory activities. This initiative has resulted in no students slipping under the radar concerning basic laboratory skills. 

The next initiative was my YouTube channel, "Chemistry with Dr. Steph," which hosts mostly short snappy lightboard videos. They aid students in learning organic chemistry in Biological and Physical Chemistry. We analyzed the impact over four years, and there was a clear improvement in the organic chemistry exam scores, with an average of 17.87% increase. These short snappy mechanism lightboards worked as an extra learning resource. Students were visibly more engaged and achieved a deeper understanding of the topics, as was evident in the group learning sessions. The student's enthusiasm for the subject was evident with extensive positive feedback. Daily teaching and formal subject reviews consistently noted their appreciation for the different mechanisms and resources.

Since this study, I have developed short and snappy lightboards for most topics in our chemistry subjects and now host over 97 videos on the channel. They have been peer-evaluated within the chemistry teaching team at Bond University and adopted faculty-wide as well as by external institutes, including Varsity College (a local high school), the QCAA, and the University of Greifswald, Germany. Analysis of the channel shows that this resource is 60% accessed external to Bond University, primarily by students in USA and India. This resource will be further extended with customization for the QCAA and the senior chemistry curriculum and was promoted through the QCAA to Qld school teachers. 

Pre-COVID-19, I looked at how we could bridge another gap in students' knowledge and offer a better student experience in Advance Bioscience Laboratories. In this subject, students were completing a cell culture experiment in the research laboratory space. We saw an opportunity to develop an in-house resource to personalize and enhance their learning and laboratory experience. We created a 360-degree virtual laboratory tour where the students could have a 360-degree view of the new space and track around the research laboratory. This tour had embedded videos that introduced them to laboratory skills. The resource introduced them to laboratory skills and simultaneously allowed them to learn about the new laboratory environment. With this flipped learning approach, we could start our first laboratory quicker and free up much-needed class time. The resource was optional; students could interact with it before starting a new laboratory session. The virtual tour enhanced student engagement and confidence before the laboratory session and built their laboratory skills. Although it was optional, all students used the resource and gave positive feedback.

In March 2020, when COVID-19 hit Australia, we moved to online teaching. Later in September 2020, we moved to multimodal teaching, where students were simultaneously taught remotely and on campus. This led to the innovative development of our 360-degree gamified virtual laboratory experiments. The result of these resources was student-led. The resource ended up being gamified, virtual laboratories designed and developed by us to replace or complement the compulsory laboratories. This resource was used by both student groups, acting as a complete replacement for off-campus students and as a complementary resource to those on-campus. Through an anonymous survey following the laboratory, all the students agreed that the virtual laboratory was an effective learning aid, with both on- and off-campus students appreciating the slow pace and theoretical focus. Constantly reflecting on student feedback, the resource evolved to have increased mobility through the laboratories to cater to students who worked at different speeds while incorporating animations to help clarify harder-to-comprehend concepts. The chemical education community around the world has been very interested in our approach and identified our work as an "exciting new way to engage students." We have developed virtual laboratory experiments and embedded theory into them in a gamified way custom-made for our students, making us pioneers in this field. We have shown that our students have developed a deeper understanding of the theory and have engaged well with the resource.

In 2022, "The Virtual Scientist" website was developed using funds from the Faculty Learning and Teaching award. The website hosts these virtual laboratory experiments and spans from primary school to university-level experiments. Since creating the website, this project has resulted in multiple invited seminars. It has been adopted by Varsity College (a local high school) to use in their senior chemistry subjects in 2022. The QCAA has expressed an interest in the innovation and has promoted the resource to all QLD high schools. 

Want to hear more from Dr. Stephanie Schweiker? Register for our upcoming webinar featuring 2022 Educator Innovation Award Winners' stories to learn why videos are an indispensable tool in STEM teaching & learning.

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