Distillate: David Read looks at recent chemical education research


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The idea of recording lectures/lessons has been on the minds of educators at different levels for some time as there are a number of potential benefits, as well as pitfalls.

The technology now exists to make it feasible to record sessions and a number of universities are already making recordings of lectures available online. Several semi-automatic software solutions are available which allow teachers to record their lectures/lessons and upload them to a virtual learning environment (VLE) with minimal support from technical staff, resulting in a significant increase in activity in this area.

Among the university chemistry departments who have adopted this technology are Southampton and Bath, with students at both institutions being overwhelmingly positive about this development.

Attendance has not been affected, contrary to the expectations of some academics, with students indicating that they place great value on the genuine lecture experience, and that recordings are not a substitute for the real thing.

Data collected at Southampton shows that recordings are mainly watched by students between noon and midnight, although there are a significant number of ‘hits’ being registered in the small hours, showing that students are increasingly adopting a 24/7 approach to their learning.

Whilst analysis shows that some students watch recordings in their entirety, many students choose instead to simply watch those sections of lectures that they found difficult, with the ‘second bite of the cherry’ proving invaluable to those struggling with aspects of the material.

The technology is also available to schools and colleges for teachers to create recordings for students to use in their private study. At Farnborough Sixth Form College, chemistry teachers have used an interactive whiteboard in conjunction with screen capture software to create videos showing students how to work through complex calculations.

A key benefit of using online videos to support students in coming to terms with the toughest topics at A-level in this way is that it allows teachers to make more effective use of precious face-to-face contact time.

Rapid advances in technology mean that it is going to become easier for teachers to produce high quality video resources over time, while students will undoubtedly find ever more creative ways of accessing and making use of such material via mobile devices and the like.