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Reflections on “”: An Online Video-Sharing Platform To Engage Students with Chemistry Laboratory Classes – Journal of Chemical Education


It has been almost eight years since we introduced the “YouTestTube” video sharing initiative to bioscience students at Ulster University. This paper describes how the project has developed over that time and is now an embedded feature of chemistry laboratory classes. The abstract follows:

This paper describes the construction and development of, a YouTube clone website to facilitate video-sharing, social networking, and reflections of chemistry laboratory classes for year one students within the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University. The practice was first introduced in the 2008/09 academic year and has developed until the present time. We reflect on our findings with regard to the production and sharing of short student-generated video documentaries on laboratory experiments, and attendant social networking. We found that students enjoyed the process of viewing, rating, and commenting upon colleagues’ videos but that social networking did not happen spontaneously or organically. Students did find that learning and networking happened effectively when working in small groups to produce the final version of the video. The use of some of the videos as peer-generated learning objects was reported to be useful in helping engage year one, semester one students in their early days in tertiary education.

Source: Reflections on “”: An Online Video-Sharing Platform To Engage Students with Chemistry Laboratory Classes – Journal of Chemical Education (ACS Publications)

HUCBMS Conference

Last Friday I took part in the Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Science (HUCBMS) Conference 2011 held at the Coleraine campus of the University of Ulster. I was presenting on Using Mobile Technologies and Video Sharing to Engage Students in the final session on Innovation in Teaching and Learning. This turned out to be a very interactive session and I am grateful to the delegates for the many questions and comments received during and after the presentation.

My slides from the event are provided here as a PDF.

Image credit.

UK Centre for Bioscience Reps Forum – Awards ‘n’ All!

Ed Wood Teaching Award finalists 2010. L-R: Anne Tierney, Graham Scott (overall winner) and Stephen McClean

Last week I was at the UK Centre for Bioscience Reps Forum in Cardiff and once again the meeting has provided a number of teaching ideas I hope to implement in the coming year.  In this year’s forum we saw the introduction of a poster session which was the subject of one of the first activites in the meeting and provided discussion around various themes.  Unfortunately due to “technical” difficulties at Cardiff airport I arrived late so did not get the full benefit of the posters.  Our project on text messaging in higher education was presented at the event.

The afternoon saw a showcase session for the finalists of the Ed Wood Teaching award, now rebranded as the Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award.  I kicked off the session describing my case study on Using Reflective Video Sharing in Year One Chemistry Laboratory Sessions.  This was followed by Graham Scott from the University of Hull, the overall winner of the award who described his study on Student managed learning: Whales, Dolphins and Sharks.   Anne Tierney then described her work on The role of online diaries in creating a reflexive learning environment, bringing the session to an end.  All of the case studies are on the Centre website and are linked above.

The following day provided for me one of the highlights of the forum in the form of the Swapsop session: brief presentations from colleagues on an aspect of their practice.  This year the line-up was as follows;

  • Jon Scott, University of Leicester, ‘Home from Home: video diaries from the 2nd years’
  • Nicholas Freestone, Kingston University, ‘Differentiated learning: the Kingston MPharm experience’
  • Ian Turner, University of Derby, ‘Lonely Hearts Columns – A Novel Way of Teaching Students Abstract Writing Skills’ as an INTERACTIVE SWAPSHOP
  • Dave Lewis, University of Leeds, ‘Using short video clips to promote the discussion of ethical issues in science’
  • Iain Coleman, University of Wolverhampton, ‘Does a spoonful of dictation sugar help the electronic marking medicine go down?’
  • Peter Klappa, University of Kent at Canterbury, ‘Teaching with Animations’

I enjoyed all of these sessions but as usual was most inspired by the technology-centred sessions and  found Peter Klappa’s demonstration of LightScribe most engaging.  This is a method for capturing lectures where tablet technology is used; the software captures audio from the speaker as well as the text written on the tablet.  A final video can then be output for hosting on a VLE.

All in all another great Reps Forum; hopefully there will be many more to come….

Photo credit:  Terry McAndrew

Variety – Living Up to its Name!

Last week I attended the Variety in Chemistry Education conference in Loughborough.  As before this conference delivered a variety of topics on the subject of chemistry teaching and these ranged from problem based learning to diagnostic testing to developing an understanding of the misconceptions students have  about chemistry when they come to university.  Along the way there was a healthy slice of technology in the form of audio feedback and screencasting of lectures.

As is now my practice at conferences, I provided a number of tweets but found this to be a rather lonely experience in Loughborough compared to other national conferences I have attended (either remotely or in person).   Having said that the twitter stream for me is a great way to revisit the conference at a later date and so I have provided the tweets with the hashtag  #Variety10 below for ease of finding.

Would be grateful to hear from other physical scientists who tweet on a regular basis.   Come on, don’t be shy…… 🙂


  • Coming to the end of #Variety10. Thanks to everyone who took part for a great meeting.
    Fri Sep 03 13:31:12 +0000 2010
  • Last “byte” of #Variety10 on easing the school to university transition.
    Fri Sep 03 13:22:57 +0000 2010
  • Hearing about adaptive questions for e-assessment #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 13:06:14 +0000 2010
  • Hearing why students do not like organic chemistry. They like naming compounds but don’t like reaction mechanisms and synthesis #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 12:35:29 +0000 2010
  • Suggested that the mole could be described as a sub-terranean concept. Earthy chemistry humour at #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 12:32:31 +0000 2010
  • Only 44% of surveyed university chemistry students had first learned about the mole at GCSE level #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 12:25:08 +0000 2010
  • Next talk at #Variety10 is entitled “The Mole Misunderstood”
    Fri Sep 03 12:13:01 +0000 2010
  • We cannot allow students to lose the skill of drawing chemical structures #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 12:11:52 +0000 2010
  • Listening to a talk on a chemistry diagnostic test for assessing basic and complex chemistry knowledge #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 12:06:47 +0000 2010
  • @msars It was a great session. All of the presentations should be available at some point on the #Variety10 website
    Fri Sep 03 09:39:56 +0000 2010
  • Exploring crystal structures using during one of the workshop sessions at #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 09:29:32 +0000 2010
  • Phenomenography – the different approaches students take to problem solving: being described now at #Variety10
    Fri Sep 03 08:44:31 +0000 2010
  • Here is the programme for #Variety10 ( Will try to find some chemistry humour to tweet 🙂
    Fri Sep 03 08:17:03 +0000 2010
  • First session of the day at #variety10. “From parrots to professionals: more effective chemistry graduates”.
    Fri Sep 03 08:14:03 +0000 2010
  • New Post: In Pursuit of Meaningful Learning (#Variety10): The following quote from Michael (2001) was circulated a…
    Thu Sep 02 14:56:31 +0000 2010
  • Now in a session at #Variety10 focussing on labs and practical work.
    Thu Sep 02 14:30:27 +0000 2010
  • Lunch over, now being introduced to ChemTube3D at #variety10
    Thu Sep 02 12:50:09 +0000 2010
  • @traceymadden @michaelkls was right! RT @michaelkls: I’ll see you there! In my experience chemists don’t tweet 🙂 #variety10
    Thu Sep 02 12:06:30 +0000 2010
  • RT @traceymadden: RT @PhysSciCentre: Variety in Chemistry Education Conference 2010 – follow it (or contribute) using the tag #variety10
    Thu Sep 02 11:11:30 +0000 2010
  • Screencasting of lectures does not adversely affect attendance #Variety10
    Thu Sep 02 11:10:46 +0000 2010
  • Getting ready to talk about our reflective video project ( at #Variety10 (
    Thu Sep 02 11:10:03 +0000 2010
  • Two good talks on screencasting of lectures. To edit or not to edit? #Variety10
    Thu Sep 02 11:09:58 +0000 2010
  • Some students think audio feedback is TOO personal #Variety10
    Thu Sep 02 10:45:01 +0000 2010
  • Great talk on audio feedback using #Audacity at #Variety10
    Thu Sep 02 10:40:50 +0000 2010
  • “You may feel that this is a little unclear but in fact I am lecturing it extremely well” Gaither 2002 #Variety10
    Thu Sep 02 09:49:53 +0000 2010
  • @michaelkls Maybe we can swing the trend.. there should be a few tweeters in attendance… #variety10
    Wed Sep 01 11:09:00 +0000 2010
  • New Post: Variety in Chemistry Education 2010: Today I am off to the Variety in Chemistry Education 2010 Conferenc…
    Wed Sep 01 10:33:56 +0000 2010
  • HEAT on Tour!

    HEAT on Tour Logo
    JISC TechDis have now collated lots of resources from the HEAT3 project on their website. These include videos of presentations given by some of the project holders at the Higher Education Academy Conference as well as project reports, and copies of posters etc. Imaginatively entitled “HEAT on Tour” it demonstrates the breadth of practice that has been facilitated though this very worthwhile scheme.

    You can view all of these resources by clicking the link above. The presentation is given below.

    Reflections of at #HEA09

    I was invited by Simon Ball from JISC TechDis to present our HEAT 3 project ( at the Higher Education Academy Conference in Manchester in July 2009. This entailed a brief oral presentation at the JISC TechDis stand at the exhibition during one of the refreshment breaks and a poster presentation during a session entitled “The curriculum crunch: meeting strategic challenges and supporting practitioners through innovative solutions.”

    This particular session drew together a number of projects form the JISC TechDis HEAT scheme and the Academy/JISC Collaboration and the Curriculium Design and Delivery programme. It was organised in such a manner as to give project holders opportunity to present their poster to small groups of participants. The format was excellent allowing for discussion with interested colleagues. The organisation of the event also allowed presenters themselves attend other presentations so no-one missed out.

    During my poster presentation (please see below) I outlined our reflective video sharing project for year one chemistry laboratory classes, JISC TechDIS HEAT3 supplied video cameras and a laptop for this project which was trialled for the first time in the 2008/09 academic year.

    The main questions that arose at the session were:

    Q. Will you be rolling out this idea across other modules?
    A. We hope to do so. The technology is now in place and we hope that with internal dissemination there may be other colleagues who wish to avail of the site.

    Q. Are there any “how to” guides either written or in video?
    A. Not at the present time. We hope as part of the dissemination to provide a short overview video of the project that may include screenshots etc.

    Q. Will you model the reflection next year?
    A. We are looking into the possibility of using last year’s videos as guides for next year’s cohorts. This would direct new students in how to complete the practical and the type of reflection expected.

    Q. Are you encouraging students to use their own mobile technologies?
    A. Yes. We identified one weakness of the project as being the lack of available cameras. However, as many mobile phones now have relatively good quality video cameras this may be explored as a way forward.

    Q. Do you know what students’ prior knowledge / skills in video editing are? They could teach each other / tutors!
    A. We plan next academic year to give students greater ownership of their video material and to allow them to do some editing if they wish. It is possible that they could engage in some peer learning if accomplished video editors were present in the group.

    Q. How easy is [the software to create the site] to use?
    A. There are a number of ways that the video sharing aspect of a project like this could be carried out. It may be possible for low numbers of students to create a private group on You Tube and to therefore avail of an existing video sharing site.

    There are also various “You Tube clone” scripts available on the web. Two of these are phpmotion and Vidiscript and both are available free of charge for the most basic package. In our project we used the latter, however we also plan to fully evaluate phpmotion as it seems to have some advantages. Installation of the script required the skills of a computing officer and also required some space on a webserver hosted within the University. This should be borne in mind when planning projects.

    One other option, again for low numbers of students would be to post videos on the module website on the Institution VLE.

    The HEAT3 projects are all listed on the JISC TechDis website.

    The presentations as part of the HEAT3 scheme were excellent and showed the impact that could be made on the learning environment with relatively small amounts of money (average funding per project was £1250).

    There were various other highlights throughout the rest of the conference and overall the event was very useful. Colleagues who had attended previous Annual Conferences noted that there were fewer academics in attendance this year. This is something that should be remedied in future years so that those closest to the interface with the student body can make the greatest impact.

    Labs, Camera Action!

    A brief report on our reflective video project for year one chemistry laboratory sessions appeared in the summer 2009 edition of the Higher Education Academy Bioscience Centre Bulletin. The article is below via scribd while the full bulletin can be found here:

    Technology to Promote Student Engagement with Laboratory Practical Classes

    Going back to January 2009, there was the elearning conference hosted by the University of Ulster on the Belfast campus. The theme for the conference was “Supporting the iGeneration”.

    Highlights for me included the use of SMS texting during one of the presentations as a method of asking questions of the speaker. Also of value was Simon Ball’s session on useful technology to promote inclusivity.

    Paul Hagan and I had a poster presentation on our use of pre-practical assessment (using an online quiz script) to engage students with laboratory protocols before coming to lab and reflective videos to be made when they were conducting the experiment. There is just some scant detail in the poster below, but hopefully you get the idea!

    Thoughts on the Third Science Learning and Teaching Conference SLTC09

    The third science learning and teaching conference was held in Heriot Watt, Edinburgh from 16-17th June 2009. This was my first visit to this conference and I was suitably impressed. The organisation of the event by HEA staff from the Physical Science, Bioscience and Materials Science subject centres was good and the venue itself conducive to networking.

    Highlights for me were the opportunities for networking and meeting colleagues I had previous only encountered in silico and to experience the amplification of the conferece through twitter #sltc09.

    The speakers ranged from the experienced (some faces I recognised from the Variety in Chemistry Education meeting last year!) to those dipping their toes in the pedagogic conference scene for the first time. All made for a good meeting.

    My own feeling that pedagogy is better represented in some institutions that others was again reinforced. A quick glance at the 130 or so delegates on the list reveals a number of universities where only one representative was in attendance in contrast with the likes of the Universities of Manchester, Leicester and Limerick with their contingents of interested pedagogues.

    Due to personal interest I was drawn towards the “technology” related presentations though strangely in the session where I was presenting the technology failed – twice – once during my own talk! For those who missed it the slides are below.