Tag Archives: chemistry


Screen Captured Video Feedback to Enhance Engagement with Laboratory Practical Work #HEASTEM14

I recently took part in the Higher Education Academy STEM conference on 30th April 2014 in Edinburgh. Here is a screencast of the Pecha Kucha presentation I have on the day on screencast video feedback to students.

Variety in Chemistry Education 2010

Tomorrow I am off to the Variety in Chemistry Education 2010 Conference in Loughborough.  My previous experience of this conference was a very positive one; in particular the format which comprises short, to the point presentations rigidly and fairly regulated by the chair.

I will  be presenting some of our work on the use of reflective video to engage students and am looking forward to the technology-focussed sessions.

I also hope to provide a few tweets and will be using the hashtag #Variety10.  Does anyone know if this is the official one?

The abstract of my talk is below:

For the past two years we have provided first-year undergraduate students on bioscience courses the opportunity to make short reflective video logs of their experience in chemistry practical classes.  Three practical groups per laboratory session are provided with a video camera and brief instruction on its use.  Each group must reflect on particular aspects of the practical, highlighting anything they found difficult and offering advice to someone who may be repeating the experiment at a later time.  In so doing this promotes engagement with practical work during the session and thought towards how the material relates to lectures and other parts of the course.  The videos are then uploaded to a video sharing website (YouTestTube.com) hosted on university servers and shared with everyone enrolled on the introductory chemistry module.  Students may view, rate and comment upon their colleagues’ videos in a manner similar to the popular video sharing website You Tube.  The software used to construct the website also contains social networking functions allowing students to ‘make friends’ with other members of the module group.  This reflective tool has provided a collaborative and inclusive peer-learning environment for bioscience students in a subject that is often perceived as difficult and at a time when transition issues to university study may be encountered.

You can find out more about our reflective video project here.

Photo credit.

Context/Problem Based Learning to Deliver Biological Mass Spectrometry

I have been recently using context/problem based learning to deliver biological mass spectrometry to year one bioscience students. The approach has been generally well received and I plan to do a re-run this year but to a larger year one group. I reported on this at the UK Centre for Bioscience reps forum in September last year and have included the slides below.

I would be very interested to hear from colleagues who have also used this approach in teaching in the biosciences or physical sciences.

Reflections of YouTestTube.com at #HEA09

I was invited by Simon Ball from JISC TechDis to present our HEAT 3 project (YouTestTube.com) 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, YouTestTube.com. 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.

Enhancing the first-year learning experience: a case study from Biomedical Sciences

Paul Hagan and I presented some of the work we have been doing within the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ulster to enhance the first-year experience of introductory chemistry. This presentation gives an overview of some of the innovations that have been introduced.

These presentations were given as part of the Innovation In Teaching and Learning Support Programme of Lunchtime Seminars for 2008/9 organised by the newly formed Centre for Higher Education Practice at the University of Ulster.

The presentations were given twice in October 2008 at the Coleraine and Magee campuses.

Please see the link below for further details:

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!

Welcome to PlanetChemistry

Thanks for dropping by.  Recently on my twitter page www.twitter.com/planetchemistry someone posed the very valid question “May I ask, what is it you do ? , (on your twitter) 🙂 to do with chemistry”. This comment reminded me that perhaps I had not really articulated anywhere in blogosphere what it is I do with regard to chemistry.

For the past 7 years I have been teaching introductory chemistry to year 1 undergraduates in the biosciences who are following programmes such as biology, biomedical science, dietetics, food and nutrition, human nutrition and pharmacology.

The experience has been a challenging yet rewarding one.  The challenge has been in relating to a heterogeneous student group with a rich edudiversity.  Many of the students come to University with good A-level grades in chemistry while others have had little experience of the topic at all.  The reward is in finding new and innovative ways to make the topic relevant to the courses studied and to equip students with sufficient chemical knowledge to take them to the next level of their degree.

Through this blog I hope to share some of the experiences gleaned along the way, but more importantly to learn from the experinces of other who have passed this way before and who have made student learning a much richer experience.