Short Video Answers (Screencasts) to Commonly Asked Questions

This project extends the ITEL project I completed during the fall semester 2013 entitled “Use of Tablet Computer in Large Lecture Classroom.” That project’s goal was to use the tablet computer as sort of a portable smart-board, in lieu of a blackboard or pre-prepared PowerPoint slides. This fall – 2014 – I built on the success of the prior ITEL grant by using the tablet computer to create short screencast video explanations of commonly misunderstood concepts and common errors made on exams.

The purpose of this extension was straightforward. In the fall semester of 2014 I taught about 640 students enrolled in Economics 001, in two back-to-back lectures in the ICC Auditorium. I’ve taught the course enough times that I know in advance each week what questions students will be asking during office hours. But only a small fraction of students come to my office, and the screencast technology lets me put short versions of my office-hours answers on the web for the whole class.

Here are some samples of those screencasts:

This project had two goals:

  • a) Minimize the amount of time I spent repeating answers to the same questions during office hours.
  • b) Reach students who don't go to office hours, or are deterred by crowds.

The technology (screencasts of commonly asked questions) addresses both goals.

In an end-of-of-year survey, I posed two questions. The first is a direct question about the new technology.

About one third of the students never looked at the screencasts. Half looked at one or several. And about one-fifth viewed many or all of them. I can verify the information by looking at the individual screencast records and noting how many times they were viewed. For example as of December 8, the two most recent screencasts (about Midterm #2) were viewed 135 and 145 times. But by December 14 (after the final exam) they had been viewed 449 and 592 times. I also asked a follow-up open-ended question.

Any comments or suggestions on the videos?

Most students seem to either (a) not know about the videos, which is annoying because the information was posted frequently, or (b) value them.

The second end-of-year question I asked involved the ITEL project from last year:

As you can see, students overwhelmingly like the use of tablet during class.

I also asked an open-ended follow-up:

Any comments or suggestions on the use of the tablet during class or the posting of annotated notes after?

I learned two things that I will incorporate next time I teach a large lecture class.

  • a) Advertise the availability of the videos even more.
  • b) Produce the screencasts so that they are more generic, rather than specific to particular problem sets or tests. That will make them more easily reusable.