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 session are provided with a video camera and brief instruction on its use. Each group must reflect on particular aspects of the practical when making the video, 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 and rate their colleagues’ videos as well as ‘making friends’ with other members of the group. This has provided a collaborative and inclusive peer-learning environment for bioscience students in a subject that is often perceived as difficult.
The scheme was piloted in semester 1 of 2008/09 so a full evaluation has not taken place. A total of 32 videos were made and initial feedback from students indicated that they thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the module and found it useful in getting to know people within a relatively large (130+) group. Student engagement was measured by the number of comments posted on videos as well as views and ratings. This has generally been good.
Our initial assessment has been that this is a valuable method of promoting reflection within laboratory classes but also of fostering the formation of friendship networks in a large first year group with a broad edu-diversity at a time when retention may be a problem.