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Flipping with Short Lab Videos May Help Students Learn in Science Courses

Flipping a science course, by having students watch videos first to learn basic concepts and step-by-step procedures for doing lab work, can improve the outcomes. That's the finding of an experiment run at DeSales and Clemson Universities in a research project sponsored by a journal publisher that produces such videos. The project was undertaken by TERC, a nonprofit STEM education research and development organization, on behalf of the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

At DeSales, 94 students in four sections of a molecular biology course participated in the study. About a quarter were majoring in biology and most were sophomores taking an accelerated physician assistant program. There, each section served as a "video group" for one lab and a non-video or "comparison group" on a second lab. Video groups watched the first six minutes of a video on the respective topic and also received a text handout; the comparison groups received only the text handout. The first lab covered plasmid purification; the second was on separating proteins using a particular technique.

The Clemson study involved 252 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, taking a core biology course across 14 course sections with 18 students in each. Students in odd-numbered sections belonged to the video group and those in even-numbered sections made up the comparison group. One lab introduced the spectrophotometer; the second covered light microscopy. Again, neither video was watched in its entirety; students were told to watch the first five or six minutes. They also received the same text materials to read as were handed out to those in the comparison group.

The goal was to understand how student performance and learning experiences were affected by watching videos prior to class. According to the researchers, the results were positive. In three of the four lab experiences, students who watched the videos first "performed significantly better" in pre- and post-lab tests. In those cases, they found a twofold increase in test scores assessing scientific concepts and techniques. The exception was the microscopy lab, which the study suggested had "little room for growth," since most students understood the content.

Across all four classes, 65 to 95 percent of the students in the video groups said they believed the JoVE videos enhanced their confidence, boosted their understanding of the concepts and helped them better understand how to conduct the lab.

Based on the results at DeSales, in particular, the researchers concluded that the videos were "especially effective" for science undergraduates. "As concepts and techniques get more complicated, learning from a visual platform like JoVE can contribute towards better performance and improved learning experience for college-level STEM students," they wrote. Their conclusion: Integrating video-based learning tools in undergraduate science programs can be an effective resource.

"JoVE videos stand out for their brevity. My students' attention is short, and lab time is precious," said research lead Lara Goudsouzian, assistant professor in the Natural Science Department at DeSales, in a prepared statement. "I found that the JoVE videos covered the most essential information and kept the students' attention, and it showed in the results."

The study, Effectiveness of JoVE Videos in Improving STEM Students' Performance," is available on the JoVE site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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