Good Practice Exchange: Pre-Lecture Screencasts

Dr Paul Smith, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry & Environmental Science at MMU, has been working with pre-lecture screencasts as part of an initiative to implement a flipped classroom model in Chemistry. In this Good Practice Exchange film, Paul talks about how he uses them and what it means for his teaching. We have asked Paul three extra questions to find out what is next for his teaching practice and what tips he has for you if you would like to try using pre-lecture screencasts in your teaching. 

How has your teaching practice changes as a result of this method?

I have been trying to develop this method as part of the flipped teaching model, where the students are encouraged to watch the recording in their own time and at their own pace before attending the teaching session. The lectures now become less about the transmission of information and include more student participation, which can promote active learning. The class can now be guided by the students understanding and I have greater flexibility in the delivery of the material. However, a common problem with large classes is that answers to the questions is often restricted to a small group of confident students who regularly raise their hands and volunteer answers. In an effort to engage all the students  I have been using smartphones combined with a game-based learning classroom response system such as Kahoot and several short quizzes containing 3/4 questions have been prepared for each lecture. So with the transfer of material largely occurring out of class, via the screencasts, the in-class time can know focus on the assimilation of this information using the mass polling quizzes.

What are your plans for using pre-lecture screencasts in the future?

The overwhelming consensus from the students who took part in the pilot study was that they do not fully interact with longer resources. One suggestion was to develop screencasts for one concept or learning outcome, or a series of closely related learning outcomes. A recording of about 5 mins plus interaction time was considered suitable for most purposes, with an absolute limit of 10 mins in special cases. Also, students welcomed the opportunity to view screencasts of tutorial problems/worked examples and this was cited as an important area for further development. An area that has yet to be investigated fully is the adaptation of this technology for students with hearing difficulties who are obviously disadvantaged by this mode of delivery. Current work is looking to expand the inclusiveness of screencasts by using Camtasia studio, which is a more versatile software that allows you to improve the visual impact of the videos by adding subtitles/text boxes and a camera.

What advice would you give to a colleague who wanted to try pre-lecture screencasts?

Keep them short, no more than 10 mins, where possible avoid mentioning dates or even class groups to keep it generic and enhance its reusability. A key aspect in their design is to keep them self-contained and logically structured, where students can use in any context (just before/after lectures, just before exams, etc.). Prepare the visual component in advance of recording the audio and it is worthwhile preparing a script. The time spent doing this will be offset by reducing the number of takes required. For audio, the recording environment has to be as quiet as possible and use a good quality microphone with a USB connector. The microphone input is best positioned below the mouth, rather than in front of the mouth, since this reduces heavy breath noises. The best way to get started is to look at the user guides for producing podcasts with PowerPoint/BB flashback software, which are available in the Staff Resource Area of the e-learning website (Moodle area). If you want any further information do not hesitate to send me an email (p.smith@mmu.ac.uk) and I will do my best to help.

View this resource on the CELT website and find more resources relating to flipped classroom approaches.

Contributed by Dr. Paul Smith, Senior Lecturer in Department of Chemistry & Environmental Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, MMU.


The Good Practice Exchange is an online resource created by CELT MMU to document good practice in learning, teaching and assessment by our colleagues across the university. If you or your colleagues have a teaching initiative or aspect of good practice you think would be valuable to share, contact Eleanor Livermore on e.livermore@mmu.ac.uk.

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