ESG Develops New Seminar Teaching Undergraduates to Create Educational Videos

Graham Gordon Ramsay, Program Coordinator, Experimental Study Group

The Experimental Study Group is developing a new spring 2013 seminar designed to teach undergraduates the skills required to devise, teach, and create video content for problems taken from the MIT GIR curriculum. This seminar will teach students to create short 5-9 minute videos that concisely explain and contextualize specific problems in physics, math, chemistry and biology. The resulting videos will be dynamic in their use of illustrations, demonstrations, animations, and commentary that help present these problems in compelling ways—all from the student’s perspective.

In the spring of 2012, ESG ran a pilot project with a small group of ESG students to create educational videos based on their GIRs. The goal of this pilot project was to demonstrate a long held belief at ESG that when students engage the process of teaching, they gain insight and command over the subject matter in ways beyond the experience of those students who do not go through this teaching process.

Watch videos created by ESG students:

Lorentz Transformation video thumbnail  How the Body Used Energy: Cellular Respiration video thumbnail  Gradients and Vector-valued Functions video thumbnail

ESG has a tradition of training students to teach and runs a teaching seminar each fall that prepares first-time TAs for their peer teaching experiences. This process challenges students beyond the standard boundaries of the sciences, introducing communication-intensive elements into their learning experience. By encouraging our students to create video content as a method of teaching, we believe that we are taking our students to a new level of understanding and communication.

Based on the success of the pilot project, ESG has decided to move forward to offer this material this coming spring in an undergraduate pass-fail seminar tentatively titled “Producing Educational Videos.” This seminar (open to all undergraduates at MIT) is being developed by ESG staff members Dave Custer and Graham Ramsay. It will be a hands-on, soup-to-nuts approach to the theory and practice of video production and will cover a variety of topics. These include: how to choose a compelling problem to present; assessment and critique of currently available educational video; testing out an approach to presenting the problem by practicing teaching it to peers; creation of outlines, storyboards, and scripts; researching available public domain elements that can be used to enhance the teaching content of the video; and introduction to basic videography and editing skills. Students will make use of the New Media Center for their video editing.

Aside from the seminar’s core mission of teaching students a communication intensive approach to understanding particular GIR problems, one other potential benefit of this seminar is that the content that each student produces may be suitable for other teaching purposes. Capitalizing on the momentum generated from the various recent distance learning initiatives at MIT, ESG is well positioned to create content that can help to serve many of these programs. If ESG were to train just 15 students each semester, it has the potential to translate into 120 unique videos over a four year period that could address a wide range of problems in the GIRs and create viable content for these initiatives.