Ryan Watkins
Ryan Watkins
George Washington University

As a faculty member I sometimes, more frequently than I like to admit, feel that I just can’t read one more paper. This is especially true in my online courses where the vast majority of the conversation and assessment of student learning comes through online text. Yet even when teaching on-campus, by the end of the day (especially toward the end of the semester) my fingers and eyes are simply tired.

So what about video? For the last 18 months I have been trying out video-based, rather than text-based, assignments to assess student learning. To be clear -- this is not for every assignment, but where it seems to make the most sense. Much as instructors might do with individual or group presentations, I simply ask students to create short videos, for example, about the research they are reading in the class (rather than 10 or 15 page term papers). Using the videos, I can then assess the student’s ability to apply critical thinking skills to the research they are reading. I do not, however, assess the videos on their technical quality (though the results just from using smartphones or the built-in cameras in laptops are often impressive).

In developing these assignments I also created the WeShareScience platform to be a useful, and free, set of tools for creating and implementing these assignments. Students have the option to create the videos using tools built into the site, and by setting up “boards” I can easily organize the videos by class. The videos are shared publicly, but students can remove them after the assignment is graded if they wish.

You can also use video as a tool for students (for example, graduate students) to discuss their own research. These student videos can also be entered into the 2014 5-Minute Science Fair. The 2014 Science Fair will award more than $11,000 in prizes, and is accepting entries until June 1, 2014.

To give you some ideas, here is a sample of the assignment guidelines available on WeShareScience:

Assignment: Analysis of Research Articles
Create three (3) short video abstracts for three (3) research articles. The abstracts should summarize the basic elements of the research and how the results relate to practice. You can create the video abstracts using the online presentation tool at www.WeShareScience.com, using PowerPoint on your computer, or using the webcam on your computer or cell phone. Each video abstract should be no more than 5 minutes long, focusing more on the content of the research article than on the production of the video.

Each video abstract will be graded on...

  • Background on research (theory, hypotheses, researchers, etc.) -- (20%)
  • What they did (description of what the researchers actually did in the study) -- (30%)
  • What they learned (what results came from the research) -- (20%)
  • How we can apply (what applications does the research offer for practitioners) -- (20%)
  • Creativity in presentation -- (10%)


I'll leave you with two examples below....

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