Thursday, February 26, 2015

Want your science communication videos to be wildly popular on YouTube? Here's how.

YouTube I've had an on/off relationship with YouTube over the years. Effectively YouTube won and is the only game in town for videos (assuming you actually want people to watch what you produce). I'm currently on just over 1.6 million views with just under 700 subscribers, but I've never had the resources (mostly time) to devote to a dedicated push towards building a committed YouTube audience, preferring instead to focus my limited time on this (and other) blogs. Over the years I've thought about trying to figure out what would be required to achieve this, but apart from gut instinct, it's not easy to figure out. This is about the best analysis I've read of science communication on YouTube. It's not particularly good reading for science communication professionals, and certainly not for scientific publishers. Like me, they are clearly struggling with YouTube. Interestingly, the findings are a vindication of the Just Do It philosophy of the EduPunk days. Remember then?

Will Grant. (2015) Science communication on YouTube: Factors that affect channel and video popularity. Public Understanding of Science, 19 February 2015. doi: 10.1177/0963662515572068
YouTube has become one of the largest websites on the Internet. Among its many genres, both professional and amateur science communicators compete for audience attention. This article provides the first overview of science communication on YouTube and examines content factors that affect the popularity of science communication videos on the site. A content analysis of 390 videos from 39 YouTube channels was conducted. Although professionally generated content is superior in number, user-generated content was significantly more popular. Furthermore, videos that had consistent science communicators were more popular than those without a regular communicator. This study represents an important first step to understand content factors, which increases the channel and video popularity of science communication on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's not flipping magic, just hard work

"This study shows that the flipped classroom does not result in higher learning gains or better attitudes over the nonflipped classroom when both utilize an active-learning, constructivist approach.'

Of course, if you just bore them to death with PowerPoint, YMMV.

Jensen JL, Kummer TA, Godoy PD. (2015) Improvements from a flipped classroom may simply be the fruits of active learning. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2015 Mar 2;14(1). pii: ar5. doi: 10.1187/cbe.14-08-0129
The "flipped classroom" is a learning model in which content attainment is shifted forward to outside of class, then followed by instructor-facilitated concept application activities in class. Current studies on the flipped model are limited. Our goal was to provide quantitative and controlled data about the effectiveness of this model. Using a quasi-experimental design, we compared an active nonflipped classroom with an active flipped classroom, both using the 5-E learning cycle, in an effort to vary only the role of the instructor and control for as many of the other potentially influential variables as possible. Results showed that both low-level and deep conceptual learning were equivalent between the conditions. Attitudinal data revealed equal student satisfaction with the course. Interestingly, both treatments ranked their contact time with the instructor as more influential to their learning than what they did at home. We conclude that the flipped classroom does not result in higher learning gains or better attitudes compared with the nonflipped classroom when both utilize an active-learning, constructivist approach and propose that learning gains in either condition are most likely a result of the active-learning style of instruction rather than the order in which the instructor participated in the learning process.

Friday, February 20, 2015



Increasing Student Engagement with Practical Classes Through Online Pre-Lab Quizzes
Altmetric: This article scored 5.56

So far Altmetric has tracked 55 articles from this journal. They typically receive a little less attention than average, with a mean score of 2.7 vs the global average of 5.1. This article has done well, scoring higher than 83% of its peers. It's actually the 9th highest scoring article in this journal that we've seen so far.

Older articles will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this score to the 62,824 tracked articles that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any journal. This article has done well, scoring higher than 83% of its contemporaries.

More generally, Altmetric has tracked 2,826,483 articles across all journals so far. Compared to these this article has done well and is in the 83rd percentile: it's in the top 25% of all articles ever tracked by Altmetric.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Multiple-choice tests - all guesswork?

Multiple-choice test formats When I started in this business, MCQs were regarded as beyond the pale. Now they are increasingly de rigeur as the only way to cope. So, discuss:
MCQs: necessary evil or spawn of Satan?
No, wait, don't - we'll be here all day. Use MCQs or don't use MCQs, it's up to you. But if you use them, at least know what you're doing. Which is where this rather good short review comes in useful.

Reducing the need for guesswork in multiple-choice tests. (2014) Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(2): 218-231, doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.902192
The humble multiple-choice test is very widely used within education at all levels, but its susceptibility to guesswork makes it a suboptimal assessment tool. The reliability of a multiple-choice test is partly governed by the number of items it contains; however, longer tests are more time consuming to take, and for some subject areas, it can be very hard to create new test items that are sufficiently distinct from previously used items. A number of more sophisticated multiple-choice test formats have been proposed dating back at least 60?years, many of which offer significantly improved test reliability. This paper offers a new way of comparing these alternative test formats, by modelling each one in terms of the range of possible test taker responses it enables. Looking at the test formats in this way leads to the realisation that the need for guesswork is reduced when test takers are given more freedom to express their beliefs. Indeed, guesswork is eliminated entirely when test takers are able to partially order the answer options within each test item. The paper aims to strengthen the argument for using more sophisticated multiple-choice test formats, especially for high-stakes summative assessment.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Talking sense about feedback - don't change the feedback, change the students

Pigeon Once again, Graham Gibbs latest post on feedback on the SEDA blog makes so much sense it's impossible not to share it (Making feedback work involves more than giving feedback). A few choice quotes to persuade you to go and read it:

Successful students make quite different use of feedback than unsuccessful students and one approach to making feedback more effective is to simply change average and weak students’ habits so that they use feedback as successful students do.

One of the reasons some students read and pay attention to feedback, while others don’t, is not that some are ‘assessment literate’ while others are not, but that some do not see the point: it does not help them achieve what they want to achieve. Idea No. 1 outlined the different orientations students have been found to display. They want to achieve different things and they pay attention to different things as a consequence. If all a student is interested in is passing or progression to the next stage, then actually learning about the subject matter from feedback may not be on their agenda, especially if the course is almost over or there is no follow-up course that builds on the subject matter. Changing students’ orientation is not at all easy but it is possible to make it difficult for students to pass unless they engage seriously with the course, whether they like it or not. It is also possible to make it easy for students to ignore the teacher’s agenda and still pass, and many courses and their assessment regimes achieve this dubious distinction. Teachers may bemoan how instrumental students have become, but they also often collude to make instrumentalism quite a successful strategy, in order to avoid too many students failing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year 2015

HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year The Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award seeks to identify the UK's leading bioscience Higher Education teachers recognizing the invaluable role played by teachers in HE. This award is run by Oxford University Press, The Society of Biology and the Heads of University Biosciences. The award recognizes outstanding learning and teaching practice in the biosciences. The competition is open to all employed bioscience teachers in the UK HE system and rewards lecturers who:
  • Display individual excellence through the design and development of approaches to teaching that have proven successful in promoting bioscience student learning and achievement
  • Undertake scholarly and professional developmental activities that actively influence and enhance the learning of their students
  • Support colleagues and influence bioscience student learning beyond their own department and institution

The finalists for the HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award 2015 have just been announced and they are:
Dr Alan Cann, University of Leicester
Dr Mark Clements, University of Westminster
Dr Dave Lewis, University of Leeds
Dr Sohag Saleh, Imperial College London
Congratulations to my fellow shortlisted candidates and to all those who were nominated for this year's award. The finalists will now begin the rigorous second stage of the judging process, involving the completion and presentation of a case study, and a 45 minute interview with the judging panel. The winner will be announced at the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) Spring Meeting, at Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire at the beginning of May.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Students gain more from video-recorded presentations

Video As someone who's currently struggling to organize 300 student oral presentations (though my colleagues are performing heroic tasks), I'm  attracted to the idea that video recording presentations is of high feed-forward value to students. Is this finally a good reason to spend all that money on "lecture" capture technology?

I need to try this. Maybe on a smaller cohort than 300 to start with though...

Karen Murphy & Shane Barry. Feed-forward: students gaining more from assessment via deeper engagement in video-recorded presentations. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 06 Jan 2015 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.996206
Presentation feedback can be limited in its feed-forward value, as students do not have their actual presentation available for review whilst reflecting upon the feedback. This study reports on students’ perceptions of the learning and feed-forward value of an oral presentation assessment. Students self-marked their performance immediately after their presentation, after reviewing a video recording of their presentation and wrote a reflection relating to their experience. Survey data revealed that most students viewed all aspects of the assessment task positively and they rated the process as providing substantial learning value. They also indicated that the video review and overall assessment exercise provided valuable feed-forward information that would assist them to improve future presentations. These data were further supported by content analysis of the qualitative data. Students noted that they perceived the video review task as self-enabling. They also noted that the self-reflection and self-marking exercise provided time for thought although it was personally challenging. Therefore, via carefully designed assessment, it is possible to provide a deep learning opportunity from oral presentations that can feed-forward to enhance students’ future presentations.