09 July, 2012

Designing Multimedia for Teaching Concepts in Science

In the ‘Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos’ video on the Veritasium YouTube channel Derek Muller talks about his interesting PHD research on ‘Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education’.

In Derek's research surveys had revealed that students had various alternative conceptions on quantum tunneling which could be represented within a small number of answers. Two multimedia lessons were created in an attempt to teach the students about the concept. One lesson which was a lecture style explanation of the correct answer, and the other was a dialogue which included looking at why the misconceptions were wrong. The dialogue lesson was most successful at helping students move to a correct understanding and these findings might guide us when creating resources to teach similar science based topics online.

The video indirectly suggests a minor potential issue to me. Students found the videos that helped them learn best “confusing”, and the ones which resulted in them being more confident about their own misconceptions as “clear”,”concise” and “easy to understand”. Does this mean that using this method of improving learning might lead to lower marks in the National Student Survey for the “Staff are good at explaining things” question? Perhaps existing efforts to encourage students to reflect on and understand their own learning might mean this is not an issue.

Really though, the video is designed to make us think about how appropriate the Khan academy videos are for teaching science concepts. I think that The Khan Academy is going in the right direction with its 'Practice' section of the web site where you need to answer questions correctly to demonstrate understanding before you move on to the next lesson. When I worked through the Maths questions and resources I appreciated having both aspects. However Derek research leads him to an interesting perspective in Chapter 11 'Discussion' when he argues that that learning activities do not have to be 'active' in such an obvious way. Learning can be encouraged through the methods that he talks about in his research. He writes "Depending on the methods employed in multimedia, instruction can be viewed in different ways by students, encouraging different levels of learning."

[via Open Culture - Image by dmpop]

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