Worked examples to support core skills


Summary

Dr Martin Smalley in the Department of Physics made screencasts of himself working through the key mathematical techniques in the Mathematics 1 core module for first year undergraduates. These could be accessed through the VLE any time, so students who needed extra support could refer back to these videos to reinforce the techniques taught in face to face sessions.

Keywords: video, screencasts, maths

Aims and Objectives

Incoming Physics students arrive with a range of Maths skills from school and FE. The core Mathematics 1 module is a critical component to ensure that all students will be able to thrive through their course with the requisite underpinning Maths skills. The instructor wanted to ensure that the weaker students could access additional support and resources in their own time and at their own pace to help them understand how to relate the general concepts addressed in lectures to practical problem solving. While students are provided with practice activities and homework throughout the module their was still an identified gap for some students to illustrate how answers are arrived at.

Overview

The instructor used the VLE to provide students with access to a range of screencast videos providing walk through explanations of the key Mathematical techniques addressed in the module. Videos were provided at two levels for each topic;

  • Intro videos providing a basic worked example of one a technique in operation, linking the theoretical content covered in the lectures and the applied work they are required to do in practical and homework sessions
  • More advanced videos showing how the technique can be applied to more real situations and problems, often drawn from past exam papers.

Methodology

The videos were produced using simple screencast software (Camtasia) and a digital writing device (Digimemo) that allowed the instructor to write with ink on a standard pad of paper while being captured on screen. Using this software and hardware the instructor was able to simply talk through the required Maths problems, recording his voice in synch with his writing to produce the video content. Once created the videos were made available to students through the VLE, organised by theme and positioned alongside other resources such as practical problems and homework solutions that were timed to be released automatically shortly after the weekly hand in deadline.

Example Screencast One:

Example Screencast Two:

Reflections

The resources have proved popular with students having being accessed throughout the module with noticed increased at exam time for revision. Although the resources took time and effort to produce they have been effective at supporting students in need of additional, personal support that is hard to provide within the context of large class sizes and a very busy timetable.

Next Steps

Case study last updated: February 2014

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