Dr Matthew Juniper of the Energy group at the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge has created a set of online animations to supplement lectures for his students.
Initially Dr Juniper was keen to save time when repeating basic concepts and problem solving techniques in supervisions. He decided to create animations that show him describing a concept in real time, with a tablet PC recording both his handwriting and a running commentary.
Often there are many ways to explain a concept but in a lecture there may only time for one explanation. The animations allow students to explore another version that might make more sense to them.
Dr Juniper went on to create animations of worked examples related to the example paper questions that the students do before supervisions. Students who are stuck on a particular part of an examples paper question can watch the worked examples at their own pace and may get the hint they need to complete the question by themselves. This can free up time in supervisions for discussion of the concepts.
In 2005/06, Dr Juniper trialled the animations on the 3rd year Fluid Mechanics students as part of a study by the Cambridge-MIT Institute. The additional materials had a positive effect on all the measured aspects of supervisions, particularly on the students' ability to answer the questions and on students' conceptual understanding.
A supervisor found that the students who used the additional materials could get a lot further in the questions. Those who did not use them despaired and gave up, expecting to be told all in the supervision. Students found the aids very useful, particularly when a new concept was introduced, and for exploring the most difficult concepts. They now form part of the 2nd year Fluid Mechanics course at the University.
The University of Cambridge's 'Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies' (CARET) http://www.caret.cam.ac.uk/ whose services are available to those within the university wishing to use technology to support research, teaching or learning, assisted Dr Juniper develop his methodology for creating the teaching aids.
Dr Juniper is keen to show other lecturers how easy it is to create the animations and that in the long term they will not only save teaching time but help to achieve better quality teaching. He has created a website that shows some examples of the animations and describes the process in more detail.
Find out more at http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~mpj1001/AM_website/index.html