Case Studies

YouTube goes maths!

Author: Sven Friedemann

School/ Centre: School of Physics

Sven Friedemann tells us about the videos he developed for his 4th Year Physics students to help them understand complex mathematical derivations.

Teaching maths-heavy courses requires going over derivations step-by-step. Feedback from students has told us that this can not be done effectively using Powerpoint slides as the lecturer inevitably goes too fast and students find it hard to stay engaged. Consequently, the chalk-and-blackboard, or the equivalent pen-and-whiteboard, remain the most-used method for teaching courses like my 4th year “Magnetism and Superconductivity”. I really like the course as it allows me to baffle students with demonstrations, whilst still calculating these phenomena together using fundamental models.

When I used this method of going through the derivations on the blackboard, it leaves students with the dilemma: either they copy down every step, or they listen and follow the narrative. The student that has copied will have good notes but might have missed the tricks and important discussion. My videos provide students with a new resource to review all the steps of the derivations in their own time whilst absorbing and participating in the lectures.

I have recorded about 15 videos, between 5 and 15 min long, which go over the most difficult derivations of my course. For this I used my Android tablet and a microphone headset. The videos are now available through Blackboard.

A key benefit is that I can reuse the videos each year without much extra work.

I have seen positive uptake, both in the usage statistics, and in the lectures. I analysed last year’s statistics for my CREATE project and found that at least half of the students used these videos very heavily, with some students watching them 5 times or more. Whilst students did mostly watch them for immediate exam preparations last year I can see earlier uptake alongside lectures this year. This has a very positive effect on lectures with students much more engaged, asking questions and checking my calculations on the blackboard.

These videos have helped to transform the course into one that is suitable for the digital age; with students benefitting from online resources, while at the same time keeping the personal contact that lectures provide.

Sven Friedemann

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