Remote-friendly student project presentations enable creativity and risk-taking

Remote-friendly student project presentations enable creativity and risk-taking
Credit: Journal of Chemical Education (2021). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c01033

In a two-year study that could help guide educators developing the post-pandemic new normal, student groups at the University of Michigan assigned to make video presentations showed more creativity and risk-taking than groups making conventional in-person presentations.

"Given the importance of project-based learning, our study provides a way to turn virtual limitations into an advantage," said Fei Wen, U-M associate professor of chemical engineering. "We can enhance the student experience and learning outcomes."

Higher education, along with society at large, anticipates a shift in the balance between in-person and remote activities even after COVID-19 is controlled, say Wen and colleagues. While many might assume hands-on learning is best done entirely in person, the study presents an alternative perspective.

The team began conducting the research in 2017—well before anyone knew COVID-19 was coming—as an effort to examine how different formats improved engaged learning outcomes. They split the students in a mass and heat transfer chemical engineering class into two cohorts: one doing an in-person presentation to high school students, with a poster and a demonstration; and the other making videos posted online. The 248 students who participated self-reported the degree to which their method enabled creativity, risk-taking, teamwork, self-confidence, communication and .

"This turned out to be really timely," Wen said. "We did this without realizing the world would be switching to virtual."

At first, the students had some doubts about the . But the study revealed its potential. For one, it unlocked a larger range of experiments that the student teams could demonstrate—they were no longer limited to something that would run in a few minutes. Experiments that needed hours or days could be shown with time-lapse approaches.

In an in-person presentation, students have to get the demo right the first time. In contrast, a can be reshot until the experiment works properly, enabling students to dream up more difficult concepts.

In addition, the video format encouraged a larger range of narrative methods. The "talking head" approach may most closely resemble a conventional presentation, but students also performed skits to explain concepts, added background music to the demonstrations or made the entire presentation into a song. They also used multiple locations, and animation.

"The change in student perception before and after the project was really surprising to us," said Andrew Zak, a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and first author of the study in the Journal of Chemical Education. "Heading into the project, most students felt the in-person would have a greater impact on four of the six learning outcomes, but after completing the project, only social responsibility was more positively impacted by the in-person format."

Social responsibility means understanding their obligations to act for the common good as engineers. Unlike students assigned to in-person presentations, the video cohort didn't interact with . Their presentations were on the web for anyone to access. Wen believes that this accounts for the lower ratings in .

She has ideas about how to address that, such as arranging a video call with a high school class. However, she recognizes barriers as well, such as the reduced access to technology in low-income schools. It's an area she intends to explore further.

More information: Andrew J. Zak et al. Virtual versus In-Person Presentation as a Project Deliverable Differentially Impacts Student Engaged-Learning Outcomes in a Chemical Engineering Core Course, Journal of Chemical Education (2021). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c01033

Journal information: Journal of Chemical Education

Citation: Remote-friendly student project presentations enable creativity and risk-taking (2021, March 29) retrieved 28 February 2024 from
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