A neurophobia cure

This post is the belated second part to my report on the work I have been doing as an iChamp.  It will concern itself with my project with Dr Scott Border working on interactive video.  My report on my project with Dr Angela Fenwick can be found here. The main driver for this project was that most universal of traits – medical student anxiety. The particular anxiety we were trying to address was the fear around the second year neurology course (“neurophobia”)

To help allay these fears Dr Border runs a revision lecture involving a Zapper quiz.  Not to be undone, the medical students tended to find these more anxiety inducing than helpful.

Together we decided that the best path was to make interactive videos. This would allow information on the medical student’s progress to be collected during the course and then for the revision lecture to be designed for each cohort based on their cohort’s progress.

A key reason why this project seemed feasible was that Dr Border has much experience using video and was hoping to develop a flipped and blended approach for 2nd year anatomy module.  We believed thus could be achieved using a five step process:

  1. Create a video that has questions and interactive content
  2. Post it online – either to the Soton Brain Hub site or the University Learning Management System
  3. Students watch and engage
  4. Anatomy department collects the information
  5. Dr Border then uses this information to continuously update his lectures and write the revision lecture

Of course it was not as simple as this.  The possible platforms that could support interactive video in the sense that we wanted (i.e. questions overlaid on a video) are varied, but can be organised into three categories: education specific, advertising specific and the somewhat nebulous miscellaneous group.  The first piece of software I investigated was Hapyak. This falls under the advertising specific heading and as such has some problems relating to its appropriateness.  For example, although it would collect data from the video, this was usually through mouse position and click location, not questions.  Furthermore, the student would not be given direct feedback on their answering – making it less useful for students to use.  It would also be costly for the department to use and so in light of this and the issues around appropriateness for education, we decided it would not be the direction to go in.

The next stage was to look at the education specific options.  These all had the same basic mechanic: 1) add video to the site (usually from YouTube), 2) add interactive content to video and 3) publish video.  Outside this simple process there is much variety in the way these things are set up.  This variety of approaches makes it difficult to make broad statements about the entire field. A common problem we encountered with the education specific platforms was that continuous data collection although possible, was often behind a paywall and doing so anonymously was never possible.  To collect data requires the student to make a profile and each student often needs to be identifiable.  Dr Border and I felt this represented a barrier to entry.  Those that operated using a course code that would allow anyone with access to this code access to the video often failed to be able to collect data.

Frequently students would only be allowed to attempt each video once or within a certain time period.  This makes it difficult for the students to  use the videos as a supplement to the lectures and as a revision guide.  This also prevents Dr Border from following the progress students make on a single topic – hampering his ability to continuously update the course to match the needs of his students and craft an appropriate revision lecture.

With education specific videos looking somewhat difficult the next piece of software we turned too was H5P.  I feel that this piece of software has the most potential in the future.  This is because of H5P’s is an open source collaborative project aimed at developing interactive content (not just video) using the programming language HTML5.  This site will allow anybody to make content with them. This follows the traditional mechanism for uploading that others follow, however there are many more options about what to do with the video afterwards.  It is even possible to host these augmented videos on any HTML5 website, not just on H5P – this is fundamentally different to all the other platforms we have spoken about which require the content you create to live exclusively on their site.  H5P can also produce offline content that can be hosted locally; something that cannot be done on the other sites.  Unfortunately, as it stands, collecting student performance data is still impossible using H5P.  Of course, this may change and because the software is open source you (or someone you know) could create an add-on that will enable this function.  Therefore, although it suffers from some of the flaws above – its community of developers certainly makes this one to watch in the future.

Of course this report is only related to one project with one specific set of goals and I encourage you to test this concept out with your own courses and content to see if something would fit you.  The future for this project looks to see how H5P will develop and whether hosting videos on a MOOC platform will enable the kind of interactions that Dr Border requires.

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