by – Cynthia Vega

This past year I have focused on ways to decrease the traditional lecture style and increase student engagement in classroom practice and discussion.I focused on incorporating videos in the class curriculum. I wanted my students to pre-learn topics as a way to free up some class time so we could focus on higher level problems and to help them take ownership of their learning.

Watching videos isn’t enough. Anyone can find a variety of videos on Khan Academy and YouTube. I also wanted structure for my students. So each video I created was accompanied by a processing document, or rather, video notes. The video would walk students through examples while including extra practice on the document for students to then practice on their own. This allowed for time in class to address any questions they still had.

I found I was also able to include more time for students to work in pairs on practice problem sets and show solutions on the board for class comparison and discussion. Every math course we offer has such a tight calendar of necessary topics that are needed for the next level. The intent of this strategy was to allow for the class to thoroughly get through all the topics with adequate discussion and practice in class time.

While it is important for students to practice on their own outside of class, for too long, too many students are not doing enough practice outside of class. This isn’t always due to lack of time being given to the course. I have found that often students feel as if they understand the notes and examples when presented in class, then they get home and try on their own and don’t know how to approach their practice problems. They are unclear on how to apply the mechanics to the solutions process.

By providing videos, this allows the students a resource that shows them how to solve problems similar to those in their text and can be used to refresh their memory on what was discussed in class. The use of videos for pre-learning also frees up some class time to allow students to work in class on various practice problems. By leaving class time with completed problems that they did (not just from following me on the board), this will also help them to retain their knowledge and have a bank of reference problems so that they feel they can tackle the remaining practice sets on their own.

There are a variety of useful video applications that can be used on a tablet to record oneself and then easily saved as an MP4 that will upload to Blackboard. It takes a bit of time at first, but once you are in the habit, it really goes fast and saves class time for other activities and discussion where students truly can participate by asking and answering questions, not just passively taking notes from lecture presentations.