Many students take the textbooks they are assigned at the beginning of a semester and attempt to memorize every chapter word-for-word with the mistaken assumption that this is how to “learn science.” To this already onerous task, students add memorizing lecture notes presented in class. Memorizing an ever-increasing amount of material then turns into a monumental undertaking. For some students this can seem impossible. With such attempts to memorize vast quantities of information, simple concepts become difficult to decipher and understand especially when students encounter more complex, multi-step processes later in the course. However, the use of multimedia tools helps students work with information in different ways to build understanding.
At Virtual High School, we often use images and animations to support student learning of science concepts and to illustrate examples. In most cases, this works well; however, with complex concepts, images still limit our ability to help students focus on the most important ideas and to fully address student misconceptions. We have found through student feedback that they find concept videos useful in developing a better understanding of written text and images. By including a video in the course content, we present a complex concept in a visually engaging way without additional text. For example, in senior chemistry, students commonly struggle with the concept of isomers – chemical compounds with the same molecular formula but different spatial arrangements of their atoms. It is easy enough for students to identify a compound by its molecular formula, but doing so does not give the whole picture of that particular compound or all of the compounds that share that same formula.
Studying isomers requires that students make connections between what they understand about basic chemical structures and how minor changes to that structure can result in the formation of completely new and different chemical compounds. Videos give students the chance to pause and replay portions of the videos to check the information presented (e.g. count molecules) and confirm their understanding. Videos also more fully engage visual and auditory learners, and allow students to learn at their own pace. Take a look at our first video in a series on isomers where we outline the similarities and differences in structural isomers.