About the project
With online education still very much a hot topic, the Media team have been busy producing several teaching resources for Biological Sciences in the run up to the Christmas holidays.
To date, we have produced 6 practical lab demonstration videos and an interactive skulls virtual lab, to support student learning within a secure environment, with a further 2 videos to film in the new year.
The practical videos were presented by teaching staff and demonstrators, who introduce various lab techniques that would normally be taught in face-to-face sessions. The aim of these videos is not to replace the live practicals, but rather to enable learners to familiarise and prepare for their practical sessions and make better use of valuable lab time.
Skulls virtual lab
With video production being our main ‘bread and butter’, being able to produce interactive content such as the virtual skulls lab was an exciting and enjoyable project. This learning resource encompasses a selection of 8 mammal skulls. Learners are asked to make observations from the structure and unusual features that provide clues to the habits, lifestyle and identity of the skull.
The virtual lab was designed to contain as many interactive elements as possible:
- Media elements – Ideally, a 3d model of the skulls would have been perfect, but this was not possible due to time restraint and difficulties in obtaining the 3d models. To resolve this, each skull was placed on a turntable and photographed to replicate a clickable 360 rotation, and where possible, top, bottom and unusual features of each skull were taken to help with observations. Short video content such as the welcome introduction, feedback and conclusion were included to make the learning more personalised.
- Question type – From their observations, learners are challenged to identify the skull and to use input boxes to note down thoughts on the diet, habit and lifestyle of the animal.
- Feedback – Once learners have noted down their observations, video feedback is available to point out essential elements that should have been spotted.
As with all projects, there were many challenges that we faced and overcame:
- Filming lab demonstration are quite complex projects because apart from the information provided in the script, we don’t really know what to expect; from what the actual lab equipment looks like through to the demonstration itself. For this type of filming, we would normally use 2 camera operators to capture a wide shot and a close up. We would segment the experiment into small parts and ask the demonstrator to do a quick explanation and run through the process so that we know what close up that needs to be captured and to ensure that the camera is in the right position to get the best possible view.
- Editing a 30 minute lab demonstration down to a 5-10 minute video whilst maintaining all the essential information. We recommend keeping videos short in order to maintain retention, although sometimes, this is not always possible. Writing a script to ensure that the information is precise and to the point would help and give an indication of how long the video will be.
- Filming whilst maintaining social distancing. A risk assessment was ascertained to ensure that filming could happen within a safe environment. Equipment such as clip-on microphones were wiped down before being passed from one person to another and a face mask was worn at all times by the camera operator. Depending on the complexity of the project, we may limit the camera operator down to 1 person, which would constrain the type of shots that we would normally capture synchronously. Luckily, the cameras we use records at a high resolution so we could scale up a piece of video to act as a zoom in, although this is not a recommended practice.
- Delivery deadline for the skulls virtual lab. The team had 2 weeks to complete the media side of the project although background preparation such as scoping the project, writing scripts and storyboarding between our learning designer and project lead was happening well before that. To overcome this, all 3 members of the media team were involved in filming, photographing and editing video and photos. Our learning designer helped with creating the transcript, testing and ensuring it was keyboard and screen reader accessible.
- The skulls themselves presented some challenges; some were quite large but one in particular was quite a size and too heavy to move onto the turntable; we had to walk around this skull to take the 360 photos, whilst others were preserved in transparent boxes due to their fragile condition. This we couldn’t really do much but try to reduce the lighting to cut out as much reflection from the boxes.
To find out more about the projects we have been involved in, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.