Although students routinely watch videos in higher education courses, seldom are they challenged to learn through creating videos. Dr. Iris Epstein, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at York University, recently came to the realization that student learning can be enhanced by having them create their own videos with smartphones. For many years, she invited students who failed a clinical laboratory test or missed one due to illness or other circumstances to practice their skill on their own, record themselves with a smartphone, and submit the video for grading. At a York University workshop, a chance encounter with colleagues from other disciplines – who use smartphone video for very different pedagogical purposes – led her to appreciate that smartphone video creation has much greater potential than for merely accommodating students.
Dr. Epstein began thinking of ways she could use smartphone video for all students, across disciplines and beyond post-secondary classroom walls. She formed a multidiscipline research team including co-leads Dr. Melanie Baljko (Engineering) and Dr. Kurt Thumlert (Education). They reviewed the literature on smartphone video in higher education. Although they found many studies on video skills recording, very little was available on how to integrate it into teaching and learning in accessible and ethical ways.
To address this shortcoming, Dr. Epstein and her colleagues received support from York’s Academic Innovation Fund to co-design, with students and faculty across York University, and develop an interactive web-based resource toolbox to support innovative teaching and learning using smartphone video in ethical ways. The result was the Smartphone Accommodation Resource Toolbox (SmART). Launched in late 2019, the platform is designed to encourage teachers and students to use its resources. Moreover, they are invited to add resources and contribute ideas suggestions with the ultimate goal of creating a community of users. SmART is available at http://smart-toolbox.eecs.yorku.ca/. At the same time, Dr. Epstein integrated SmART and a smartphone video assignment into one of her large enrolment nursing courses.
Dr. Epstein integrated the smartphone video assignment into NURS 3515 3.00 Development of Self as Nurse: Research and Inquiry, which is a mandatory introductory nursing research course. While many of her students had never taken a research course, all had experience giving injections. She felt by having students read and critique studies on injection techniques, they may better relate to nursing research.
After being introduced to nursing research methodologies, students learned how to critique two studies, one quantitative and one qualitative, on new subcutaneous (between the skin and the muscle) injection techniques. For the assignment, students were asked to produce a one to two-minute video of performing an injection and add voice over or annotation using techniques described in SmART. They had to decide whether to use one or both injection methods described in the studies and answer the question about what they would change, if anything, in their injection practice in light of the research articles they critiqued. The videos were expected to reflect the value and complexity of applying evidence-based nursing practice. Students were also required to consult SmART to ensure their recordings conformed with human research ethics protocols.
As Dr. Epstein had 120 students in her course, she divided the class into groups of 12, each of which she further subdivided into four groups of three because she felt it is easier for students to work in smaller groups. Each group of three had to produce one video. Once the videos were completed, students uploaded them to Moodle, the course learning management system. Each triad was responsible for providing constructive feedback on the video of one of the other three triads in their group of 12. Each group of 12 then picked the best video in their group, which Dr. Epstein shared in a showcase session in class.
Although students used a prototype of the SmART toolbox for their assignment, the toolbox is now operational. It includes four categories of resources: (1) models of practical techniques for video production, (2) affordable assessment tools and practices for providing video-based feedback, (3) examples of video illustration techniques (e.g., how to create a cost-effective training model to practice injection or dressing change techniques), and (4) digital citizenship, including resources on ethics, privacy, and security. Students, faculty, and staff at York University created all resources in SmART for use by other students, faculty, and staff across diverse disciplines (e.g., nursing, athletic therapy, engineering, dance). Typically, the resources include illustrative videos with accompanying explanatory text.
SmART resources are accessed by keyword search or interactive interface. The interface, called the SmART Guide, steps users through questions assessing their needs before recommending a resource. The first question asks users whether they would like to produce a video or give feedback using video. Then they are asked if they are an instructor or student. If producing a video is previously selected, for example, users are asked the purpose of the video – model a skill, tell a story, or present information. Lastly, they are asked how much video editing they would like to do – none, a low amount, or a high amount. A recommended resource is then presented. Below is a sample screenshot of the SmART Guide interface.
There is also a digital citizenship guide, which takes users through a series of questions on ethics and safety related to video production (e.g., Who will be in the video? How the video will be shared? Will it be destroyed at the end?). At the end of the quiz, users receive recommendations and suggested links to consider prior to video production. Users can additionally obtain a certificate attesting to completion of the quiz. Below is the result of a sample query about producing an in-course video to be stored in a learning management system.
A valuable feature of SmART is an accessibility option, which permits users to modify the way a page is displayed, for example, by enlarging text size, inverting page colours, or modifying the cursor size and colour. Additionally, there is a video guide to the site included on the homepage that further contributes to its accessibility.
Benefits and Outcomes
Having recently launched the course video assignment and SmART toolbox, Dr. Epstein does not have formal data yet to demonstrate the benefits of the initiatives. She describes the videos students produced as “outstanding” and “sophisticated.”
She says that recording and watching oneself perform a skill can serve as an effective memory aid as well as a means to reflect on one’s performance. Her assignment included a clear evaluation rubric, which allowed all students to participate in video production in different ways. While some produced sophisticated subcutaneous injection role playing videos in the nursing lab, others recorded theirs at home with minimal editing.
Preliminary informal findings indicate that students, overall, enjoyed the assignment and the video made an abstract process more concrete. They also liked the “show and tell” session during last class when Dr. Epstein presented the top student videos. Furthermore, students found the SmART website particularly helpful to learn about informed consent issues, such as the differences between recording a video in the nursing lab and at home.
Challenges and Enhancements
In January 2020, the SmART toolbox will be assessed for usability by 10 faculty members across five disciplines at York University and over 200 students. A goal now is to create SmART as a community of users by inviting those who visit to contribute by adding sample activities, video skills training, and other relevant resources.
Dr. Epstein sees excellent potential with incorporating student-produced video into higher education courses to promote skill development. Moreover, she sees the co-creation of SmART by students, faculty, staff, and students as an accessible website is itself a valuable activity. Instructors, students and staff who want to join the SmART community and learn more about using video in their teaching are invited to visit the SmART website.
For Further Information
Iris Epstein, RN, PhD
Faculty of Health, School of Nursing