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Digital storytelling in STEM

Students in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney are using digital media platforms to enhance their comprehension of—and communication skills in—scientific foundations.

A lecturer in the Faculty of Science, Jorge Reynas saw an opportunity to improve the way his students learn and retain information through Learner-Generated Digital Media assessments (LGDM). Starting in Autumn 2015 with a course in Pharmacology, the assessment style has been successfully implemented in a number of STEM disciplines including Geological Sciences and Physiology.

A more engaging and collaborative model of group work, LGDM assignments have students develop and produce a five-minute video explaining a scientific subject to their classmates and instructors. The goal is to immerse students in the subject, having them approach it in a more reflective and creative mindset, while equipping them with digital media literacy skills.

The assignments consist of the following workflow, from introduction to evaluation:

  1. Students receive the assignment and are given a background on LGDM.
  2. An in-class lecture on digital media provides students with an overview and best practices in recording video and audio, production, and storyboarding.
  3. A video-hosting site is chosen for students to upload their assignments to (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo)
  4. Students are provided a rubric which may focus on accuracy of content, comprehension of scientific principles, creativity and use of digital media to enhance communication, and peer-reviewed resources.
  5. Students complete a peer-review assessment and personal reflection.
  6. Evaluations are returned.

Reception of LGDM assignments at UTS is positive. Students enjoy the flexibility and creativity of the assignments and report feeling more committed to producing a strong piece of work. One limitation is that students feel they need more class time to understanding the theory and best practices of digital, a resource few have access to in their programs of study.

Continuing the success and contributing to theory-building research in LGDM at UTS may lead to further adoption of the assessment style in STEM departments at institutions across the world.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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