An Interactive Video Vignette with a Microbiology Focus

Oct. 21, 2020

Read the newest issue of the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education, including Jean A Cardinale, Dina L Newman, and L Kate Wright’s article:  "An Online Interactive Video Vignette that Helps Students Learn Key Concepts of Fermentation and Respiration." Below, authors Cardinale, Newman and Wright discuss the origins and process of producing interactive video vignettes. Also, register for JMBE Live!, a free webinar series from authors of JMBE article's discussing discipline-based education research and how to improve your teaching. 

Interactive Video Vignettes (IVVs) are a new genre of web-based learning tools for introductory biology students. IVVs engage students with video stories that use live-action and real-world settings, interspersed with activities that require students to make predictions, analyze data and answer questions about the scenario. IVVs are designed to be assigned to students prior to in-class work on a given topic, to address common student errors (e.g., preconceived notions, faulty conceptual modeling) and to fill in foundational knowledge (e.g. vocabulary, factual information).

Origins of IVVs

IVVs originated through the work of a research team led by Priscilla Laws (Dickinson College), Kathy Koenig (University of Cincinnati) and Robert Teese (Rochester Institute of Technology), to generate web-based homework for physics students. Each IVV helped address a difficult topic in physics that had been identified in education literature. In addition to making IVVs available, this early project also included the development of Vignette Studio, an early freeware version of the Java-based application that can generate branching storylines, interactive questions and video/data pages. 

The Biology IVV Project and Modules for Interactive Teaching

Biology IVVs were a natural extension of the IVV physics project, and the biology team began researching and designing biology IVVs shortly after the Vision and Change recommendations were published. IVV themes were selected based on biology education research into conceptual difficulties, and the team’s collective teaching experiences. Topics were deliberately chosen to span the 5 core concept areas of Vision and Change. The team took a backwards design approach when creating each IVV so that their ideas aligned with learning goals. As work on the project proceeded, additional IVV scenarios were added to address common challenges with data presentation and student buy-in to active learning. Vignette Studio underwent significant revision to switch to HTML5 and housing videos on Vimeo, which allows more users access.

In addition to producing the IVVs themselves, the biology IVV team also produced accompanying assessments and instructor resources, called Modules for INteractive Teaching (MINTs). MINTs include learning objectives, alignment with national standards, IVV details, novice ideas addressed in the IVV and recommendations for in-class follow up for the IVV.  Assessment questions are available by contacting the research team.

IVVs Promote Inclusion and Diversity

IVVs are aligned with universal design principles. They retain elements of evidence-based best practices of engagement and interaction, while also allowing students to proceed independently through material that elicits cognitive dissonance as preconceived notions are challenged. The use of IVVs as priming material may allow students with learning disabilities or those for whom English is not their primary language a low stress opportunity to practice class material before being placed in a higher stress active learning classroom situation. By incorporating elements of Universal Instructional Design such as equitable use, flexibility, tolerance for error and low physical effort, IVVs may be particularly beneficial for non-traditional students or students with learning disabilities, in addition to traditional students who are struggling with biological concepts. To help bring awareness to the diversity in society and science, we paid careful attention to language and actor-choice. Of the 90 actors in the IVVs, 59% are female and 20% are members of under-represented groups.  

IVV Addresses Persistent Student Challenges with Energy Pathways

Screen shots from the IVVs To Ferment or Not to Ferment, That is the Question (top panels), Going Green (lower left panel), and Whose Graph is Better? (lower right panel).
Screen shots from the IVVs To Ferment or Not to Ferment, That is the Question (top panels), Going Green (lower left panel), and Whose Graph is Better? (lower right panel).

Some of the well-recognized conceptual challenges that introductory microbiology and biology students have is the relationship between respiratory and fermentative pathways, the concept of rate with respect to a multi-step pathway and the interpretation of microbiological media in the context of these concepts. How many microbiology students have approached their instructor, perplexed that their growth media was “orange, not red or yellow like it should be?”  When the team sat down to write “To Ferment or Not to Ferment, That is the Question,” they wanted a realistic scenario that students may have encountered themselves. The script went through a number of revisions as they worked out the growth experiment, and new Vignette Studio modules were generated to allow viewers to conduct a growth curve while simultaneously graphing the results, before analyzing the data and comparing the results to a previous prediction. The finished IVV has been used in front of a number of audiences, and research revealed that students who completed this IVV made significant learning gains with respect to metabolism, respiration and fermentation.  

Author: Dr. Dina Newman

Dr. Dina Newman
Dr. Dina Newman is an associate professor in the Gosnell School of Life Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Author: Dr. Jean A. Cardinale

Dr. Jean A. Cardinale
Dr. Jean A. Cardinale is professor and chair of Biology at Alfred University.

Author: Dr. Kate Wright

Dr. Kate Wright
Dr. Kate Wright is an associate professor in the Gosnell School of Life Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology.