A review of an online educational resource from the Khan Academy.
I started this task on my smartphone, searching within the Khan Academy Biology videos on YouTube. I chose to look at “Fun with Punnett Squares”, because my background is in Genetics so I was interested in the topic and ready for a fun-filled video. I was hoping it would be engaging, because at 25 minutes it seemed quite long.
The embedded video below provides an experience similar to that on a smartphone.
Unfortunately I had a few issues with the video, as follows.
1. General navigation in the Khan Academy
This was the opening screen:
and the lecturer began, “In the last video I drew this grid…”
This was quite a confusing image to start out with, and immediately raised the question: should I watch the previous video before starting on this one? With no structured navigation, I didn’t know how to find “the last video”, so I just carried on and hoped that things would become clear.
2. Quality – Factual errors / Lack of clarity
Next, the lecturer started talking about the derivation of “Punnett square” and said that it was named after punnets in a farmers’ market, which is incorrect; it is named after the person who developed the concept, Reginald Punnett.
Overall, I found the production poor. The lecturer did not follow a script and so some of the voiceover was a little confusing. It is difficult to be clear and accurate when discussing genetics, constantly referring to “Big B, little b”, etc, so a script would be especially helpful for this topic. It may make the lecture less engaging and spontaneous, but it would ensure that everything was described clearly and correctly.
3. Internal navigation in the video
I wanted to skip forward in the video to look at dihybrid crosses, but there were no navigation clues, such as headings, so I either had to scroll forward until I found the topic by chance or watch all the way through.
Watching the same video on the YouTube site on a PC provided some better functionality which helped with this navigation issue. (You can experience this by clicking on the YouTube icon at the bottom right of the embedded video above; this will open the video in YouTube in a new tab or window.)
Firstly there is the ability to watch the video at a faster speed, to whizz through the video when searching for a particular part. Secondly, a transcript is available, so you can scan through the text to find the part of interest and click on the text to go straight to that part of the video.
In addition, there are comments on the YouTube site which point out some of the inaccuracies in the video, for example restoring Mr Punnett to his rightful place as the inventor of the square.
Watching the video on the YouTube site on a PC provides an enhanced experience compared with watching in the embedded viewer or on a smartphone, and overcomes some of the drawbacks of the production.
Subsequently I found same video on the Khan Academy website – http://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/heredity-and-genetics/v/punnett-square-fun
This enhances the experience still further; for example, it sets the video in context with others in the series, so it is possible to watch them in sequence.
As on YouTube, the webpage includes the ability to vary the speed of the video and view the interactive transcript, but it also includes comments, questions and answers, and the ability to report errors. On the Khan website, the video has been annotated to include details of the Punnett error (at around 0:53 in the video).
When directing students to an external resource, is it better to embed the resource within your own content (e.g. in a VLE) or to link out? There may be increased functionality on the original website, but also there may be distractions, especially on YouTube.
And how do we deal with the quality issue? I would have expected this material to be error free. Is it up to lecturers to check all material that they link to and provide corrections where necessary?