Using YouTube as a Teaching Tool

Faculty Focus: Julie Kapp, Family and Community Medicine

Epidemiology is the study of the frequency, distribution, and determinants of disease in human populations. Spring 2008 was the first time in several years a full-semester Introduction to Epidemiology course was offered to graduate students through the School of Medicine, rather than a half semester. Given the additional time I had with students, and suggestions from the previous year’s course evaluations to incorporate more technology, I decided to get creative. Students were assigned to create video public service announcements about an epidemiology-related topic incorporating concepts of health promotion and disease prevention for dissemination on YouTube. This use of emerging technology offers an unprecedented opportunity to use a free outlet for global distribution of original videos.

For most students (and faculty), video production is a novel challenge. I met with Boden Lyon from ET@MO several months before the start of the semester to discuss the feasibility of this idea. One of the most important suggestions she provided was that I create an example video, so I would intimately understand the process and challenges I would be asking of the students.

This also helped me to generate specific milestones throughout the semester (such as choosing a partner and topic, writing a storyboard, and drafting the video) to ensure the students’ success. Boden also provided a short workshop on using Microsoft’s Windows Moviemaker and was available to students for hardware or software issues throughout the semester. Boden provided input on copyright issues and consent for identifiable persons in the video.

Students selected a partner and chose a topic based on an article from class that discussed modifiable risk factors for disease. Students were required to use references and include these citations either in the text box next to the video or the scrolling credits. They were asked to include in the credits disclosure that the project was conducted for a graduate level course and provide affiliation. Students had the option of either capturing new video recordings or using still shots.

Students were advised to communicate one or two main messages in their 60 second videos. Students wrote a brief description of the basic epidemiology of their disease for YouTube’s text box section which provides viewers with additional information on the video. This text offered a way to communicate some information that might be difficult to include in a video. Students were given a copy of the evaluation criteria as a guideline and for use during the peer critique.

The project was evaluated on three main aspects: content (topic, impact, credibility), video (originality, coherent message, video quality), and other (preparation, peer review, text box content, individual contribution, and video views). The last was intended to motivate students to circulate their video to friends and family, which in turn would begin to disseminate the content to a wider audience. Also, knowing their videos would be circulated, students would theoretically put more effort into their work.

Students’ video topics included geriatric depression, smoking, dating violence, HIV testing, and diabetes prevention, among others. Five out of 19 teams (26%) borrowed a camera from ET@MO. Measured by pre- and post-surveys on MoCAT (Mizzou’s mid-semester teaching feedback system), students’ enthusiasm for the project increased from 59.1% pre-assessment to 76.2% post-assessment. Post-assessment, 66.6% of the class felt the assignment was an effective teaching tool, and 71.5% felt it should be assigned to next year’s class. Video views 8 days after posting averaged 504, with a median of 418 (range: 107-1,304); fourteen weeks after posting (post-semester) views averaged 1,004, with a median of 856 (range: 231-2,347), demonstrating YouTube’s ability to disseminate information fairly rapidly without funding or formal distribution.