Students teach peers through TechBurst

The Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) is planning to launch a new project entitled “TechBurst,” a consolidation of student-made videos to help facilitate peer-to-peer learning for other Tech students.

“A TechBurst is a single lesson from a single class in a five-, ten- or 15- minute video, in a traditional or innovative way,” said Emily Ivey, a policy analyst at C21U and coordinator of the program, “but the value of it is that you have the quality of a Tech classroom lesson in this small, modular, easily digestible format.”

TechBurst is one of the first projects C21U is undertaking in its inaugural year, as the research center was founded last September. It has been advertised as a competition, with the top three winners as judged by C21U and one “People’s Choice” receiving $5000 in prizes later this spring.

“C21U views itself as an incubator for innovative ideas in higher education,” Ivey said. “The Tech Burst competition fits into that scheme because it takes your traditional lecture and breaks it apart so that it can be reformed and reused in new and innovative ways.”

Some students agreed with the concept behind the TechBurst project.

“Sometimes students know how to teach other students better than learning from a professor that might lecture at a level a bit ahead of your head,” said Lauren Levinson, second-year BIO major.

“I’ve seen some of these videos, and a few of them are pretty funny,” said Luke Buffardi, a first-year PHYS and PSYCH double major. “It enhances the educational experience by deviating from the humdrum of a lecture hall and reinforces learned concepts in an innovative manner.”

“[The creators] are Tech students who have struggled to learn the concept, who have worked through the logic of these kinds of videos, explaining to each other how they learned it,” Ivey said. “The student who struggles the most with mastering a concept, but finally masters it, is going to be the best at explaining it.”

Although similar in essence to OpenCourseware, which generally refers to course resources such as syllabi, lecture readings, homework, exams and video lectures from other universities such as MIT, Stanford, and Yale, TechBursts will be no more than 15 minutes in length — the primary difference between videos of its kind.

“If you’re struggling with derivatives, you don’t want to watch a 90-minute video to find the ten minute segment that pertains to you,” Ivey said. “So what we’ve done is we’ve taken that segment and separated it out.”

So far, 23 videos have been uploaded to the C21U Youtube channel.

“In its first year, the Tech Burst videos we are seeing are really exemplifying the ways that Georgia Tech students have learned to learn and helped others learn to learn,” Ivey said.

With topics ranging from gerrymandering and the transcription and translation of DNA to an introduction to circuits and designing a lamp, the videos have taken a diverse approach to conveying the instruction, such as doing physics in the shower and using an “Old Spice commercial” template.

TechBursts is not just a temporary initiative, as its creators desire longevity in the project.

“Ultimately what we want to see is a vast library of Tech’s academic content available to be used by everyone, both Georgia students and students outside of Tech to help with their class, as a studying tool, and to improve the educational experience by offering the Tech caliber educational content,” Ivey said.