Case Study - Improving flipped learning of practical laboratory techniques with "branching scenarios" in H5P

Mr John Warren, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


I developed interactive resources to support lab practical teaching in SSEHS, using “branching scenarios” in H5P on Learn. This idea arose after analysis of engagement with pre-lab materials on PSA606 Anatomy and Physiology in 2021, showing a peak at 50% of students at the start of semester 1 declining to 13% by the end of semester 2. Over the current academic year, I created multipurpose resources which now support learning on 7 modules and multiple programmes in SSEHS. These activities replace some pre-existing videos with resources that students must actively engage with, improving the flipped learning experience and efficacy. The engagement with pre-lab activities has improved and there is a discernible difference in practical competencies of those who completethe tasks. This has provoked positive feedback from students and colleagues within the school. 

1. Background 

Flipped learning is a pedagogical technique that describes inverting traditional classroom-based teaching (Flipped Learning Network, 2014) with information-transmission teaching done outside of the classroom, in advance of the formal session. In HE this approach is supported mostly by the inclusion of instructional videos (Ekici, 2021). However, replacing taught instruction in-class with passive observation online does not necessarily promote the desired engagement (Burke et al., 2017).  

This seemed apparent in my teaching. Students were instructed to watch videos for practical lab techniques prior to attending labs. However, on one module the proportion of students engaging with pre-lab resources peaked at 50% in semester 1 and declined to 13% by the end of semester 2. Of those, the average completion rate was 75% of each video. Furthermore, those who completed the pre-lab tasks weren’t easily identifiable as having any greater grasp of the practical concepts in class. The combination of low completion rates and little discernible impact on learning meant instructional detail was ubiquitously repeated at the start of the in-person session. 

Student engagement is enhanced by participatory and experiential learning activities (Trowler, 2010). I aimed to produce new bespoke resources for pre-lab activities, with interactions and problem solving, for more impactful flipped learning (Flipped learning network 2014; Fregona and Sadza, 2016). 

2. Methodology 

I created new videos of lab practical techniques and built bespoke “branching scenario” resources using the H5P on Learn. This allowed a series of connected videos or tasks to be created as simulation for a scenario, technique, or topic. At given points, branching interactions challenge students to determine what should happen next. Alternate scenarios play out to demonstrate the technique continuing or explaining the error and demonstrating how the technique would fail in that circumstance. 

These resources were created to support multiple modules and programmes of study. For example, in some instances decision points are included for students to explore different applications of the main technique. For their current lab they may only be interested in one application, but in future classes or modules they might be given the same resource again for re-cap of the basic technique and focus on a new application branch. 

In some modules these were applied as flipped learning resources to reduce the amount of lab time dedicated to instructional detail and increase the possibilities for active and collaborative learning. 

3. Issues 

The predominant issue faced was the workload associated with creation of new bespoke resources. This included the recording and editing of visually engaging video content and becoming familiar with the procedures to create branching scenarios in H5P. I involved some PGTAs and GUTs in SSEHS to assist with the creation of resources and the pedagogical decision making during the creation. I provided some upskilling for these colleagues by way of training on the processes involved in creating interactive resources with H5P. Some colleagues have since made their own resources using this approach. 

4. Benefits 

Several benefits were apparent from the development of these resources. Student experience has been enhanced as the pre-lab resources are now more engaging and enjoyable. Anecdotally, lab demonstrators have noticed a difference in the prior knowledge of students attending the labs and can now discern easily between those who have completed the tasks and those who haven’t. We have been able to cut out some instructional demonstrations from lab classes allowing more time for collaborative learning and engaging in discussion on application of findings. The bank of video resources that have been created have been adapted into branching scenarios for 7 modules on multiple UG and PG programmes and could have further uses. 

5. Evidence of Success

The success of these resources can be evidenced by the fact that completion rates are higher and in feedback students have rated the resources highly and provided positive comments on their experience. 

When asked how likely they were to watch plain video resources in full the mean score was 3.67/5 vs 4.57/5 when asked how likely they were to complete the interactive task in full. When asked how likely they would be to request similar resources on other modules the mean score was 4.63/5. Students also provided qualitative comments on the resources e.g: 

“These tasks were brilliant. I came to the lab practical sessions every week with some knowledge of the practical skills that I was going to carry out and I think this helped to cement my learning. I would love it if we had more resources like this.” 

“They allowed me to go into the lab with knowledge of what we going to be doing already which I believe helped my understanding of the actual lab and allowed us to engage faster.” 

“They are really insightful and detailed into the process needed when completing the session in person, they can be used to consolidate your knowledge before and after the lab” 

“It gives me knowledge about what I am going to be doing in the labs, before I attend which helps me to feel more prepared. I like the questions that are asked because it makes me remember important details, such as the correct order to perform certain tasks” 

6. How Can Other Academics Reproduce This? 

Anyone could replicate this. H5P sits in the package of learning activities available on learn. With basic training on H5P this could be applied in a wide variety of contexts such as simulating interviews or for challenging students on any topic with specific methods or procedures. Branching scenarios don’t have to incorporate video so it is very flexible in its applications. If constructing branching scenarios from video resources then one challenge will be the workload associated with this and it may require input from a wider group to share this burden. 

7. Reflections 

It should be noted that the success of this case study also hinged on the information that was provided to students. It was made clear to them what the potential benefits could be of engaging fully in the flipped learning process. This also wouldn’t have been possible without the support and input from PGTA’s and technical tutors within SSEHS to help create the video resources. 

For improved practice I would like to explore the possibility of editing some pre-existing resources in a way that still fit the branching scenarios model. The next step would be to explore wider applications of this approach outside my own teaching in SSEHS.  

8. References  

- Flipped Learning Network (FLN), 2014. The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™ 

- Ekici. M., 2021. A systematic review of the use of gamification in flipped learning. Education and Information Technologies. 26:3327-3346. 

- Burke. A. S. & Fedorek. B., 2017. Does flipping promote engagement. A comparison of a traditional, online and flipped class. Active learning in higher education.  18(1), 11-24. 

- Trowler. V. 2010. Student Engagement Literature Review. Higher Education Academy. 

- Fregona. C and Agata. S., 2016. Blended learning case study. In: Enhancing Teaching Practice in Higher Education. Sage, London, UK, pp. 91-105