TLEF snapshot: Stop-motion learning objects

Posted on

Stop-motion animations as learning objects for flexible learning in biology and psychology courses

The project uses stop-motion animations as ‘Learning Objects’ in supporting the existing ‘Learning Path’ model of the Flexible Learning Initiative in Biology (BioFlex) project. Grant recipients will produce ten stop-motion animations that deal with biological topics that students struggle with and/or are difficult to teach using traditional instructional methods.

How did the idea for this project emerge?

Sunita Chowrira: The main idea related to this came from some work that I had initiated in my 2nd year Biology courses (BIOL 200 and BIOL 201) – getting students to develop “Learning Objects”. I was first introduced to the idea of “Learning Objects” during a conversation with Dr. Simon Bates – he talked about introducing it in his first year Physics course.  I was intrigued and needed to learn more about it! “Learning Objects” are small, self-contained digital resources with integrated learning objectives, a learning activity, and an assessment component (*William, 2000).   In collaboration with a group of students in our advisory team, we identified a set of topics that students found challenging to learn. For each of these topics we will develop learning objects. The format of the “learning activity” within the learning objects could be anything from graphics to animations to a simple video. This is where Dr. Steven Barnes comes in.  Steven is an amazing stop-motion animation producer – the best!  At a conference I saw one of Steven’s productions ( and I knew I had to collaborate with Steven on my Learning Objects project for Biology. Steven will be producing all of the narrated stop-motion animations for our learning objects in this project.

*Williams, D. D. (2000). “Evaluation of learning objects and instruction using learning objects.” In D. A. Wiley (Ed.), The Instructional Use of Learning Objects: Online Version.

How will this project help enrich student learning? How will it impact teaching?

SC:  This project is going to let us put in place resources – the learning objects made in-house – that are directly aligned with the learning objectives, the things that we do in class, and also directly aligned with the way students are assessed. The narrated animation videos would be housed and deployed online, so students may access them whenever, wherever and however many times they may want to engage with it. Class time will be used for activities at higher cognition levels where students will have the opportunity to interact with instructors as they learn to apply the material. Outside of class time students will be able to access the material as needed for practice and mastery – this aligns nicely with our BioFlex model (Flexible Learning in Biology), which is guided by the principle tenet that the activity of learning will continue not just in the classroom, but also outside the classroom and beyond the termination of a course.

How will it impact teaching? By having this kind of resources readily available and accessible, we believe it will be less of a barrier for anyone considering to incorporate active learning approaches in their classrooms. These types of resources will also enable horizontal and vertical alignment of courses within our disciplines.

What are your main goals with this project?

SC: Our main goal is to have the right kind of resources available to make it possible to develop learner/learning-centered course designs in Biology. These resources will be used in specific Biology (BIOL 112, 200, 201) and Psychology (PSYC 304) courses initially, but we envision their use will evolve and expand over time. Another goal is also to have these learning objects serve as a spring-board for student-developed learning objects in future, which I hope to incorporate in my courses to nurture self-directed learning among my students – by encouraging and motivating students to pick a topic that they are having trouble with and develop learning objects for them. I look forward to studying the kinds of impact these might have on student learning and their learning experiences.