Setting the Terms of a Multimedia Assignment in a STEM Class

This page was guest-written by Sandi Connelly, Principal Lecturer, Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, College of Science

I teach a large general education biology class at RIT and was looking for a way to add variety to my assignments. I decided to ask students to make brief videos that explained some aspect of the content they’d been learning. Video assignments are not common in STEM classes and students are unlikely to have much prior experience on which to base their work. I provide both a broad set of guidelines for these video assignments, and then a more specific articulation of an assignment related to particular course content. The broad video guidelines appear first on this page, followed by an example of the specific assignment instructions.

Video Assignment Guidelines

As a student, the information that you learn in any class is useless if you don’t share it with someone. Typically, “sharing” your knowledge in the “real world” entails writing or presenting a formal report for colleagues or for your employer. There are too many knowledge dissemination formats to mention here, and while many of them are similar, they are often highly specific to a particular discipline, industry, field, organization, government agency, funding agency, etc. Even within the RIT community, there are many types of dissemination routes possible (e.g. group presentations, blogs, written examinations, etc.).

I want you to focus on communicating your knowledge in a verbal presentation/communication format.


You are going to use a digital camera (the webcam on your computer or tablet, a digital camera with video mode, the camera on your phone, etc.) to record your videos. You will produce a 7-12 minute video in which you answer the questions that you have been given. I do not expect or require a high-production-value, Oscar-winning video. There are no awards for best supporting actor, best director, best musical score, etc.! See below for the grading criteria. Link your videos in your myCourses Assignment submission. [Note: CTL supports Panopto for student-created video assignments and video streaming]. Your videos will be viewable only by Dr. Connelly, and therefore do not need to be closed captioned (but feel free to do so, if you prefer!).

Detailed Outline

To accompany your video, you will also upload a detailed outline of your responses to the assignment (with references!). Of course, it would behoove you to write this outline before making your video! This document must be uploaded to myCourses along with the video link. You may use Word, NotePad, or any other word processing software that you are familiar with to prepare this documentation, but you should be sure to upload it in a format that can be opened within myCourses (.doc, .txt, .rtf, .pdf, etc.).

The Video Grading Scheme

This is a general education biology course. As such, your understanding and application of concepts is a large portion of your grade. Each video will be graded on the following criteria:

  • 35% for accuracy of information stated
  • 25% for linking of concepts and theories as appropriate for your questions
  • 10% for your introduction and final wrap up / thoughts about your questions
  • 10% for length (7-12 minutes)
  • 15% for overall presentation – clarity, quality, originality, delivery, and presence
  • 5%  for video outline

You should start your video by introducing yourself and a very brief summary of the assignment (<30 seconds total). You should discuss basic information only as needed to convey your understanding. You should NOT read textbook (or Google!) definitions of each word in the assignment! You should explain, to the best of your ability, your response to the assignment. You are talking to me! I know the material--so to wow me with your knowledge, you need to make the connections between the materials for the module and the assignment!

Your video must be 7-12 minutes. If you fall short or run long, there will be a grading penalty.

I will use the following rubric for grading:

  • Excellent (24-30 points): The questions are proficiently discussed; Links are made as appropriate between concepts; The outline is submitted, is well organized, and clearly lays out your understanding of the concepts and applications of the questions.
  • Satisfactory (14-23 points): The questions are discussed but may be unfocused, too short, or have extraneous information; There are some problems with or misunderstandings of the terminology; The outline is submitted but not clear, or is missing significant information.
  • Unsatisfactory (1-13 points): The questions are incorrectly stated or may be too short to be effective; Important concepts and connections are missing or wrong; Outline is submitted but is missing too much information to be useful in any way
  • Missing (0 points)

Finally, before uploading, watch your video to make sure that it looks nice and that you can understand everything that you say. Try to be creative with your videos--and I’m not talking about special effects and a “sharknado” destroying RIT! Try to show me that you truly understand what you learned. Try not to say “um” and “like” all the time, but if you let a few slip, don’t worry about it! I don’t care if you make a mistake in your video as long as you pause, compose yourself, correct the mistake, and continue. There’s no need to edit things like that out and you can do everything in one continuous, non-perfect take.

Be confident about your knowledge!  This is your time to shine! Speak clearly and professionally – pretend that you’re delivering this information to your boss, a courtroom full of lawyers, or a room full of students!

My only comments on the quality of your video are that there are four ways to make your video less effective:

  • Poor lighting – the desk lamp in your dorm room is not a good light source!
  • Poor audio – don’t stand near a highway in a windstorm while a train goes by!
  • Shooting in portrait mode – turn your phone sideways (“landscape”) for videos!
  • Try to hold your camera still – put it on something while you're shooting so I don’t get motion-sick! 

Example Video Assignment Instructions

On myCourses, you have seen the “general instructions” for producing your video assignments for this course [link to Video Assignment Guidelines]. This is your specific assignment for Module 1: The Chemistry of Water! Due: [link to assignment dropbox with date and time of deadline]


Before you can truly understand the principles and fundamentals of most sciences, you must be able to experiment! Think back to your childhood--everything that you did was an experiment! “Does this fit in my mouth?” “What does this taste like?” “Does this fit in the dog's mouth?” “What happens if I push this down the stairs?” Get what I mean?!?! This is something that we actually call “trial-and-error” learning. We want you to apply your knowledge, and help you gain a better understanding, of the wacky properties of water by allowing you to explore!


Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the weird properties of water through a scientific experiment.

Which property or properties of water you chose to explore are totally up to you! You might visit a local swimming pool or set up something in your kitchen! Let your imagination run wild! But, you need to prove to me--through experimentation--that you understand at least one of the major properties of water that we discuss in the class lectures (videos and/or notes).

Remember the properties of water:

  • Adhesion (surface tension)
  • Cohesion (capillary action)
  • Hydrogen bonding
  • High specific heat
  • Density

In the design and reporting (in video!) of your experiment, you should work through these steps of the scientific method (Chapter 1):

  1. Research the problem
  2. State the problem
  3. State your hypothesis
  4. Conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis
  5. Collect data and analyze the results of your experiment
  6. Discuss your results and if they support or refute your hypothesis
  7. Make conclusions (further experiments that could be conducted, etc.)

No, I don’t really want to watch you do the research part--not really an enthralling video!--but you should certainly tell me how you conducted your research. You should show me your experiment! You should show me results / data! Getting the idea!?!

Have fun!! Maybe your experiment requires a time-lapse type approach?? Interesting! It is summer--there should be lots of things that you can think of to do with water!

As always, let me know if you have questions!! Don’t forget to refer to the general video guide as well [link to General Video Guidelines]!