iTunes U Pilot Project

iPods in the chemistry laboratory

Instructional Media Services and the Department of Chemistry have collaborated in a pilot project sponsored by Indiana University to explore uses of iPods in the classroom. In addition to audio podcasts of lecture and other classroom material, Gretchen Anderson, Doug McMillen, and Jim Yocom have been creating video instruction of laboratory techniques for use in upper and mid-level biochemistry and chemistry lab classes. This innovative approach to using video iPods has been very successful in biochemistry laboratory classes and biochemistry research.


Providing instruction in the laboratory setting for complex techniques and protocols is problematic in the traditional classroom. Common approaches include providing detailed written instruction, demonstrating the procedure before students perform the techniques, providing a video of the procedure which students view before the laboratory class, or tutoring individuals in the laboratory setting itself. Each of these has distinct disadvantages and allows room for error and misunderstandings.
The small size, simplicity, and portability of handheld media devices (e.g. video iPods) make them attractive as instructional tools in the laboratory setting. Their main advantage is that the iPods can be viewed as the students are performing each particular step of the laboratory protocol. Students are free to stop, rewind, or fast forward through the video as needed, allowing them to receive instruction on the procedure at the same time they are implementing the technique. The role of the laboratory instructor is to provide assistance only when problems arise in the procedure. Combined with detailed and abbreviated written instructions, live demonstration, and individual help from the instructor, the videos help accommodate a large variety of student learning styles.
Videos of how to set up polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and electroblotting were videotaped, edited with key points emphasized with on-screen text, and loaded onto video iPods which were loaned to the students for the lab period. All the students in this pilot program successfully set up these experiments with minimal intervention from the laboratory instructor. Student feedback was very positive for this type of instruction.


(m4v files suitable for iTunes and other video players)

Gel Electrophoresis


Pouring gels for gel electrophoresis

Resources for video iPods in the chemistry laboratory

PowerPoint presentation (originally delivered at the Biennial Conference of Chemistry Educators 2008)

Hardware requirements

Tips for Instructors for videotaping in the chemistry lab

Tips for videographers for videotaping in the chemistry lab

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