Use Demonstration Videos to Increase Student Confidence in Handling Lab Equipment

Demonstration videos:

  • guide students through a process and show how it changes over time,
  • can be more effective than a live demonstration, as it allows all viewers to see a close up view,
  • allow students to review the process multiple times,
  • frees up class time for other activities, and
  • can be used for many years and, in some cases, for more than one course.


Department of Chemistry associate professor Jane Wissinger teaches an organic chemistry lab. The vast majority of students have little experience handling the large quantity of glassware at their lab bench. They are nervous about breaking expensive equipment or ruining their experiment, and despite written documentation, they repeatedly make the same mistakes from semester to semester. Additionally, new graduate teaching assistants (TAs) with diverse backgrounds need to follow a strict teaching protocol for the class, so that all students across different sections learn the optimal way to build apparatus.


Academic Technology Support Services (ATSS) media production staff collaborated with Professor Wissinger to create 24short technique videos and six tip videos, which were uploaded to YouTube and embedded on the class Moodle site. The videos show how to build an apparatus and explain the rationale behind building it in a particular fashion, something difficult to communicate in a diagram or still photo.


According to Professor Wissinger, "the addition of the laboratory videos to [the] organic laboratory course has had a broad positive impact on both the students enrolled in the course and the TAs teaching it." Students overwhelmingly stated that watching the videos as preparation for lab reduced their anxiety with handling the glassware and gave them confidence in learning the new techniques. The videos were more instructive than reading a textbook or viewing a static photo of an apparatus. Veteran TAs noted that they could easily tell who had watched the videos and that students who did so were more proficient when setting up an apparatus for the first time.

TAs felt the videos were extremely helpful in their own preparation to teach the course. The videos illustrated the exact equipment and protocols used in the laboratories as well as helped students review techniques that they had not performed in several years. Overall, instructors and students alike are thrilled with the positive impact these videos have had on the quality of course instruction. Students and TAs are more confident with their bench skills and can spend more time focusing on learning the theories, concepts, and the scientific process of discovery.

Sample video: Preparing for Distillation