The YouTube Review: Where Creativity and Archaeology Meet

Undergraduate students create virtual flashcards to prepare for exams

Introduction to Archaeology can be a large class. Typicall, there are over 100 students each semester. Anthropology Lecturer, Carla Klehm, says it is exciting to share her passion of the human past with so many undergraduates but it also comes with the challenge of class dynamics. In such a large class, it can be easy to feel nameless amongst the crowd. In addition, the exams can be difficult to study for, which hundreds of textbook pages, hundreds of lecture slides, and a review sheet to sift through. For these reasons, Dr. Klehm began The YouTube Review project, where undergraduate students help one another study for their exams by creating virtual flashcards.

This project allows students to get to know their classmates, incorporate their own creativity and personality, and prepare for their exams. Dr Klehm explains how this project began:

The idea came from a class I’ve taught twice here, called the Archaeology of Climate Change.  The Archaeology of Climate Change concentrates on the use of archaeological case studies to understand that climate has always changed and societies have always been impacted by such changes. One of the first assignments is called “Communicating Science,” where each student defines an aspect of climate (e.g. the Milankovich cycles) to a fictive lay public audience through creative demonstration, thereby building towards a better informed public. These demonstrations have ranged from the tossing of beach balls (a demonstration of solar radiation) to a YouTube cartoon. I was struck by the YouTube cartoon: funny, effective, and a good “hook” for the digital generation. That initial video became the foundation for a key review exercise I do in the Introduction to Archaeology class, called “Virtual Flashcards: YouTube Test Reviews.”

That summer in the field, Dr. Klehm was introduced to Make it Stick, a book by Peter C. Brown and Psychology professors Mark McDaniel and Henry Roedige. In the book, one concept that stood out to her was the idea that small weekly quizzes and flashcards might be the best way to cement short term into longer term. The following semester, Dr. Klehm began creating optional weekly quizzes on Blackboard so that students could gauge their knowledge retention week-by-week and introducing the virtual flashcards for more effective studying and building that sense of community. 

Since she had no background in making YouTube videos, she contacted the ARC Lab at the Olin Library. Steven Vance and Eliot Boden were excited about the idea and developed step-by-step instructions with flexibility for different computer systems and creative platforms. From there, the students have taken over the project. For two spring semesters, students have taken the concepts on their review sheets and, in 30-45 seconds, have sang, written poems, come up with creative analogies, and explained the key terms at times more clearly than the book. Some of the videos are straight-forward, others are more abstract, but overall they have proven to be the “most fun one can have while studying for a test,” in the words of a former student. By the second exam in the first year, the videos had over several hundred hits; by the last exam, over 1000 views.

A small collection of the videos have been compiled by Dr. Klehm and can be found online here. Special thanks to Becky Bavlsik, Kristin Geczi, Jaclyn Boozalis, Paul Edoka, Vincent Chan, Ege Altan, Alan Lu, Andrew Maxwell, Rebecca Weiss, and Tory Scordato for their excellent videos.



DISCLAIMER: Although the videos summarize lecture and textbook data, they are students' interpretations and as such may contain small errors in pronunciation, dates, and factual evidence. The focus is on the range of creative ideas and end products, videos with factual flaws are included despite imperfections, which were addressed in the grading of the class assignment.