The movie “Argo” was a hit with critics and audiences last year, and now another Argo - Math Instructor Kevin Argo – is a hit on screen at College of The Albemarle.
Last fall, Argo began producing his own instructional videos in math for his students. From his campus office, Argo films himself working out tough algebra problems, showing students how to graph linear equations and add fractions.
“The camera has a flexible arm and I place the paper underneath,” Argo said, explaining his production process. He uses Camtasia, a screen recording and video editing software, to create his videos, which he then uploads to the school’s website. There, students can view the 30-minute math tutorials until their heart’s content.
“I thought it might be helpful for the students to watch it while they’re at home, so I started to do these videos,” Argo said. “This is a common tool for teaching these days.”
His students have become big fans.
When Jennifer Perez started taking her prerequisite math classes several semesters ago, she quickly discovered she was struggling to solve problems involving linear equations and inequalities.
Perez ended up failing DMA 040, one of eight developmental classes offered by College of The Albemarle, and had to repeat the course. She passed it the second time, and fortunately since then, she has had a little extra help learning the concepts taught in the remaining developmental math classes she has had to take. Although the algebra taught in DMA 050 and DMA 060 was no easier to learn – Perez was learning about things like linear modeling and factoring polynomials – she knew she could count on Argo’s videos to show her how to work difficult math problems anytime she wanted.
Since he began producing the videos in August, Argo has created 62 math videos, but he gets ideas for new topics every time a student stops by his office looking for help.
Sometimes, Argo said, he features these students who come by his office with questions – the back-and-forth dialog makes the videos more interesting. But most of the videos rely only on Argo as he works to solve tricky math problems from course textbooks, recording the complicated processes involved and explaining the step-by-step procedure.
Perez, 38, said if Argo’s videos had been available when she took DMA 040, she doubts she would have failed the class the first time. She credits the online tutorials with helping her pass the remaining developmental math courses she has had to take.
“I used the videos for DMA 050 and DMA 060,” Perez said. “In DMA 050, I kept begging for more of them because I was sitting at home trying to figure it out.”
Argo has gotten positive feedback from many of his students about the videos, especially from his online students who don’t meet in the classroom. And aside from the odd coughing spell, or ill-timed phone call, Argo said his production of the videos has also improved over time.
Not bad, he added, for someone who was 14 when electronic calculators were invented.
“I’m fairly old,” Argo said. “So all of this technology is new to me. I try to keep up.”
Perez and many of Argo’s other math students think he has done much more than keep up. He has helped them wrap their minds around difficult algebraic concepts and more, and pass courses they may have had difficulty with otherwise.
“He just has a way to explain the problems like he would in the classroom if he was teaching,” Perez said. “These videos are like a one-on-one with somebody. Without these videos, I would be pretty lost. I probably would not have passed 050 or 060.”