Vlogging throughout an intensive wet lab practical

This article will show an example of how lab practicals can make use of vlogging for mimicking real life in a course.

Cover image of the article showing water surface

Course: AFI31806 Aquaculture Production Systems

Period: Period 2

Short Introduction and background

Introduction and story behind the emergence of this learning activity. What was the need, what issue/problem was the teacher facing and wanted to resolve? 

In this course, students acquire knowledge of and experience with biological, physical and chemical water quality control in aquaculture production systems. These systems are being used in aquatic research facilities and commercial aquaculture. The course practical specifically focuses on Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). 

During lectures and tutorials, students receive theoretical information on how to design and manage different aquaculture systems taking into account biological, physical and chemical processes that occur in the water and water treatment units, which affect fish production and welfare. 

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During the practical sessions, students are responsible for: 

  1. building their own mini RAS 
  2. managing the system and maintaining the water quality parameters 
  3. taking care of live fish in the tanks of each RAS

The practical is quite extensive since it includes taking care of live animals. Students in groups manage the tanks, feed the fish, take care of water quality, etc. for a duration of 5 weeks, 7 days per week. 

Due to corona restrictions, it was not possible for the students to do the practical session in the Aquatic Research Facility of Carus, the animal research facility of WUR (Carus-ARF). However, the application of the theoretical knowledge in practice is an important learning objective of the course - using such knowledge to evaluate the daily management actions on the RAS water quality performance and fish welfare. Therefore, the course offers very important skills to students for future occupations in aquaculture sector where they have to manage few thousands of fish, but also for those that want to continue in research and perform experimental studies involving aquatic organisms. 

Mimicking real life in this course is therefore of great importance. Hence, the lecturers investigated ways to replace this practical session with something that approached that experience as close as possible.  

Relevant tools / apps (software) or hardware used

  • Brightspace
  • OneDrive - used to communicate data across all relevant parties (lecturers, student assistant, students)
  • MS Teams - used for vlogging with the student assistant in the lab and for consultation sessions with the lecturers
  • Gimble - vlogging hardware (rented via WUR)
  • Cell phone - to record the vlogging

Learning outcome(s)

What has been learned after this lesson/activity has been executed ?

  • Integrate insights in biological, physical and chemical processes occurring in water into the design of sustainable aquaculture production units, while considering input needs and environmental impacts 
  • Apply and control the main biological processes affecting water quality in aquatic ecosystems 
  • Design and operate outdoor and indoor recirculating aquaculture systems 
  • Apply the principles governing the management of aquaculture production systems to the maintenance, design or restoration of natural or man-made aquatic ecosystems 

Lesson idea / Learning activity

Specific description and demonstration of the lesson idea/learning activity.

The students work in groups of 4-6 (the preferred group size is 4 students). Normally they would be responsible for building the RAS system and then for maintaining the systems and taking care of the fish living in those systems. They would do this taking turns, because it would require them to check-in and take several actions every day of the week, for a duration of 5 weeks. Live animals need daily care. 

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The first step would be to build the RAS. This step was replaced by a practical video with animated elements (see the second video), created by the educational video team. In this video, the different components and their functioning were explained, helping the students to understand how the RAS works. This would only cover the first practical morning of the course. For the practical, the normal setup was still the same as earlier years; there were 10 groups of students and each group was responsible for maintaining one RAS housing 30 common carps.  

For the majority of the 35-day lasting practical, another solution involving video was used; vlogging. This vlogging was done by a single student-assistant who was present at the RAS systems for 35 consecutive days. The process that is explained below was hence repeated 35 times (each student being 6 -7 days ‘responsible’ and trained under supervision (5 minutes feedback and 5 minutes vlogging per student each day).  

Every morning the student assistant would measure the water quality parameters in each of the 10 RAS and provide the data to each student group via an Excel file shared in OneDrive (one Excel sheet was allocated per group). Collected data (time series) were directly visualised in graphs to create optimal conditions for management actions and feedback on proposed management decisions of students. The students used the Excel file in which all data about the fish (number, daily feed ration etc), the water quality parameters (temperature, oxygen, pH, etc) and the approved management actions (temperature, pH, oxygen, etc) of the previous days were registered.  

Based on those data, the student groups had to make decisions for their consecutive actions and had to register those decisions in the Excel file. They would discuss their intended actions with the lecturers during a feedback or consultation session every day (7 days a week) and they would ask for advice if needed. During the consultation session, a single (rotating) representative of each group was present, and there was time for consultation for each group. They would propose their management decisions based on the water quality measurements and they could ask questions about the measurements, or about the next steps required. Note: if the decisions would be detrimental for the fish, the lecturers would interfere. Then, they would go to the vlogging student assistant; one group at the time.  

The vlogging student assistant had a cell phone attached to a gimble for a vlogging setup, see the video below what this vlogging looked like. He called the responsible student (5-10 minutes) and discussed the agreed actions accordingly. E.g. the students would indicate the amount of feed required to feed the fish, they would be able to check the filters in case cleaning was required, they could check the behaviour of the fish during feeding and the clarity of the water for instance, which were visible on the camera that was attached to the gimble. In that way, the student could follow what was done and see how the fish were responding. The student assistant also administered all taken actions in the Excel file, so that the students could discuss and take action on those things again the next day.  

Even though the student-assistant performed the actions, the students were ‘fully responsible’ for the well-being of their fish and their environment. That all groups also participated actively during the weekend sessions, showed that they were engaged. The feedback that the lecturers and student-assistant received on these practicals was very positive.

Student reactions in the course evaluation

What did you like about the course (remarks selected are restricted to the vlogging in practical 1):  

  • "We could experience Practical 1 learning despite being fully online It was really sad that we could not do the practical in real life, however, the alternative with the vlogging was very nice."
  • "I really like that we could still manage the fish. It really helped to engage with the content by just doing it although it was online."
  • "It was really nice to be able to still do a practicum, online."
  • "The fact that we were still able to do the experiment even though we were not able to be at Carus present ourselves. Although I think that we would have learned more from doing it at the Carus facility ourselves."
  • "The practicals with the carp, even though we weren’t able to visit the lab, practical knowledge is always a great learning method in my opinion."

Which online elements in this course did you like the most and why (selected remarks are restricted to vlogging):  

  • "I really liked video calling the fish."
  • "The group work and the management vlogging online lectures and practical."
  • "The vlogging with Taofik."
  • "It made me feel like we were still an active part of the experiment."
  • "The vlogging!"
  • "The VLOGS from Taofik and MS teams."
  • "Two practicals, they are very useful."
  • "Vlogging for Practical 1 is a great idea, but the amount of idle waiting time to be called was unnecessary. Sometime we got called very late (later than 13:30), pushing it to overlap with the afternoon course."


There were no negative remarks in relation to vlogging (best alternative when a real-life practical is not possible). However, there were remarks from students that the real-life situation is preferred. One student unsubscribed from the course because he wanted to do the practical next year in real life.  

Lessons learned / Tips

Mentions tips lecturer has for colleagues based on their experience.

It went really well and the experience was as close as it could get given the current circumstances. Of course, a real-life practical is always better. Although maybe an intermediate format could be where 5 groups work with 5 vlogging systems to keep updated their own group members. Certainly following this experience, the lecturers will keep the consultation sessions and the Excel in OneDrive to keep track of the data and actions. This is because the consultation and feedback were really contributing to the learning experience of the students. The use of a shared Excel file with 10 excel sheets resulted in very good control over the process; a certain problem and its solution were always traceable in the data and available for all students in the course.  

Logistically it was a bit of a challenge because there were 10 groups and group #10 was always the last one being called by the student-assistant. This could perhaps be improved by randomisation.


Teacher(s): Fotini Kokou, Ep Eding, Geert Wiegertjes
TLC contact:
Senna Tamminga, Gerrit Bakker, Karly van Gorp
Author (interviewer): Karly van Gorp 


  • Manuals for adding MS Teams within Brightspace:  Brightspace Help for Lecturers  
  • Microsoft tutorials on how to set-up your MS Teams page: Microsoft Support
  • Manuals for using OneDrive with Brightspace: Brightspace Help for Lecturers 
  • The impression of the vlogging experience (Video executed and filmed by the student assistant Taofik Momoh. Edited by Esther Nijkamp.): (video below)
  • Instruction video on the RAS system (Video Executed by: Fotini Kokou and Ep Eding. Filmed and edited by Educational Media Team.): (video below)


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