Introducing Video Workshops in the Classroom

Media production continues to play a growing role in education, particularly as today’s college students have enjoyed the benefits of online video and image tutorials throughout their early education. But consuming all of this new media is quite different from being expected to produce it, and that expectation is steadily growing on the college-age crowd.

I teach workshops on media production, often focusing on empowering students to create videos and web pages of their own, and I have plowed through all sorts of snags along the way. I’d like to take a few minutes to share with you some of the things I’ve run into, some strategies I’ve devised, and some thoughts about how all of this works. I’d also really like to hear your thoughts, ideas, and methodologies!

Note: This will be divided into 2 posts. This week, I’ll talk about common opposition to video projects in the classroom, and next time I’ll cover lessons learned.

The Hurdles: My top 5

  • “There’s no need for media workshops on this campus.”
  • “How does this relate to my class?”
  • “Nobody is going to change their curriculum for this.”
  • “How do you grade a video project?”
  • “There’s not enough time.”
That’s just the short list, but those have been some of my toughest ones to answer. Some of my answers:

No Need: Media in education is a constantly evolving field, and it’s possible that the needs have changed. As an example, Photoshop training had been offered on our campus 6 or 7 years ago with no interest from students or faculty. But when we tried a 28-seat pilot workshop again 3 years ago, 85 people had tried to sign up, along with dozens of emails asking about the wait-list. Your mileage may vary, but if the prevailing feeling is that nobody would be interested, organize a general workshop to find out! Once you know your audience (if there is one), you’ll be better equipped to address all of the other points of resistance.

Related to class: It’s a smaller leap of logic to assert that one great way to get students to learn is to have them explain the concepts in their own words. A media project is a great way to get students to apply a design approach to a concept, and to become the “stewards of knowledge.” The key is that the multimedia project should be a bridge to explaining concepts, and never a separate field of study.

Change curriculum: I like to think that the change is in presentation format, not in content. Most of us would not think twice about revising a PowerPoint slide or bringing a relevant visual to class if we thought it would be a better way of explaining, right? In many cases where students are expected to do a bit of independent research and contribute back to a class, something like a video project is a great way to build a few sets of valuable skills at once.

How to grade: In a word, “clearly.” Students already understand the expectations for assigned problem sets, essays, and so on. It is less likely that they are familiar with expectations for a video project assignment! Case by case, it is important to set an expectation for the “video quality” versus “content” balance, and to create a rubric that describes the point distribution for each element you want students to aim for. I’m including links to 2 examples of rubrics that I feel give students a clear understanding of how to succeed on the assignment:
University of Washington – Stout  | Grosmount Union High

No time: Correct! I’ll be honest, this one’s tough. Every minute that a student spends trying to figure out how to use editing software is time lost studying the course material. My thought on this one, and it doesn’t always convince, is that the level of engagement with the material is much higher for the students when they are forced to re-contextualize.

We offer media training workshops primarily because of this time crunch. An hour spent with students at the start of a project provides a sense of what is possible, balanced with a realistic, experience-based understanding of the time involved. From that starting point, our students have run pretty easily with it!

Final thoughts on the challenges

The frequently-expressed concerns I have listed in this blog post are, I think, all perfectly valid reasons to avoid adding a media project to a class’ already-full list of assignments, and I certainly do not want to come away sounding as though I’m proposing the use of video projects everywhere, all the time.

But the takeaways are, I think, compelling in cases where such assignments are appropriate. They prompt students to think about materials in terms of how best to explain to others, rather than in terms of what might be on the test. They encourage students to apply a design process very similar to that of engineering or lab science fields to develop an effective project. They provide an alternative delivery of course content, which helps to address varied learning styles. They even help to develop students’ communication and group project skills.

Next time, I’ll talk about specific case scenarios, and what I’ve learned from meeting with faculty and running workshops. For now, I would love to hear how other educators approach integrating media and media projects into their courses!

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