Student Video Fellowship: Laura Florand

Laura Florand, coordinator of Advanced Intermediate French and Acting Assistant Director of the French program for 2008-2009, was the faculty liaison for CIT’s Student Video Fellows program as well as a participant in the program. This Fellows program offered a group of faculty from a range of disciplines the opportunity to investigate how to effectively design student video assignments, assess video work in the courses, and provided access to technology and support options available at Duke for them and their students.

Florand has used video assignments for several semesters in French 76, which is the fourth semester of French at Duke. The curriculum for the course is built around film, so having students produce a video rather than a paper for their final project is an obvious choice for the course.

In this interview, Florand discusses the natural fit between video assignments and language learning.

In past semesters, French 76 students have reported in the past that the technical difficulty of producing their videos has interfered with the language learning goals of the project. For her Student Video Fellows project, Florand redesigned the existing student video project to allow students earlier access to technology and training, with the goal of allowing them to focus more directly on the content for their final projects. She also developed new grading rubrics to give more appropriate weight to the technical and language learning aspects of the project.

Students in French 76 produced video material at several points throughout the semester, starting with a compilation of short clips produced with Flip video software and iMovie, then moving on to a video accompaniment to a written paper. During both of these short projects, students had access to hands-on help and documentation, and they were able to become familiar with cinematography and video editing. Florand’s hope was that by the time they began their final group project, a scripted film approximately 5-7 minutes long, they would have already worked through many of the technical hurdles that had caused problems in the past.

In restructuring the course to include video throughout the semester, Florand hoped to continue and improve on the French program’s past successes with student-produced video, while allowing them to spend more of their project time on writing, rehearsing and collaboration.

After the assignment was finished, students reported a sense of pride in their work and a high level of engagement with the project. Both students and instructors reported fewer technical problems and more ability to focus on the content of the assignment, when compared to evaluations of past semesters.