2009 Video Fellows best practices for video assignments

In 2008-2009, a group of eight Duke faculty from a variety of disciplines participated in the CIT's Student Video Fellows program. The participants explored new ways of engaging students with video assignments and, at the end of the program, assembled a guide on resources, ideas and best practices for use by other faculty. You can read the report and see examples of student work in this post on the blog.

The Fellows programs brings together faculty facing common instructional problems to examine how technology, pedagogy and experience can improve student learning and help faculty reach their instructional goals.  In 2008-2009, eight Duke faculty from a variety of disciplines participated in the Center for Instructional Technology’s Student Video Fellows program.

Participants, all of whom had an interest in using student video projects in their courses, met monthly to discuss planning and assessment of assignments for the course.  The faculty were exposed to some of the technology options that might be appropriate for their class activities and were encouraged to try the technologies in courses they were currently teaching.  The monthly meetings were a forum for the faculty to exchange ideas about what worked and form a basis for long-term use of the technology and assessment strategies in their courses.

As a final exercise, the Fellows assembled information on the process of planning and executing student video assignments as a guide for other faculty at Duke.  This document outlines their thoughts, based on their experience in the program, on best practices for using video in student assignments.

Why use video?

“Visual intelligence is the new dimension of human education.”
-Satti Khanna, CIT Fellows participant

Why have students produce video assignments?  Papers have been a staple of courses, but the wide availability of desktop and web video tools have made multimedia a common means of expression among students and academic researchers.  Through video-based assignments, students learn how to take advantage of audio and visual expression and faculty can help shape how students use this means of presentation and expression in ways that are similar to encouraging and improving student written language.

Since video can encompass text, still and moving images, and audio, the medium presents many advantages for the course, including:

  • strengthening the voice of students in multiple media
  • providing novelty of perspective, allowing students to present information in new ways
  • encouraging great engagement with course materials and discussions
  • creating a sense of community as students share the video production process.

Student video assignment example from course taught by Brenda Neece

Student video assignment example from course taught by Kevin Caves

To see more examples of videos created by students in the Fellows’s courses and information on the assignments, see the CIT’s Project Examples blog.

Planning a video assignment

What resources are there at Duke for student video assignments?

The Fellows drew upon a wide range of resources available at Duke for training themselves and their students on using the technology and for getting equipment and support.  The CIT can assist you with planning a video assignment and finding the specific resources and services that fit your project.  The Fellows recommend providing information to students on the support services available at the beginning of the project, including lab hours and locations, to avoid confusion about where to access equipment and software and where to get help.

How do I set student expectations for a video assignment?

Guidelines for students in creating the project; including expectations for content, length of the video, and how their work will be graded, in addition to resources they will use to complete the assignment; should be integrated into:

  • the syllabus
    This demonstrates that assignments are integral to the course.  Include a description of the technology and how to access it, how the use of the technology connects to course learning objectives, and name the specific assignment(s) which will require the use of video.
  • class
    By spending time in class talking about the assignments, you are showing that you value the assignments and demonstrating that the video project is a key part of the course.  Also include time in class to practice using the technology.
  • assignment guidelines
    Discuss not only “how to” (nuts and bolts of using the technology) but also “why to” do it (to demonstrate pedagogical value).  Stress that students are using the technology to learn course material, not just new technology.  Connect technology to discipline-specific expectations if appropriate.  Promote critical reflection by providing periodic opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning during the process of creating the video project.

What is the time commitment for a video assignment?

Time commitment for the faculty member will vary depending upon your project and your comfort level with the technology you want to use.  See profiles of the Fellows projects to get a sense of the time investment for projects of different scopes and sizes.

Know that you will need to prepare in advance.  Moreover, keep in mind that some resources take time to be accessed, whereas others are available more readily.  Be sure to plan your project with a CIT consultant in advance.

While video-length guidelines will vary depending on the project and your learning goals for the students, it is necessary for instructors to set realistic time commitment expectations for the students.

  • Establish clear guidelines for the time students should expect to spend on the making (and editing when applicable) of the video.
  • Make sure there is a direct relationship between the amount of student time invested in the video and the outcome.
  • The weight of the project in terms of the final grade should be consistent with the amount of time needed to complete the project.
  • Reinforce how the time and skills invested in the video relate to the broader course goals. Students should understand that the project goes beyond the technology.
  • Give students a minimum and/or maximum length for their final videos, and stress the benefits of keeping within these time limits.

What about copyright and privacy?

Copyright and Fair use, along with student privacy concerns, play a large role in video assignments.  Assignments should be constructed so that students can follow Fair Use guidelines as they assemble their project and understand what outside material they should or shouldn’t use.  In addition, students should get permission before video or audio recording others and faculty should provide releases for students to grant permissions for posting material publicly if that is an aspect of the assignment.

Implementing a video assignment

How much training will the students need?

While we tend to assume most undergraduate students are technology-savvy, it can still be a good idea to provide training for the tools they will be asked to use for their classroom video projects.  Training might take the form of:

  • In-class, hands-on training sessions arranged through OIT
  • Low stakes pre-assignments to practice using technology

Sample assignment with student instructions (French 76) (PDF file)

Should all of my students use the same tools for their video projects?

The answer to this question depends upon the project.

  • Yes: if the project is very small scale (if there is really only one tool that is appropriate for the assignment), it is logical to have students use the same technology.
  • Yes: in classes which are less technology-savvy, uniform technology use is appropriate to train students together and to make students comfortable with technology.  In some cases, this might even create a sense of community among students.
  • No: for a more technology-savvy class, the use of different tools may not pose a problem especially when it allows students to continue to use tools with which they are comfortable.

For classes in which students use different tools to complete the same project, instructors should indicate their tolerance for troubleshooting problems with a variety of tools.  Student should also be made aware of the fact that non-standard tools may not be supported as fully on Duke’s campus.

How much will the faculty member have to be involved in troubleshooting?

Instructor involvement in technological troubleshooting will vary according to the individual.

  • Very comfortable with technology?
    Make sure your students know when and how to contact you with questions. (link to Brenda’s story in her profile)
  • Less comfortable with technology?
    Familiarize yourself with the technology as well as the support services (link to planning) on campus so that you can direct your students to the appropriate resource in the event that you cannot answer the question.
  • Not comfortable with technology?
    Tell your students to contact the above resources directly.

The Fellows recommend, however, that the instructor indicate from the beginning of the project their willingness and ability to resolve technological problems.

How involved should I be with my students throughout the video project?

The answer to this question is highly dependent upon the course and the instructor.  Some possibilities for instructor involvement that have been used with success include:

  • Minimal involvement.
    The instructor gives this assignment and is available if needed, but remains relatively hands-off until the complete assignment is submitted.
  • Some involvement.
    There could be intermediary steps or portions of the assignment turned in before the final video product is due.
  • Considerable involvement.
    Instructors and students have frequent meetings and instructors assign grades to all aspects of the work, not just the final product.

Assessing the impact of the assignment

How do I evaluate a video assignment?

“With what can be a large and very different project for many students, they often benefit from a guideline that indicates what you expect.  This might be a list of things you are looking for, or it might be a more formal assignment of percentages of a grade to each aspect, a grading rubric.”
– Laura Florand, Romance Studies

Sample grading rubrics (PDF format) – French 76Music 150S

“I think it is essential to break down the project into different components, each graded separately. While more time-consuming for the instructor, it is, I think, a fair grading policy that takes into consideration not only the time spent on the creation of the video, but also on the linguistic skills demonstrated in completing it.”
– Giuliana Perco, Romance Studies

Fellows thoughts on grading and assessing student video work

How can you evaluate the effectiveness of using video technology at achieving course learning goals?

  • Survey students about their preferences and perceptions
    Did they like using video?  Did they see the value of using this technology?
  • Keep a journal of “lessons learned” about how to use technology as well as its pedagogical value.
  • Assess the quality and depth of the student’s work
    The gold standard for assessing how effective video is at achieving learning goals is to assess quality of work using video relative to quality of work using more traditional approach (such as writing).

If you discover that using video helps students achieve learning goals, you can promote student and departmental buy-in by discussing the pedagogical value of this teaching technology.

Fellows offer their advice to faculty considering the use of video in a course

Randy Riddle

Author: Randy Riddle

Randy A. Riddle consults with faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences on integrating technology into teaching. He has been a CIT consultant since 2000. His professional interests include e-learning, social networking, online productivity tools, video and multimedia, and visualization. Randy’s current work includes management of the CIT’s Faculty Fellows program, consulting on Coursera course design and exploring areas such as e-textbook authoring. His other interests outside of work include restoration of vintage recording formats and broadcasting and film history. He volunteers for the Old Time Radio Researchers Group and maintains an ongoing blog on radio history research.