When learning activities ask students to create multimedia

An undergraduate course at Open University (OU) asked students to create a video instead of solely reading and writing for one of their blocks. This paper discusses the challenges faced by students and the course development team.

Mostefaoui, S., Ferreira, G., Williams, J., and Herman, C. (2012) ‘Using Creative Multimedia in Teaching and Learning ICTs: A Case Study’, European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, vol. XX, pp. 1-12 [Online]. Available at http://www.eurodl.org/?p=archives&year=2012&halfyear=1&abstract=464

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Context
  3. Remarks on methodology
  4. On the design and development of the teaching materials
  5. Reflections on students’ experience of the module’s first presentation
  6. Reflections on students’ submitted work
  7. Concluding remarks and future work

Notes

The team that designed the coursework for this class (the module team) wanted to do something different for one of their undergraduate-level technology courses (T215 Communication and Information Technologies  ). They wanted to design an activity-based block in which the students would create a 30-second video explaining a technical concept. In doing this, the student would learn about the concept, but also would learn the underlying basics of video scripting and creation. Additionally, the module team envisioned creating a bank of these videos, created with open-source software and Creative Commons assets, and turned in as open educational resources (OERs), which could be used by future presentations of this module or for other purposes in other classes.

Analysis

The module has several blocks, each with its own theme. The theme for this block was “entertaining” and “explaining”, with a hidden objective of encouraging trials and mistakes (instead of a teacher explaining) as a way of enhancing creativity in the course. They wanted the students to learn basic video production skills and also the basics of communicating through video, and they wanted them to have experience with the technical issues one faces when creating multimedia and how common issues are solved (for example, issues around encoding, manipulation, and compression).

Design

One problem centered around tools. Professional-grade tools usually are expensive and difficult to learn. Free tools usually have fewer features, which hides the technical aspects they wanted students to learn. They finally picked Audacity for audio, AviSynth for video, and AvsP for scripts.

Another problem was a question of whether they wanted to emphasize the creative component of the assignment. They decided that the videos would not be evaluated on the basis of creativity because it was a technology class, not a media class. The students were graded on three things: their plan, the video itself as created using scripting, and the students’ evaluation of their own video.

Development

The students were given several things:

Implementation

There were many technical problems. Students created FAQ forum boards to help each other solve issues. Tutors pitched in to help figure out solutions. The module team helped debug scripts, and then revealed the module strategy to the students — thus, some students back-ended their work, starting with the assessment (which should be done at the end) and then working backwards to the video assignment.

Evaluation

At the end of the module, they conducted a thematic analysis, reading the comments students made on their forums and the end-of-module surveys, looking at the student-created videos that were shared with the cohort, and reading notes from the module team made while they were creating the course.

One observation was the range of student comments about the assignment. Some liked it. Some didn’t understand the learning objectives and/or did not find it to be realistic (in that the need for a video would not be solved by scripting in the workplace). The authors offer several quotes from the forum and end-of-module comments to illustrate this confusion, but I think a comment made by the authors explaining the student comments is perhaps more revealing of several tensions: ‘As is sometimes the case in UKOU modules in ICT, a proportion of the student cohort comprises experienced professionals (Kear, 2011, p.22), who enrol in these modules as part of a process leading to the validation or certification of their experience and knowledge acquired in the workplace. In prefacing the critique of the use of scripting for multimedia with professional ‘credentials’, this student legitimises the criticism with a seemingly authoritative voice, a voice that appears especially concerned with efficiency’ (Mostefaoui et al., 2012, p. 7).

Another observation was that students worried about the quality of their work. Very few shared their videos with their fellow students, and the authors speculate that worries about quality kept them from sharing. (There were 713 students and 33 videos were shared, or 4.6%.)

One of their conclusions was that perhaps the block had too many constraints and expectations in a single activity, leading to a disproportionate amount of time being spent on technical support instead of teaching. Or, more explicit information should be given about scripting so that students would understand why they were doing it.

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