The Art of Educational Videos

The Exchange on Tuesday 29 July was a bumper edition focusing on video in education, presented by the Arts faculty. The breadth of approaches was impressive, punctuated by personal stories. Aspects of all the projects were or are currently supported by the LTC, through the Faculty Partnership Program (FPP) and other means.

A point made both explicitly and tacitly in the session was that the tools are now directly in the speakers’ hands and offer a new level of creativity and autonomy in their work with media. The full range of form and application of video and other media in education is still to be explored.

It is impossible to cover everything, so here are a few things that stood out for me…

Interviews for different perspectives
– Dr Blanche Menadier, International Studies
Blanche records interviews herself to use in her unit covering the European Union, receiving some help in editing. She worked with a team to improve lighting and staging for interviews with consuls that were planned with longevity in mind. Each answer was cut and published separately for flexibility of use: they can be used throughout the unit, where the question is most relevant, and different answers can be easily juxtaposed, providing a plurality of views on a topic.

Have camera will travel
– Prof Sean Brawley, Modern History

Sean took us on a journey from the fraught early days of video, the fragility of tape and effort required, to the current relative ease of public domain footage and digital editing. He takes his camera with him when he travels to: produce sequences for scripted videos; interview academics, especially authors of student texts, at conferences and take advantage of any other opportunities. His department, of which he is head, is looking at what it takes to ‘flip’ units and video use is a key element. He mentioned the History Channel as his competition and inspiration as he tries to imitate its ‘feel’ in his own videos.

Low-cost technology enables creativity
– Assoc Prof Greg Downey, Anthropology

Greg has experienced production of high-production-quality videos with a dedicated crew for an Anthropology MOOC, but is more interested in what can be done for a ‘no-budget’ video. He showed two promo videos, one for an Anthropology ‘People’ unit  and the other for a new field school in Fiji , which was filmed on a phone and edited on a laptop. Greg is also head of his department, which has left him with one of his subjects in hiatus. He is concerned with keeping that material alive and shared, so has been experimenting with creating visual essays, an example embedded below, that use creative commons illustrations and photos, free fonts and music, animated via Keynote (try the ‘magic move’ animation!).

Bringing language alive
– Ms Sijia Guo, International Studies

Sijia started by recording dialogue for her introductory Chinese class on her laptop camera, animating written text through PowerPoint to highlight as it was spoken. With the help of colleagues, friends, and a video producer, she transitioned to guerrilla location shoots that offered more complex scenarios, capturing difficult tenses to feed into class exercises (see feature image for this post). Great amateur acting, dream sequences and intriguing sound effects. She aims to keep building her library of video aids.

Yann2Connecting with off-campus students
– Dr Yann Tristant

Yann started off a video sceptic in a project to put archaeology units online, with the opinion that face-to-face beats online every time. While that opinion still holds, he has come to appreciate the ways video and other media can improve the experience for students. One unit is even offered in ‘flipped’ mode for on-campus students who access lecture content online but come to tutorials for hands-on demonstrations.

The project has forced his team to review how they teach: it is not a matter of handing over slides and getting a production team to turn them into a video – the teacher should control the form of the video. Text and photographs add to the teacher’s presentation. Students have also been given access to 3D models of artefacts online, allowing views from all sides and zoomed views. Yann looks forward to the time students will be able to print the artefacts on personal 3D printers.

To finish up, Michael gave us a quick peek at the big project that is Big History, which aims at broadcast quality content. It brings together a large number of academics and also students into production.

Question from audience: What is the optimum length for a video?
Answer (Michael Rampe): I don’t think there is an optimum length. We have been making 20-30 minute videos and students say that isn’t too long. MOOCs say 6 minutes, but that is aiming at a lowest common denominator. Smaller chunks can help student revision. Also, shorter video assists in maintaining resources – it is easier to edit and change elements.

Question from the audience: How much do we know about how to produce what works? Lots of movement, action? What works pedagogically and how do mugs like us get into it?
Answer (Michael): It is driven by purpose. It takes time and craft to work on this and people with production and pedagogic experience can help. Some people make rules, but they are not necessarily helpful. We can process and accept even low quality video – we are experienced video viewers. We can all use our understanding of film language to inform our practice. The LTC do media training and workshops and we have a store of equipment that you can use. Arts has equipment to borrow and are encouraging student collaboration in media production. Partnerships and support are key.

Information on the Faculty Partnership Program (applications for S1 2015 are open 10 Oct – 7 Nov)
LTC Workshops
Designing Video for/as Learning – Types and Genres, 1-4pm, 20 November, 2014

Huge thanks to participants for sharing their videos and stories, Mr Michael Rampe for both presenting and organising the session and Arts Associate Dean, Dr Trudy Ambler, for her support.
And the Thursday Writing Group, for feedback on the text.


One thought on “The Art of Educational Videos”

  1. The move in technology is certainly allowing a creativity previously not seen in the “lower” end of the market in video production etc. The more available the equipment the more people will create with it.

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