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Going Digital | Creating a Video Assignment

The Basics #

A video assignment is a great way to get your students thinking about your course content a little differently. A project like this can be designed as a standalone assignment or incorporated as part of a group project, in-class presentation, or research project.

1. What is a video assignment? 

A video assignment is any project that asks a student to film themselves or another subject. Video submissions can be the entirety of an assignment, or they can be a one part of a larger assignment. These projects can range from a simple, one-shot recording of an oral presentation to more complex projects requiring multiple camera shots edited together.

2. Why might you want to create a video assignment?

  • An option for creating AI-resistant assignments
  • Gives students options to demonstrate proficiency (a core tenet of Universal Design for Learning)
  • Helps with classroom engagement and community-building
  • Gives students experience with digital tools
  • Builds oral communication skills
  • Can be a step towards creating a Digital Intensive course

3. What kind of assignments can this replace or supplement? 

  • Essays
  • Research Projects
  • Journals 
  • In-Class Presentations
  • Discussion Boards
  • Group Projects

Designing the Assignment #

Whether you are designing the assignment from the ground up or converting an existing assignment, the steps below can help you think through framing, building, and grading the project.

1. Decide on goals

Student Outcomes

The goals of an assignment can vary greatly, depending on what you hope your students will get out of the project. A few common outcome objectives for this type of assignment are:

  • Demonstrate understanding of course content
  • Synthesize concepts to create new information
  • Practice communicating information clearly
  • Practice research and citation
  • Demonstrate technical proficiency with video production tools

All are valid goals, and being clear about how much priority you assign to each one will help in designing the assignment (and ultimately your grading criteria).

Scale

If you are creating this assignment to be a large final project or other large assignment, you may want to break it down into smaller parts with due dates for each (much like a research paper). Some possible steps are:

  1. Topic selection 
  2. Source selection 
  3. Script draft and/or shot list
  4. Assembly edit/rough cut
  5. Final video

Smaller projects, such as weekly unedited “confessional-style” reflections, may need fewer steps but the end product will likely be less polished.

Project Format

The goals and scale you determine will inform what format the project will take. You may want your students’ videos to be recorded versions of an oral presentation, or perhaps you want them to create a polished, edited video. There are different considerations for each, listed below from least to most complex.

Vlogs & Discussion Board Videos

One or two-minute videos are a great replacement for weekly reflection assignments or discussion board posts. There are even tools designed specifically for this, such as Flip (formerly Flipgrid).

  • Usually unedited or minimally edited
  • Can have the same expectations you would have for a written reflection or board post
  • Great for building community, especially in online classes
  • Tools like Flip can be integrated into any Canvas course
Recorded Presentation

Recorded presentations are usually single-take videos of what might otherwise be a standard in-class presentation.

  • Usually unedited or minimally edited (may just clean up the start and end)
  • May include PowerPoint or other visual aids
  • May or may not include camera/webcam footage
  • Can usually be accomplished with a standard laptop, Chromebook, or iPad
Fully-Produced Video

Fully-produced videos are edited together from many different camera shots or video clips. These are the most complex video projects and can be very time-intensive.

  • Editing takes time! Unlike one-take recorded presentations, students will need to budget extra time after the recording phase to edit their videos
  • A time limit may be helpful for these projects. Shorter videos require students to practice concision
  • Quality equipment is key. While filming on a phone can produce great video, encourage students to try external microphones if they are capturing video outside or in an uncontrolled environment

2. Recommend resources

Some students may already have tools they prefer, while others will have no prior experience with these tools. Unless you have a specific reason, there’s no need to require use of a certain tool, but it’s a good idea to offer your students some options. Below are a few we suggest.

Recording Tools

No amount of post-production editing can beat recording high-quality audio and video from the start! Often a computer microphone or standard earbuds will do just fine, but encourage your students to make a test recording using the equipment they intend to use. This way they can identify whether their current equipment will be sufficient for the project before making a long recording that they have to throw out for poor quality.

If students need or want higher-quality equipment, they can use the following resources:

HCC Info Desk Equipment Checkout

The HCC offers cameras, microphones, tripods, and audio recorders for free checkout at the Info Desk on the second floor.

HCC Vocal Booth, Charnoff Production Studio, & Mini Studio

The HCC has spaces designed for audio recording and editing. The Vocal Booth and Mini Studio are both on the 1st floor and open 24 hours. The Vocal Booth includes a camera and microphone, while the Mini Studio requires students to bring their own equipment (though cameras, microphones, and tripods can be checked out from the Info Desk upstairs). The Charnoff Production studio includes three HD camera and a wrap-around green screen, and requires training through the DKC before use.

Video Production Software

Zoom

Zoom is a great, simple way to film recorded presentations. Students can start a Zoom meeting, share screen to show their visual aids, and record the meeting to their computer.

Microsoft PowerPoint

After creating a slideshow in PowerPoint, students have the option to record themselves presenting it. They can record audio, webcam video, and PowerPoint slides in a simple one-stop solution.

Note that this feature is only available in the desktop (downloaded) version of PowerPoint. Video recording is not available with PowerPoint on the web. Students, faculty, and staff can download Office products for free as part of their UMW Microsoft 365 account.

See this Microsoft PowerPoint recording guide for more info.

YouTube Studio Editor

The YouTube Studio Editor allows users to make basic cuts to a presentation. It does not allow adding other video clips, graphics, or audio tracks. This is a great solution if you are asking students to share videos on YouTube and want them to make only basic edits, like trimming the start and end of their video.

Canva

A free browser-based tool made primarily for graphic design, but it is a surprisingly agile simple video editor. Canva includes a large library of photo, audio, and video elements that can be used to in video projects, but students must be careful to avoid premium assets that require purchase.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe tools like Premiere and After Effects may be overwhelming for beginners, but have many features that can help a project shine. All Adobe Creative Cloud apps are available via AppsAnywere, UMW’s virtual computer lab.

Video Editing Hardware

With so many browser-based tools for graphic design, students can accomplish simple video projects with a basic laptop, Chromebook, or even a phone! But if students want or need more powerful hardware, there are several options available to them.

HCC Computer Workstations

The Hurley Convergence Center contains computers throughout the building that can be used for graphic design projects. The HCC is open 24/7 to students with an EagleOne swipe.

Digital Knowledge Center

The Digital Knowledge Center has several computers with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, including two Surface Studios that can fold down to become large drawing tablets.

HCC Computer Loan

The HCC Info Desk loans PC and Mac laptops to students for up to six days.

3. Offer support

Make sure your students are aware that they have many options for support for digital assignments (they don’t have to always come to you!).

DKC Class Visits

Consider having the Digital Knowledge Center visit your class to introduce tools and best practices for your assignment. This can go a long way in helping your students get off on the right foot. Visits can be tailored to the needs of your class.

DKC Appointments

If students run into issues, they can book appointments with a Digital Knowledge Center consultant to help get them unstuck.

DKC Online Guides

The Digital Knowledge Center maintains online guides on many tools for digital projects, including “Getting Started” best practices for audio, video, graphic design, and website-building projects.

4. Consider Accessibility 

It is important to consider accessibility in any digital project. Since videos are a visual medium, providing the information in alternative formats is essential. Here are a few methods to accomplish this:

Provide a written outline of information

Additional written context can help people with visual impairments understand the content of a video. Consider asking students to share an outline or transcript as part of the project, either beforehand (so you can make sure they are on the right track) or alongside the project.

Closed Captions

Closed captions are the text version of an audio presentation that appears on the screen during a presentation. Closed captions communicate all audio that is essential context, including music, sounds, and other non-speech elements of the presentation. Closed Captions help hearing-impaired individuals engage with content and are useful for everyone as hearing the information and seeing it in the text at the same time fosters a deeper understanding of the material.

Tip: YouTube provides automatically-generated closed captions for every video uploaded, but these auto-captions always need a bit of clean-up to be accurate.

5. Determine Grading Criteria

Many of the grading criteria you might use for a “traditional” project still hold true for a digital assignment. If you already have criteria you are comfortable with, great! If you are unsure how to go about grading a video project, below are some guiding questions that may help you build a rubric for an assignment.

Guiding Questions
  • Does the student address the prompt and fulfill the assignment effectively?
  • Does the student think creatively?
  • Does the student clearly state their argument, or thesis?
  • Do the visual elements facilitate communication of the thesis?
  • Has the student cited sources? Are sources high-quality and support the thesis?
  • Is the video high-quality (not grainy or distorted)? Perhaps more importantly, is audio clear and understandable?
  • Does the student use graphics, sound clips, or video clips that are royalty free or open-license? Does the student credit the creator?
  • Has the student included accurate closed captions or otherwise endeavored to make the project accessible?

6. Determine Submission Method

There is no “wrong” way to receive assignment submissions, so choose the one that works best for your learning objectives. Below are a few options.

Canvas Assignment

Canvas is a great submission option if you just want to receive the files directly. You can set the assignment submission type to “File Upload,” and students can upload their video file and supporting documentation all at once.

Keep in mind that Canvas has a 500mb upload limit for individual media files, as well as a 1gb total storage limit for each course. Very long videos may exceed the individual limit, and only graded assignments bypass your Canvas storage quota. If you accept video files as part of an ungraded assignment or discussion board, you will quickly exceed the size limits on your Canvas course.

YouTube

If your project includes long videos, or you want your students to get experience with other sharing platforms, YouTube is a good option. However, since it is a public platform, students must be careful to set the privacy settings for their videos correctly. Unless you want your videos to be available to anyone on the internet, most videos should be set to “Unlisted.” Students can then share the video link with you in Canvas, or embed the YouTube video into a blog post or website.

See our YouTube Basics Step-by-Step guide for more info on creating a YouTube account, uploading a video, adjusting privacy settings, and sharing videos.

Flip (formerly Flipgrid)

Flip is a video discussion platform that can be set up as your classroom’s video repository. Flip is designed primarily to record and share short discussion-post style videos, but it can be used to store uploaded videos as well.

Flip is owned by Microsoft, so it can be accessed using your UMW email address and password. See the Flip Educator Toolkit for more tips on setting up and using the platform.

Blog Post

Alternatively, if you are interested in having your students think about their work as having life outside of your class, embedding their video in a blog post is a great option. This gives students the experience of creating an video as part of a larger piece, such as a news article, research project, or journal.

Keep in mind that web servers have file size limits, however. If students are using Domain of One’s Own, their default limit is 1gb. If you choose this method of submission, you may want to also have your students upload videos to YouTube so that they can embed the YouTube video rather than post the file directly on a web site.

Digital Intensive SLOs #

Each Digital Intensive proposal is considered by the DI committee on a case-by-case basis, so there is no “guaranteed” method to acquire the designation. But below are few examples that may help a podcasting assignment address the DI Student Learning Objectives.

These are just a few options – there are countless ways to accomplish the DI objectives. And remember that a single assignment does not need to address every SLO! A video assignment could address some, while other assignments could address others.

SLO 1

Students will successfully locate and critically evaluate information using the Internet, library databases, and/or other digital tools.

  • Require students to share sources for the claims made in their videos
  • Use the SIFT Method or other criteria to evaluate an online source’s credibility

SLO 2

Students will use digital tools to safely, ethically, and effectively produce and exchange information and ideas. 

  • Converting a written assignment to a video assignment goes a long way to addressing this SLO
  • Require a written summary, closed captions, and attribution for any pre-made assets used as part the project

SLO 3

Students will creatively adapt to emerging and evolving technology. 

  • Instead of requiring a specific tool to create their video, ask students to evaluate several and select the one that best fits their needs
  • Instead of submitting a file in Canvas, ask students to build a public web site using Domain of One’s Own or Sites@UMW to post their video

Resources #

Guides

Liberated Learners – Video Production

A great resource to share with your students! This walks through the video production process from start to finish.

How (and why) to use video assignments in alternative grading

DKC Presentation & Recording Guides

The Digital Knowledge Center maintains getting-started guides, tool recommendations, and repositories of free media resources for various digital project types.

YouTube Basics Step-by-Step

If you are having students sign up for YouTube accounts (or want to sign up for one yourself), this guide walks through the process of creating an account and getting started with sharing videos.

Project Resources

Free UMW Resources

A list of tools and services available to UMW students that can help with digital projects.

Free Media Resources

A repository of online sources for copyright and royalty-free stock photos, video, and audio that students can incorporate into their projects.

Examples

Cartland Berge’s 60 Second Pilot Project

A project designed to help students practice producing a short video from start to finish: planning, scripting, filming, editing, captioning, and sharing.

Dr. Jeff McClurken’s US History in Film Course

The final research project for this course is a 1,500-2,500 written analysis of a historical film, along with a 3-5 minute video analysis. Projects are published on the open web using Domain of One’s Own. Example Video

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