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One of my pedagogical heroes is the late bell hooks, who spent much of her life teaching and mentoring in higher education.
In one of her foundational collections of essays, Teaching to Transgress, she writes, “The first paradigm that shaped my pedagogy was the idea that the classroom should be an exciting place, never boring. And if boredom should prevail, then pedagogical strategies were needed that would intervene, alter, even disrupt the atmosphere.”
This is the philosophy behind my desire to incorporate short-form video projects into my classes.
As many educators have observed in the past few years, the current cohort of college students is different from previously matriculated groups. These Gen Z students have been called “digital natives” and in some cases have been accused of being “addicted to their phones.”
However you look at it, it is true that most have never known life without Google or other online formats of mass information sharing. Recognizing this, I think that as educators we have a responsibility to adapt our classrooms so that they become venues for exciting and engaging learning.
For me, this largely means that instead of fighting back against technology in the classroom, I embrace it and make it an integral part of my courses. It means that education (at least partially) takes place in the online spaces that students are accustomed to and often enjoy.
Remember, the classroom should be an exciting place; I hope you’ll embrace these video projects as an intervention to keep students engaged.
The primary goal of this resource is to provide educators with a broad overview of how to incorporate short-form videos into their courses by providing examples, reflections, and explanations of pedagogical strategies that align with this practice of digital learning.
- Understand pedagogical strategies that incorporate short-form videos.
- Understand how to use short-form videos can be used as a type of formative assessment.
- Be able to identify (and address) potential cons to short-form video assessments.
A second goal of this resource is conveying the educational benefits of short-form videos for students.
Students should use these video projects as a way to…
- Understand how to distill complex information for a general audience—without distorting accuracy.
- Synthesize knowledge with their own life experiences through a creative expression of knowledge.
Video Project Context
In groups of four to five, I have my students make two short videos over the course of a typical 16-week semester.
One reason I like this group project is that it allows for a lot of sharing of knowledge and skills between students. Just as there is variability in students’ content knowledge, there is also variability in their digital skills, and I view this project not only as a creative expression of knowledge but as an opportunity for the interpersonal growth needed in the real world.
The short-form video project is the largest project in my class and is used in place of a typical term paper assignment.
Because it constitutes such a large portion of the students’ grades, I spend some time reviewing the assignment on the first day of class when I go over the syllabus and other course components.
I have found that while many of my students regularly consume short videos on applications like TikTok and Instagram, only a small percentage of students regularly create them. Because of this, I also make sure to review helpful resources pertaining to how to create and edit short-form videos.
I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Course Hero teaching grant in 2022 that I used to fund the purchase of video-creating materials (e.g., iPads, lapel microphones, tripods, etc.). My students can check these materials out from me in order to assist them with the project.
Students are also given the option to use their own devices for video creation, which is often useful when all the other materials have been checked out by other students already.
In sum, it is important to make sure that students:
- Understand the assignment instructions
- Know how to find the resources to help them create the videos (e.g., software, filming devices, etc.).
Tracking Student Success
I frequently check in with students during class meetings to see if they have any questions or need assistance with the project.
Again, the way I implement my short-form video projects is to have students create two videos over the course of a typical 16-week semester. One video is submitted mid-semester, and the final video is submitted at the very end of the semester.
This means that after the first video is submitted, there is an opportunity to sit down with the groups, review the rubric with them, and provide suggestions for improvement before the final video is submitted.
When doing short-form video projects, it is imperative to recognize that not all students have access to a smart phone or other digital materials that may be necessary for implementing the activity.
It’s easy to assume all students have access to a device for filming and editing because smartphones are so ubiquitous in our world, but of course, this isn’t always the case.
In order to make this a more equitable digital learning opportunity for your classes, I encourage you to explore options available at your college or university for temporary access to materials.
Here are a few ways to help students source equipment:
Equipment Rental: Check if your institution has equipment rental services or media centers that lend out cameras and smartphones to students. Let students know how they can access these resources, including rental policies, procedures, and any associated costs.
Campus Media Labs: Many universities have dedicated media labs or production facilities where students can access cameras and other audiovisual equipment. You can direct students to these facilities and provide information on how to reserve equipment or book time in the lab for filming.
Collaborate with Other Departments: Instructors can collaborate with other departments or programs on campus that might have camera equipment available for student use. This could include departments such as journalism, communication, or film studies. Encourage students to reach out to these departments or inquire about equipment availability through the instructor’s connections.
Remember: Some students may not feel comfortable asking for help. Consider including the appropriate resources in your syllabus so students can always have access to them.
Examples of Short-Form Video Projects
Here are some examples of short-form video activities that students can film using mobile devices. Reassure your students that they don’t need to include complex editing techniques. Your assessment should be more on their ability to present and articulate information in a compelling (and accurate) way.
Personal Storytelling: Students can film a brief personal narrative that relates their own life experiences to a concept or topic discussed in class. They can share how the knowledge they’ve gained has impacted them personally, providing a relatable context for complex ideas and encouraging viewers to connect with the subject matter.
Mini Documentary: Students can create a mini-documentary-style video where they interview people in their community who are affected by or have expertise in a particular subject. By blending real-life interviews with relevant visuals and narration, students can showcase the complexities of a topic while making it relatable and understandable for a wider audience.
Public Service Announcement (PSA): Students can film a short PSA-style video that educates the audience about an important social issue or challenge related to the topic being studied. By combining factual information, persuasive storytelling, and a call to action, students can raise awareness and encourage viewers to engage with the subject matter.
Explainer Video: Students can create a concise and visually appealing explainer video that breaks down a complex process, theory, or concept into easy-to-understand steps. By using clear visuals, concise narration, and simple animations, they can effectively communicate the core aspects of the subject matter to a broader audience.
Providing Space for Student Feedback
I have two self-reflection assignments that I have my students complete during the semester. Like the two short-form video projects, these reflections are submitted in the middle of the semester and again at the end.
As part of the reflection, I ask students to tell me what they like and don’t like about the project and if they have any suggestions for how the project can be adapted to help them learn and gain new skills.
Again, if possible, I also think it is important to check in with students during class time to see if they are struggling with any aspect of the assignment or have clarification questions.
A concluding piece of advice that I have is to have fun with it!
I assume this kind of activity is new for most instructors, but it can be such an enjoyable project—often with entertaining results! I find that once students get over the novelty of the assignment, they really embrace it as a creative endeavor and have a great time with it.
I once had a student respond to my feedback saying, “[This] was definitely a project I’ll always remember and laugh about. We’ve already started working on our Oscar speeches.”
Watch Cassie’s Video Series
- My Video Assignment Instructions
- Video Grading Rubric
- Video-Making Resources
- Social Media and Technology Etiquette
- 6 Teachers on TikTok You Should Be Following
Download the Ebook
- Pedagogical strategies that incorporate short-form videos
- Examples of short-form video activities
- How short-form videos can be used as a type of formative assessment