Two of the key aspects to a well designed project of any type are concrete plans for how to assess student work and how to inform students of what is expected of them. Video projects are no exception to this; however, there are some specific aspects of video projects that need to be taken into account when creating an assessment strategy and deciding how to inform students of the project expectations. In Part 1 of this series, different video editing software were compared and in Part 2 the time commitment of students was discussed. The decisions made about those two aspects of the video project play a large role in determining how students will be graded on their work. It is also important to determine those two aspects in order to develop a solid set of guidelines for the students to follow. Worth noting is that the work put into this part of the project planning will pay large dividends when receiving student submissions as the student work may vary wildly depending on the framework of the project, and having a plan on how to conquer that complexity and deliver consistent and fair grades will ensure that the project will be a success.
The first thing to consider when thinking about how student video projects will be graded is to have a clear idea of what the educational goals of the project are. As we discussed in the previous part of this series, the type of video project that is assigned can have a profound impact on what the students take away from the project. For example, if the students are assigned to record themselves speaking in a video booth, that puts the focus directly on the content they are delivering and the performance of speaking in front of an audience. However, if a group is charged with creating a skit or a documentary, that will challenge them to reconceptualize the class materials in a new way, and perhaps enhance their understanding of the materials. Having a clear vision of the goals for a particular video project in the context of the rest of the course can help make the project more integrated into the course and feel less tacked on.
Next, there should be clear guidelines given to the students in regards to the kinds of content that they will be expected to create for the project. Research papers are not often assigned without a set of guidelines such as word count, topic scope, and format rules. Video projects should be treated the same way, for a number of reasons. First, there is a tendency to overestimate what can be accomplished in creative projects. When a student is told to do whatever they want with a project with no clear boundaries, in can lead them to feel like they can accomplish more than they could possibly achieve with the time available. Second, there is often not a good way to judge how many of the students have relevant skills to video projects. That can lead to a handful of projects that have a lot of skillful work, and others that seem less polished. It is hard to stop skilled students from showing off what they know, but by establishing clear guidelines about how a video should look and what it contains, the students without the skills are aware of the level they must meet to compete. Third, by having clear guidelines about what equipment and software tools they should use for the project establishes everyone on an equal playing field. A group that uses the camcorders available from the ISS Loan Center and uses iMovie, for example, may have a drastically different looking project than a student that has access to a high-end DSLR and uses motion graphics programs. While it may be tempting to say that students should be able to use whatever they have access to, it can be actively unhelpful to those with fewer skills and resources available to them. It also may seem easy to not be swayed by higher production values and motion graphics before the projects are delivered, but in practice it is easier to overlook faults in content when production values are high.
While all projects can benefit from having a rubric, video projects in particular can benefit from the use of one. First, video projects tend to have components to them that are independent of each other in terms of the skills and knowledge needed to demonstrate competency. For example, the information delivered in the video would be one element, the technical aspects of the video can be another, and the creativity of the piece can be a third. Each of those sections can be broken down further if the project calls for more granularity in the grading scheme. Second, rubrics that are shared with students prior to the project give them an idea of what is expected of them in the project. Students that know they are being graded on creativity and technical skill, for example, will be more likely to focus on those elements of the project and will not view the project as a cakewalk just because they are not being made to write a lengthy research paper. Finally, having an accessible rubric can help shield a professor from the criticisms that grading creative content can bring. Having clear guidelines about originality, complexity, and even aesthetics can help prevent students from questioning the grades they are given for a particular project.
Finally, it can be very helpful to offer students both a check-in during the video planning process and a revision period where they can take the feedback that instructors and peers provide and apply it to the video project for a final grade. It is easy, both while writing and editing, to overlook errors that others can find immediately. It also reinforces the idea with students that academic and creative work is part of a process that involves feedback and revision. As well, if the final destination for these products is on a public-facing site or if they will be screened for the public, students will want to put their best foot forward. Giving them an opportunity to revise their work with appropriate feedback will ensure that they not only understand the process better, but ultimately feel better about their work and their grades.
Thank you for reading our continued series on video projects. You can go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 here. In our next part, we will discuss the different hardware options available to students to produce their video projects. It will be available in the next issue of the Engage Newsletter.