Audio/Video Stretches Student Coursework Beyond Written Research Papers

by Alex Gay

posted on 04-01-2019

In today’s higher education classroom, it’s common to see video and audio used as a teaching tool through things like video lectures or instructional podcasts. Kaltura’s study “State of Video Education in 2018” found that 95 percent of educational professionals, staff, and students “view video as an important part of digital literacy, especially given recent concerns about ‘fake news.’”

Digital literacy is the power to use digital tools, enabling students to solve problems, create innovative projects, and enhance communications to prepare for the challenges of an evolving workplace. So could video and audio play a greater role in student digital literacy? While students are consuming video and audio, less than 10 percent of them create video as part of their classwork. Creating video and audio helps students become more digitally literate through personalized learning, critical thinking through research and information fluency, and problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Personalized learning

“Students are showing an increasing desire to be more independently in control of their learning journey and to create ‘personalized learning environments’ in and outside of the classroom,” says a white paper from Sage Publications. “Video provides that opportunity for students to take fuller control over their learning, both the flexibility over when it’s watched but also as a tool to create video material as part of their act of learning.”

Lea Anna Cardwell, a former professional communication student at Clemson University, personalized her learning experience by taking advantage of Adobe products at her school. As a new MA student, she realized that even though she was a great student on paper, she had nothing to show for it. Instead of simply fulfilling the requirements for her master’s program, she used digital creative apps to learn how to compile video. She used her video as part of her online portfolio to secure an internship at Adobe. Video skills helped her transform her learning experience into something more meaningful and useful than it otherwise would have been.

Software like Adobe Spark and Premiere Rush allow students to make videos on their mobile devices. This convenience makes it easy for students to customize their classwork, no matter their discipline.

Critical thinking through research and information fluency

Creating a video or audio project has some overlap with the traditional research paper or essay. Both avenues take planning, research, and the ability to discern poor sources from reliable ones.

But unlike writing a paper, creating a video or audio project requires additional digital skills. Students must think about these digital projects differently and more deeply, especially as they are learning new digital skills.

When students use digital tools to create, “their understanding of the subject matter improves, they engage more deeply with their learning, and they develop a creative mindset,” according to a white paper co-sponsored by Adobe and Education Dive. In other words, creating video and audio projects actually helps students’ research lead to more effective learning.

Additionally, video and audio editing require students to look closely at the relationships among collected information. The aim of video and audio projects is to be displayed to an audience, so students have to think very critically as they are researching. What information belongs in this project and what doesn’t? How should I present this information in such a way that it makes the most sense to my audience? Which parts of my research are the most relevant and interesting in the context of what’s going on in the world or community?

“The best way to build critical-thinking skills is for students to make something themselves and make strategic choices about what they’re going to include and exclude,” says Todd Taylor, professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Creating video and audio heightens the need for students to make strategic choices and become more intelligent researchers and consumers of information.

To help students be critical thinkers as they conduct research, educators might consider assigning students to make a documentary film instead of writing a conventional research paper. One student, who had never used Adobe Premiere Pro, created an engaging 10-minute video documenting her research on Alzheimer’s.

Problem-solving and decision-making

In higher education, students should be preparing to solve real-world problems and make difficult decisions. Problem-solving and decision-making are two natural products of creating video and audio projects. And this holds true across disciplines.

For example, second-year engineering students at the University of Virginia “were required to produce a six-minute podcast that discussed a major, real-world engineering project and its impact. The goal was to get students engaged in big-picture engineering questions, as the big-picture thinking normally does not occur until the final year of an engineering curriculum.”

“Student-created podcasts for course assignments may range from the creation of public service announcements and movie reviews to engineering projects and impacts,” according to Stanford University’s Tomorrow’s Professor Postings. “Podcasts have demonstrated a use and purpose in higher education that is innovative and effective.”

The podcast genre encourages students to talk with laypeople and experts alike, gathering an array of perspectives and proposed solutions to real-world problems. Through the process, students “engage in a combination of non-fiction, journalism, and anthropological ethnography to report on their observations and conclusions.” And then they have their own problems to solve and decisions to make: how to create a coherent, engaging final product that is informative and covers the subject matter. They also have the opportunity to make creative and technological decisions by using software like Adobe Audition.

Active video use in higher education isn’t as high as it could be, but according to Kaltura’s study, most educators and students “believe in the power of video to have a positive impact on their institutions.” Creating both video and audio helps students become more digitally literate. Through these media, students gain personalized learning, critical thinking through research and information fluency, and problem-solving and decision-making skills, all of which prepare students for the evolving workforce.

See what other educators have done to build digital literacy through video and audio.

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