Multimedia Assignments

In the previous post, we looked at a debate on the value of a certain type of student writing assignments. The upshot was that it might be in the best interests of students for instructors to model real-life research experiences and allow for presentation of research results in the range of media possibilities available to working professionals. Creating multimedia assignments for your students may have appeal, but for instructors taking the plunge for the first time, such assignments may seem daunting. You may be equating multimedia with video, and video with movie production, and imagining that students will somehow need to become budding Quentin Tarantinos in addition to learning all the course materials. And where is that video equipment going to come from?

Image showing icon-style examples of text, audio, still images, animation, video and interactivity.In truth, multimedia creation can output to a wide range of formats, including digital posters, audio-casts, timelines, visualizations, digital/online exhibitions, websites, blogs, presentation software productions, and video. Video can be produced using easy to learn and readily available applications. PowerPoint and Keynote offer low-tech solutions as there are options to save presentations as video files. Student don’t need a video camera for these – still images combined with timed transitions, animations, and music or voice-over recordings can make for very effective end products. For true video, many students have smartphones that are capable of shooting video clips for editing in iMovie, or Windows Movie Maker, or even on the phone itself.

Unless your goal is for students to learn advanced digital video skills, the slickness of the end product should not be the sole determinant of the grade. Rather, just as you would grade a text assignment, your assessment rubric should focus on the strength of the argument and supporting evidence. But, your first question should be whether a multimedia assignment is in alignment with your teaching objectives.

Mike Heller, Departmental Teaching Fellow (Music) at Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, has created a two minute video on the five key considerations for designing multimedia assignments. These are:

1. Why create a multimedia assignment? What is the value added?

2. Be aware of the myth of the digital native. Not all students are technical wizards. Their experience and expertise will vary. It’s a good idea to start with lower stakes assignments to get students familiar with multimedia technologies before introducing a major project.

3. Don’t just teach the tools, teach the critical thinking. Try folding a traditional assignment into the multimedia project, perhaps by having students write an essay before adapting it into a video presentation.

4. Set clear goals by creating a concrete rubric. Without this you may find it difficult to assign grades once you receive the work.  Having a clear vision of your primary learning objectives will make it much easier when it comes to grading and providing feedback.

5. Communicate your teaching goals to your students. Distributing your rubric when you make the assignment is a good way to achieve this. By offering specific guidelines about the skills you want them to learn you insure that students are clear about the assignment.

In regards to the third point on teaching critical thinking as well as the tools, you may not have the expertise to teach some of the multimedia tools and that may determine the path you take in deciding how to frame the assignment. Look for resources on your campus.

Here at Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, we have the Digital Media Center  providing student support. See the end of the post for suggestions and links to specific free online platforms to support multimedia assignments.

Another tip sheet for creating multimedia assignments can be found at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Office of Instructional Technology – 10 Tips for Successful Multimedia Assignments.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Technology to Enhance Learning Experience module – Five Steps to Creating Successful Multimedia Assignments – suggests that instructors “…[c]omplete the technology-based assignment yourself before assigning it to students. This will give you the most accurate idea of the amount of time and training involved, and the challenges that students may encounter. This will also enable you to develop a rubric for grading and communicating your expectations to students”

If the final products are going to be shared on public websites or otherwise publicly accessible, you will want to think about copyright issues. This can be a good opportunity to teach your students about copyright and fair use. Depending on your institution, there may be library staff able to provide assistance or other resources available, perhaps through the college or university office of legal counsel. We have a great LibGuide entitled Copyright and Fair Use: Trends and Resources for 21st Century Scholars here at JHU to get you started. 

Suggested Resources

Blogs – Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress
Timelines – Timeline JS, SIMILE  Timeline
Digital/Online Exhibitions – Padlet, Omeka, Google Sites, WordPress, Tumblr
Websites – Google Sites, WordPress

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: CC Kevin Jarret – http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/2856162498/in/photostream/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia

2 thoughts on “Multimedia Assignments

  1. Pingback: The Virtue of Virtual Exhibitions | The Innovative Instructor

  2. Pingback: Resources for Multimedia Creation | The Innovative Instructor

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