Notes from NERCOMP SIG: Getting Your Hands Dirty with Multimedia

My colleague Susan Simon and I were invited to speak on a panel hosted by the NorthEast Regional Computing Program on October 6, 2011 and coordinated by Mitch Shuldman.  The following are my notes on the talks by the other presenters.

Bret Olsen and Janet Simons – Hamilton College

Student assistants provide support in three Mac multimedia labs across campus. They also employ Media Interns, a position that requires more training and assumes greater responsibilities. The media center also loans equipment.

Course Support Process:

  • The Hill Group consists of Academic Support, IT and Librarians
  • Meet with faculty; assess learning goals. Train faculty in multimedia tools.  Provide in-class workshops for students; just-in-time training; one-on-one training.
  • Create checkpoints for students; they turn in portions of the assignment to the academic technology staff and faculty.
  • Faculty model the outcome that they want the students to achieve. Instructors complete their own assignment so they understand what students will be doing and so that students understand what is expected from them.

Media center staff manage video storage accounts for students and also support independent student projects (especially problematic or involved for the Humanities / interdisciplinary projects).


Jamie Trainor – Simmons College

The support for multimedia projects at Simmons is minimally staffed, however Jamie has found several approaches that help improve the quality of student’s work while minimizing the amount of time she has to spend with each student.

Assignment 1: Improving student posters

Students were creating large posters to convey information about a research project, however the posters were lacking in key areas of design and legibility.  To help student improve their poster’s layout and readability, Jamie crated a template for poster projects so that students can manipulate the content within a readable layout.  This type of support was particularly helpful to students in the sciences, as they do not typically have an art or design background and are not experienced at creating visual representations of complex data.

Jamie also created a support timeline to help set realistic expectations for help before students approached her.  The support timeline explains how much assistance can be provided at various intervals (2 weeks before due date; 1 week before due date; 3 days before due date).

Assignment 2: Create a digital case study

Jamie encouraged a transition from using iMovie to VoiceThread for creating simple slide shows with audio voiceovers.  VoiceThread is multi-platform and web-available (does not require installation of special software on the user’s computer). Students can use PowerPoint to create a storyboard, and use the Notes feature to script their voiceover with each photo. Students were already familiar with PowerPoint and the process of building a presentatin this way, so the transition to building their projects in VoiceThread was simple.

With this tool, students have more control over their final project and the time required to support each student is reduced by about 90%, allowing support for many more classes with VoiceThread projects than a similar number using iMovie.


Mitch Shuldman – University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Information Literacy: Define the Problem; Locate & Access; Evaluate & Manage; Use; Ethical Considerations (plagiarism, fair use, copyright). These aspects of an approach to multimedia assignments teach more than production skills to students. Participants learn to locate sources, evaluate information, and use the sources and the ideas that they develop on their own in a way that conveys an effective argument or persuasive message.

Recent examples of media projects reach outside the classroom. Rather than having students turn in a research project that only affects their grade in the course, they are working on video projects that have a broader use or audience.

In a community health class, students developed a video about the signs and dangers of prescription drug additction that is used by the Massachusetts health department.

In an English class, students participated in a community writing project about outreach in Peru.

In the Principles of Ecology course, students created videos designed to explain complex natural phenomena to a lay audience.

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