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Alternative online lectures

Brief description

The purpose of this course is to give students a comprehensive overview of recent film and television history and to increase their theoretical awareness when selecting an approach to studying film and media history. The course is divided into 13 lessons of three hours, and all 54 students are in the same class.

The teacher’s motivation

Due to the Covid-19 shutdown, it was not possible to hold in-person lectures. I wanted to find some pedagogical formats that were valid, if not better, alternatives (even if they didn’t necessarily allow for the same type of learning). At the same time, I wanted to follow the scheduled plan that the teaching team had coordinated, since this was made with the students’ complete semester plan in mind. In this regard, I also wanted to honour the planned preparation and teaching hours. I also wanted to keep the activities in Blackboard (NB: now Brightspace), since this platform had already been used as part of this course and the preceding course (part 1). – and, therefore, a lot of important information (e.g. the semester plan, PowerPoint slides, literature and previous student assignments) had already been uploaded to the platform. The activity is intended to be formatted as an online lecture which allows for interaction and discussion. Teachers and students will find that the format allows for more presence and involvement than unidirectional lectures.

Description of the activity

The alternative online lectures are divided into two parts, which take place before and during the live lecture respectively.

Before the live lecture:

  • The students watch two specially recorded lectures each lasting 45 minutes during the usual teaching hours from 9.00-11.00. They have two hours to watch 90 minutes, so they have time to check that the technology works, take a break, or re-watch something they missed.
  • During these two hours, I am available in a Virtual Room in Blackboard (NB: you can use the chat function in Brightspace). In the Virtual Room’s chat forum, the students can ask clarifying questions about the lectures, which I answer throughout the two hours. The students also contribute by answering each other’s questions.

During the live lecture:

  • At 11.15 I go live in the Virtual Room, and I share my screen with the students. The basic material is still PowerPoint presentations.
  • I start the lecture where the recorded lectures left off. For technical reasons, this kind of livestreaming doesn’t work well with audio from movie and television clips. That means I use fewer examples in this lecture than during the recorded lectures. As there are 54 students in the class, asking students to answer questions orally or asking for a show of hands doesn’t work well either. That’s why I urge the students to comment and ask questions in the same chat that started at 9.00. Along the way, I also ask the students questions that they answer in the chat.
  • After the lecture, I upload the PowerPoint slides that I used during the lectures (both recorded and live). This ensures that the students have access to them when they prepare for their exams

Applied technology

This course is about film and media history, so it’s essential to show clips from films, series, digital archives and streaming interfaces. The best way to ensure a smooth and efficient presentation is to put the examples into the PowerPoint slides. You can also show the clips in a browser (e.g. Chrome) or a media player (e.g. VLC) outside of the PowerPoint presentation, which entails switching back and forth between the two programmes.

To record the lectures, I used the function ‘New Screen Recording’ in Quick Time. I set the programme to record audio via my Mac’s microphone (a noise reducing function improves the audio quality). The programme records what’s happening on my screen or, if I prefer, a segment of my screen, while the microphone records sound from my speakers and sound from the examples I incorporate in my PowerPoint slides. The audio and image quality is very good, even when I don’t export the files in the highest resolution possible. In other courses it’s not as important to include examples with audio and film, which makes the work easier.

Outcome of the activity

From a student perspective:

  • The students were pleased with the initiative and were particularly pleased that we could continue using examples from film and television history.

  • They said that, from a learning perspective, the course was just as rewarding as before the Covid-19 shutdown, and that some aspects had even been improved.

  • Some students were more comfortable contributing in a chat forum than by raising their hand during a lecture. One student wrote in the evaluation: “I actually participated more actively during Covid than before (...)” (student from the class).

  • In this type of online lecture, approx. 10-15 per cent more material is covered than in a traditional lecture

From a teaching perspective:

  • Overall, I could keep my normal, weekly workflow as a teacher.

  • You expand your communicative repertoire. For example, you need to adjust your tone of voice and think of yourself as a voiceover artist or a podcast host as opposed to a lecturer that needs make their voice heard at the back of a room.

  • All of the lectures could potentially be reused in the same course, so you don’t need to record them again.

  • If I were at a conference or unable to be present in person at a lecture in the future, I would be inclined to use this activity.

Worth considering

  • The first time you do this, it’s more time consuming than preparing for a traditional course. You need time to film, repeat or edit the recordings, which are fairly large files that first need to be exported to Quick Time and then uploaded to Blackboard (NB: now Brightspace).
  • It is important to make it clear that the recorded lectures are only for internal use in the class and cannot be distributed.
  • For larger groups of students, I suggest laying down some guidelines for communicating in the chat.

Basic information

  • Faculty: Arts
  • Degree programme: Media studies, Bachelor's supplementary subject in film and media
  • Course: Film and Media History II
  • Study level: BA, 6th semester (2nd semester of the Bachelor's supplementary subject)
  • Size of class: 54 students.
  • Form of instruction: Lecture
  • Extent: The entire course
  • Applied technology: Blackboard (NB: Brightspace is now used), PowerPoint, Quick Time.
  • How the case is carried out: Online/Distance learning