UW News

May 28, 2009

Class Notes: Smile, professors! You’re on YouTube

Class title: EDUC 402: YouTube Goes to College: Documenting Excellent Teaching and Learning on the UW Campus, taught by Eugene Edgar, professor in the College of Education; Mary Pat Wenderoth, senior lecturer in biology; and Scott Macklin, chief technology officer of the College of Education.

Description: In this 3-credit course, each student chooses an excellent class they have taken or are currently taking to document on video. The course’s 16 students come from all disciplines and are allowed to focus on any class, from hard sciences to humanities. Using Flip cameras, students film interviews with the instructor and current students throughout the quarter, and edit the footage to create a five to 10-minute video that will be posted on YouTube. Students are encouraged to work in pairs to help each other with ideas and filming, but each must produce his or her own video.

Instructor’s views: “Most of the awards for good teaching, and most of the talk here about what good teaching is, come from faculty or administrators,” said Edgar, who developed the class with Wenderoth after she came up with the initial idea. “Why don’t we just we start at the other end with students, and create a space where students from across campus and across departments could come together and just say, ‘What is good teaching? How do you decide what’s a good class?’ ”

Edgar said the outcomes of this first-time class could benefit students in multiple ways. “In one sense, ‘What is good teaching and learning?’ is a theoretical question,” he said. “I think that’s useful for students in general because teaching and learning is not confined to school; life is full educational opportunities, and to be thoughtful about that is really good, I think.

“On the other hand, the class provides the opportunity for students to learn some specific skills, which is different than theory and knowledge — how to use these little Flip cams and make movies.”

Unexpected experiences: Edgar said he was surprised by the range of students’ skills with video and editing. “Some of students are so sophisticated with video and technology and YouTube and editing. I was really amazed,” he said. “And then other students aren’t that technologically skilled at all.” Tech expert Macklin showed less-knowledgeable students not only how to operate the cameras, but how to think about different types of camera angles, methods for interviewing, ways to edit footage and add music and graphics.

All three instructors will likely be surprised by the final videos; after all, they haven’t required students to tell them which classes or instructors they’re documenting. “We have no idea what’s going to happen,” Edgar said. “The notion was just to create that space, and to give students some guidance and technical support and say, ‘Go be creative.’ ”

Student views: Senior Israel Martinez, a psychology major with a minor in education, learning and society, said the class is turning out to be more difficult than he initially thought. “The greatest challenge is being able to organize all the material and condense it from two hours of footage to 15 minutes,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“This truly is a unique and exciting class,” Martinez wrote. “Unique as in being able to interview professors and students, and filming everything is exciting because everyone will watch your final cut. It also helps that our filming expert, Scott [Macklin], knows these things like the back of his hand.”

Assignments: Students create a five to 10-minute video of a class of their choice that illustrates excellent teaching and learning. They also write a three to five-page reflection paper about what they have learned about teaching and learning as a result of creating their video.

Reading: None.

Class Notes is an occasional column that describes interesting or unusual classes at the UW.