Please find below a blog from Roberta E Taylor in the Institute of Education who has introduced screencasts as a viable alternative to the essay. At the bottom of the blog there are several screencasts showing this type of assessment in practice – they are amazing!
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How can the screencast be a viable academic alternative to the assessed essay? or
Some of the things you never knew about screencasts and didn’t like to ask.
Education in the Digital Age is a new module on the BA Hons Education Studies which has run for the first time this year for third year students. On this degree course we pride ourselves on a varied range of assessment types from presentations to vivas to portfolios as well as more traditional 4,000 word essays. It seemed essential on this module that not only the content (New Literacies, connectivism and complexity (Chaos) theory applied to education, the latest research into digital literacies, the social semiotic theory of communication, and multimodality and multiliteracies) but the teaching style and assessment type reflected the 21st century, forward- looking perspective. I co-supervise a PhD student, Geir Laingen, whose research is investigating the use of screencasts as an assessment tool in Creative Media (Animation, Game Design and Digital Media Production) undergraduate courses and so I was aware of some of the potential and the possible drawbacks of deciding upon such an assessment task. In common with most undergraduates, Education Studies students have varying degrees of confidence in using ICT beyond their own social media lives. And yet the SHU graduate employability profile requires graduates to demonstrate digital literacy and that includes being ”effective at communicating through a range of media.”
There was the issue of parity of assessment types. I knew from previous modules that a viva (oral exam) is expected to be about 20 minutes and that on an English module, a 10 minute monologue and 10 minute viva were considered equal to an essay. The screencast however is a very dense document and 5 minutes can convey not just about 1,000 words of spoken discourse but nuanced and/ or critical multimodal meanings through the visual aspects. It was agreed and approved that a 10 minute presentation of a screencast, to include a 5 minute screencast and 5 minutes of oral reflection on that text and its production, would be equitable with a 4,000 word essay. In addition the screencast voiceover transcript and the reflective commentary were to be submitted in written format online.
So how did it work out? Well, first of all the students were completely in the dark about screencasts. Despite the fact I made a point of including at least one in every lecture, they claimed not to know what they were and, moreover, to be terrified of them. I made the decision to front load the content of the module so that in the first 3 weeks 6 lectures covered half the taught content. This was so that when the students started working on their screencasts in Week 6 of the semester they had already covered ¾ of the module’s taught content regarding theory and research in this area. Manny Madriaga was a module tutor bringing expertise from the field and gave one of the lectures on ICT education policy and two SHU PhD students researching in the area of digital literacies, Geir Laingen and Chris Bailey also gave lectures on their current research. Peter Charlish ran a 2 hour session introducing the students to screencastomatic and screencastify, two programmes the University uses. I showed the students my colleague Jenny Slater’s Powtoon for her ESRC funded project, Around the Toilet, and in a collegial and constructive manner so appropriate to the module, another student introduced Video-scribe, You Tube’s own tool. In the end, a range of programmes were used but Powtoon and Videoscribe were the most popular.
The students then had three further 2 hour sessions booked into ICT rooms so that they could work on their screencasts with at-elbow support from myself and Manny.
In terms of the screencasts I was amazed at the work my students produced in terms of the creativity and academic rigour. They had taken on Geir’s advice regarding the use of images as either illustrative, engaging embellishment (usually) or critique (rarely). They developed the technical skills required to synchronise sound, image and text. They got their messages across in engaging and informative ways. The most striking aspect to it was the academic depth they were able to achieve.
This assessment is not about academic writing per se. It is about multimodal text creation. The act of designing and ‘writing’ the screencast is in itself an act of learning which demonstrates research and design skills. There were some glitches in terms of variable sound quality (quiet one minute, booming the next) or editing (frames cut short), but overall the standard was high. The module feedback reflected the uncertainties of using media new to them, but the students were overwhelmingly appreciative of the challenge and recognised its importance to them in their future careers. The general feeling was ‘it was daunting at first but now I’m so glad I’ve done it’. More importantly, they enjoyed being creative.
If you are still wondering whether a screencast is a viable alternative to the essay, then please take a look below at some of the work students presented.
I am convinced. Not that we shouldn’t set a 4,000 word essay, but that we should also be asking our undergraduates to create the kind of texts it is more than likely will be required of them in the workplace.
Roberta E Taylor – Sheffield Institute of Education (Development & Society)