Multiple experiences, multiple modes: engaging learners through the production of educational support resources

  • Oksana Fedotova, Media Arts and Communications, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK

    Cathy Malone, Student Learning Services, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK

    Geir Laingen, Dept of Education, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK

    The proposed seminar is based on a recent collaboration between educational developers and academic staff teaching on BA Animation at Sheffield Hallam University, and a small-scale qualitative study evaluating this experience. Using the preliminary research findings as a starting point, we shall consider the value of introducing audiovisual assessment methods into critical-theoretical modules. Secondly, we shall consider the ways in which the University services can act as partners in pedagogic interventions, expanding students' work-based learning opportunities and benefitting from their creative input. The presentation will be illustrated by short screenings of student work.

    The use of multimedia teaching resources has been well documented, particularly in relation to online tutorials and demonstrations (Sugar et al 2010). Theories of multimedia learning suggest several advantages of mixed modality presentations (Moreno and Mayer 1999). Addressing several modes at once (verbal, audio, visual) increases learner engagement, as well as acting as a welcome 'just in time' refresher (Coutinho and Rocha 2010). More recently, there has been a shift towards student-produced digital artefacts, underpinned by the constructivist views of learning and the appreciation of the participatory nature of contemporary youth culture. Acting as decision-makers, producers and evaluators positions the learners at higher stages of Bloom's taxonomy (Shafer 2010). Kress et al (2001) argue that this process has a transformative nature, both due to the learner actively reshaping the available semiotic resources, and in terms of the resulting cognitive shifts.

    The first part of the presentation will focus on the curricular developments applying these ideas to a second-year module, traditionally dealing with theoretical texts and academic essay writing. The module was redesigned to introduce audiovisual digital assignment to be screened in front of a simulated panel from across the University services. The second part of the paper describes the work the students undertook after the end of the module, for a number of University clients, including disabled student support, wellbeing, and study support. The project showcases student work, offers an authentic client-based employment opportunity, whilst at the same time capturing the student voice reflecting on University experiences for an audience of their peers. The way the students communicate advice to peers or re-version existing materials, produces resources different in content and tone to traditional study support resources. The use of a primarily visual narrative allows for digressions and puns that have little place in branded corporate message. These personal messages acknowledge and explore problems rather than rushing to the solutions, validating the multiplicity of personal experiences of university life. This shift in tone and media provides a counterpoint to the "discoursal expression of power" (Van Dijk 1998) implicit in corporate pages of study advice. The project aims to re-assert learner agency and ownership within University experience, whilst also creating the engagement context that fosters and rewards independence, creativity and attention to client's needs.

    On presenting the preliminary research findings, the seminar participants will be invited to discuss the pedagogic challenges, operational and resource implications and their potential transferability outside media arts disciplines.