Engaging students through authentic learning: presenting Brookes TV

Alla Cordery and James Gray (Technology)

Brookes TV has been running now since March 07. Setting it up has involved some novel problems and correspondingly novel solutions, but the benefits to students have been enormous.

The importance of BTV lies in four areas.

First, in taking decision to make live TV news magazine programmes, we aimed at the most demanding TV format. Our students need to develop a high degree of technical understanding of the sophisticated systems used, plus the ability to operate under pressure with immovable deadlines.

Secondly, making BTV bridges the divide between our students’ university learning and the real world context in which they will have to operate when they graduate. It achieves this because the output from BTV is taken by SixTV, the TV station that broadcasts in the Oxford region. This means that the students’ output has to conform to all the standards, technical, creative and journalistic, that broadcast TV must meet.

Thirdly, BTV provides an opportunity for Brookes students from outside the School of Technology to explore the world of television journalism that is of great interest to many of them. Quite a few students have taken advantage of this, and already two of them (Lucy Jones works at Fox FM and Rupert Manderstam works at Fox TV) have used BTV as a platform from which to embark on a career in the media.

Fourthly, BTV offers the university a platform for communication both within the university and with the wider community. This has been taken up to some extent by the student union for publicising the SU elections earlier this year. All the candidates were able to put a video manifesto onto the BTV website, and debates between candidates were included in several BTV broadcasts. There are still considerable untapped possibilities for the use of BTV as a communication channel by the wider university.

To establish Brookes TV a full studio was set up complete with industry standard hardware and software for producing television news broadcasts. The production of the programmes then became the task for the students on the newsroom modules (1 module for BSc students, 1 module for MSc students). The broadcasts are screened each week by SixTV in Oxford and on the web btv.brookes.ac.uk. This represents a significant uplift to the experience of students in the Media Technology fields. In addition we entered a compilation of our broadcasts to the National Student Television awards and won the top award, which identifies Oxford Brookes as the Best Student Broadcaster in Britain which raises Brookes' profile in the wider world.

Brookes TV has greatly expanded the learning opportunities for our students at several levels:

First, the school has invested in industry standard newsroom equipment, and it is of enormous value to our students that they can become familiar with such a system. They can leave Brookes with a working knowledge of the way in which a news magazine programme is put together at ITV, Sky or CNN.

Secondly, by setting the high standards needed for broadcast TV, we have succeeded in raising the quality of video production achieved by our students, both in the BTV modules and in the rest of their video based work.

Thirdly, we have seconded a craft editor and a journalist from ITV news in Abingdon to help teach the BTV modules, so our students have had the benefit of input from industry practitioners. This adds the industry’s stamp of approval to the lessons the students are learning and as a result they take it even more seriously than they would otherwise.

Fourthly, BTV has added management and negotiation skills to the students’ learning in that they have to make all the arrangements necessary to make the story packages that constitute the bulk of the broadcast. This includes the paper work such as release forms and written permission and consent from the members of the public interviewed. No amount of simulation can teach these skills.