In the fall I had several faculty who decided to allow their students to do a video instead of writing a paper.  It’s a nice change of pace and in most cases the students spend more time with the material, as they repeatedly watch the video during editing, than they would on a paper.  In addition, for some assignments, creating a video can be a more authentic assignment than writing a paper.  For example, Tim Scheett in Health & Human Performance has his students create several video podcasts instead of writing a paper because in the job world video is how they will be expected to deliver information to clients.  Creating a video provides a more real-world scenario.  While this all sounds great, a video assignment comes with many logistical problems.  These problems can make a great assignment a really bad experience if they aren’t addressed early on. Below are SEVEN TIPS that will help you have a more positive and successful experience.

Include a rubric with the assignment

Video assignments are a new medium to most students and possibly to you as well.   It helps everyone get their expectations in line if you include a grading rubric with your assignment.  This helps the students feel more confident in the creating of the assignment.

Have students turn in storyboards as a Part 1 of the assignment

One way to make sure students are on track and to help them manage a potentially foreign task is to have them create a storyboard.  A storyboard is just an outline of how their video will progress, what shots they will need and the basic dialogue.  This will help the students be more efficient in their filming and will allow you to see that they are on the right track before they invest too much time.

Keep videos short when possible

Video takes up a large amount of drive space, both in its raw form and in the final project.  Your students need to be aware of this before they get involved in a project.  For regular digital video 5 minutes of recorded video takes 1 gigabyte of hard drive space.  Knowing this, try to keep your final video short (less than 5 minutes). A ballpark estimate:  30 minutes of raw video (6 GB) edited down to a 5 minute final video (1 GB) plus the temporary drive space for the computer to do the work (6-7 GB) = 13 GB must be available on the hard drive for the project.  If your students are using a high-definition camera (HD) then 5 min of video can take up 4-6 GB.  If they are using a FLIP camera then it will take up less space.

Be as specific as possible about the camera requirements

This is optional but may make everyone’s life a lot easier.  There is benefit to specifying the camera that your students can use.  Specifying the camera gives you the opportunity to practice and become familiar with how it works and allows you to better help your students.   If you allow students to use any camera they want then they have to solve their problems on their own.  While that’s not necessarily a bad thing it can be a point of frustration for a technically challenged student.

Where can I get a camera?  The Faculty Technology Center has three video cameras available for checkout and  four FLIP cameras.  IMPORTANT:  These cameras can only be checked out to faculty and for only one week at a time.  The faculty member would have to come to the FTC and check out the equipment and then they can allow their students to use it.  No, however, that the faculty member or department are responsible for all damage done (if any).

Choose the appropriate editing application

This too is optional but  making your students aware of what each app can do can greatly ease everyone’s pain.  The components required in the final product will determine which application you use.  For instance, if the video is made only of still images then they can use VoiceThread or Photostory.  If the final video is made up of edited video, audio and images then they will have to use iMovie or MovieMaker.  Check out the comparison matrix (Matrix_VideoAssignment.pdf) to help you make a decision.  I have also created tutorials on how to use the apps on the matrix.  IMPORTANT:  Be aware that the app they choose may affect your ability to view the final video.  Photostory creates a file that cannot be viewed on a Mac.  Likewise, MovieMaker also creates a format that is difficult for a Mac to play.

Make it easy to turn in the video for grading

Nothing’s worse than spending a lot of time making the perfect video then not being able to submit it. Since videos are large they may not be able to email their final video to you.  So how do they give you their final project?  Below are several options but you should choose one and be specific about your expectations.

  • CD/DVD – one option is to have each student burn a CD or DVD and turn that in.  Potential Problems: The format of the final output may not be compatible with your computer. Not all students know how to burn a CD.  Mac burned CDs may not play on a Windows machine.
  • VoiceThread – it is fully online so the student just needs to share it with you and you can see the final video.
  • Flashdrive – the student can save the final project to a flash drive and turn that in.  Potential Problems: The format of the final output may not be compatible with your computer.  Also, Mac formatted flash drives are not viewable on a Windows machine.  Lastly, you have to keep up with and return their flash drives.
  • Upload to a file sharing site – your students can upload to a common file upload site.  There are a few free ones out there that are really easy to use. allows users to upload a 200MB file as does  Potential Problems: Videos may be larger than 200MB in size.

    Once you narrow down the specifics of the assignment I would love to work with you to determine the best way for your students to submit.  I can also write up exporting instructions to help your students get the smallest file size.

    Be flexible

    This is a different type of assignment and will come with unexpected problems.  Consider doing a draft submission a few weeks before the real deadline to make sure that the students know how to export and submit their final assignment.  This gives them time to work out any problems so there are less excuses at the end.  Know that there will be some submissions you can’t view.  Don’t worry, just contact me and I’ll help you convert them.

    Hopefully these tips will help you have a successful video assignment and make it a positive experience for both you and your students.  Please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions or concerns.