Details and Logistics

Last Updated: 05/30/2013

Course details
JOUR 4871/5871 - Special Topics, History of Documentary

Scope
The course description reads:
From the first non-fiction narrative film (Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North, 1922) to the groundbreaking Up series (1964-present); from World War II-era propaganda films (Leni Riefenstahl, Frank Capra) to television-based storytelling on HBO and PBS, the documentary has had a rich and varied history. This course will explore the evolution of the documentary, both in feature films and on television, to understand how the genre offers both historical context and an understanding of the world in which we live. 
The course is being taught solely online. The problem I am trying to solve is to make sure that the students are both engaged in the course and have a chance to be able to participate in some of the group feedback/discussion which is typically found in communal screenings. However, I don’t want to simply resort to attempting to replicate the classroom setting via an online chat in Google Groups or another discussion forum.

Description of new technology, teaching method, and how it's implemented
Screencasts:
I see screencasts as a way to replicate classroom lectures for key “big picture” points students should take away from the readings or to give greater detail to important trends in film that the books don’t cover sufficiently. The screencasts may also be used to show edited selections from films that students aren’t expected to view in entirety. I will likely use either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere for editing these screencasts, which will likely be output as Quicktime movies and embedded in either the collaborative blog or on Desire2Learn.
Collaborative classroom multimedia blog:
I still haven’t figured out the optimal blogging platform, but JMC does host Wordpress based sites on an internal server. This will likely be the format I use because of its ease of use as well as the ability it offers for collaboration. It’s also a platform students may have a basic familiarity with. I’m hoping to keep tech support for this class to a minimum.
My idea is for students to be engaged in blogging as a way to replicate in-class discussion. They will make individual postings (and comment on each other’s blog pots) on all the readings as well as for selected films. In the past I’ve had the issue of students not giving meaningful comments to other’s blog posts. So in this assignment students will be required to do three different types of blog posts/comments.
The first would be reading/screencast responses. In this section, whoever responds first would “kick off” the blog post and then all of the other students would be offering comments to the response. The basic protocol would be that they have to not just regurgitate or summarize the reading or screencast, but relate it to documentaries or other storytelling trends they’ve witnessed outside of class. They will be encouraged to embed either video links or images. While the first responder can set the tone for the reading response, the commenters would be required to relate their response in some way to the initial post.
The second would be similar to the posts found on InMediaRes (http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/). Each student will sign up to “curate” topic(s) based on the films we’re viewing and readings. The curated artifact can be an edited film clip or something unique they’ve created, but it must be video based. It will be uploaded to a “curation” page on the blog site, and will include a curator’s statement about why the clip was selected and how it relates to the larger topics we’re discussing. All students will be expected to view the curated page and offer comments.,
The final section will be video reviews of selected films. Students will be expected to use their desktop cameras and basic video editing to create a review of the films assigned for class. The reviews are expected to relate to the readings and place the film within its historical context (i.e. if the review is about The Negro Soldier, it should discuss the use of film as propaganda during World War II).
Collaborative Video:
The plan here is it use a collaborative video app (Voice Thread, Coach's Eye, etc.) to create what in essence would be the classroom equivalent of the “director’s commentary” on DVD releases. I would post selected films to the app with my comments and notes embedded – and the students would be expected to watch the film and then insert their own commentary – either at the same points in the film that I’ve selected or in other areas. Ideally, I’d like to be able to give students access to both a clean and marked up version of the film (in case I draw on the screen to point out certain things).
This will supplement traditional assignments, likely an online exam and/or a final paper or project. I’m hoping these projects will help me to reach my desired outcome, which is happy and engaged students.