It has been one year since we entered this historic pandemic that has had quite an effect on us all and that presented unprecedented challenges for educators and students but offered some surprising innovations as well.
Last spring when we received notice that all classes were being moved to an online delivery platform until further notice, it caused panic and forced creativity like never before, especially for those of us who teach hands-on experiential learning related courses.
While I have been developing and teaching online courses for years that are conceptual and history focused, such as “Media Literacy”, “Media Copywriting” and “Introduction to Film Studies”, all courses have had an online component that allow for content sharing which provided a platform for developing new ways of engaging students synchronously and asynchronously.
Some examples of innovative teaching and learning opportunities included preproduction fantasy casting and location scouting for student scripts for my “Advanced Field Production” class which had students select actors (living or dead) to play the roles of the characters using a formula to determine their specific qualifications and characteristics as well as location scouting with imaginary budgets which also proved to be interesting, fun and effective.
Over the summer, students worked on service-learning projects remotely in collaboration with non-profit organizations who provided content such as voiceover narration, contextual images and feedback on the project development process that involved screen and project sharing with programs like Adobe Premiere that proved to be convenient and efficient.
Last fall when students and faculty were given the option to return to campus with social distancing measures, the majority of faculty elected to remain online but those of us who teach production and performance classes had to get creative to accommodate limited occupancy for labs and classrooms through the creation of smaller groups of students who alternated with in-person attendance and online engagement which presented a viable alternative to online exclusive learning.
Classes like “Introduction to Storytelling” and “Field Production” offered students the chance to learn the associated production techniques and craft with the use of portable production equipment and accessories that were facilitated with a “curbside to go” check out process that required proper cleaning and sanitation and prevented the spread of Covid germs in the process.
We are now in the final weeks of our spring semester this year, where classes like “Web Series” have adapted production industry best practices for socially distanced production on sets which has afforded hands-on experiential learning that exceeded initial expectations and will conclude with projects that the students can be proud of, especially knowing the additional challenges they have faced with pandemic modifications and experiences that will not be soon forgotten but will serve as reference and reminders of the power of creative resourcefulness and perseverance.
Erik L. Johnson
Associate Professor of Stage & Screen Arts
University of Wisconsin-River Falls