Video assignments

Video assignments comprise a wide range of possible assignment types from personal reflection videos in which students video-record themselves and upload those recordings to a shared space, such as Canvas, to assignments in which students are responsible for capturing, editing, narrating, and producing a polished product. Each type of assignment places more or less emphasis on either the production aspects of video or on the communicative, instructional aspects of video. Consider the following types of assignment that involve video production in some way.

Video documentary, video essay, or short film

Video is truly multi-media, providing oportunities to express oneself with visuals, sound, and text. The wide range of skills involved in capturing video, curating and editing video, possible adding narration, and the challenges of dealing with very large filesizes, mean that a video assignment can be quite daunting for students and for instructors. This wide range of tasks can also contribute to a valuable group assignment in with varied reponsibilities and roles.

News reporting or video interviews

Producing video-based news stories and capturing interviews, while quite different activities, both require students to carefully plan their work, including deciding on locations, topics of discussion, subjects, and pacing.

Video photo essay

A video photo essay takes advantage of the medium of video but may consist of recorded narration and music  over a series of still images.  This can be as impactful as actual video but may be more practical in some cases (consider historical imagery and the ‘Ken Burns effect’ or historical subject matter for which no video exists), or simply easier to construct, requiring less time for in-class training.

Personal reflection

Students can provide reflections on course readings, experiences related to coursework, or as a way to share their background knowledge of the course subject matter.

Instructional video

Video can of course by use to provide asynchronous instruction to students by capturing lectures or capturing and narrating screen/whiteboard recordings. These recordings can form the basis of an assignment in Canvas in which students submit their answers or other feedback. There is also, however the possibility of tasking students, or groups of students, with the creation of instructional video. Students could for example create recordings of themselves working through problems and demonstrating the process of arriving at their answers, thereby possibly helping to pinpoint areas of confusion, and perhaps leading to a repository of helpful videos for future students in the course.

Performance capture

The term performance may bring to mind a theater or music hall, but in terms of assignments, can also include any learning outcomes that are performative, such as public speaking, role playing, or foreign language oral practice.


    Storytelling vs. Instruction

    Some types of assignments, such as short documentary films, are creative, story-telling assignments that may involve not only learning to use the software but also in developing the skills of effectively conveying a story. Other assignments may use video more simply to capture students thoughts or performace. For these latter assignments, the video capture tools built into Canvas, Kaltura, and Panopto will suffice.

      Assignment considerations

      • Keep it short! Video editing can be a very time-consuming process. A two or three minute video can convey a lot of information and, when done well, can be a challenging assignment. Limiting the scope of a video project also introduces en element of information curation into the assignment process.
      • Have students submit a storyboard as the first step of the assignment. A storyboard is simply an outline of the video with possible shots, scenes, and basic dialogue.
      • A video assignment may be a new experience for many students. Consider outlining your expectations in a grading rubric to provide a scaffold.
      • Video assignments can present more logistical problems than other types of activities, including choosing the cameras, the software, and potential very large files. If possible, work with the staff of McGraw’s Digital Learning Lab (DLL) to identify equipment and software students will use to complete the assignment. The DLL also offers ample storage space for video files.
      • Video editing software such as Adobe Premiere, DaVinci Resolve, and even iMovie, offer many options but may require training. For simpler assignments, software such as Keynote, Powerpoint, Zoom, and VoiceThread may be easier to learn and can be used to generate videos that combine image and voiceover narration.
      • Simple videos, such as video reading responses or student interviews, that do not involve transitions, titles, and music can be recorded and uploaded directly within the Canvas learning management system.

      Student preparation

      Learning to edit video not only necessitates learning how to use video editing software, which can be quite complex, but also involves developing storytelling skills and how good stories are conveyed via scenes, shots, transitions, titles, dialogue, and characters. The results of all this work can be rewarding, but will require significant time in and out of class. A video assignment should, ideally, be a culmination of a series of assignments that involve script-writing drafts, revisions, hands-on practice in the use of the software, peer-review and discussion.

      Possible tools

      • Adobe Premiere
      • Adobe Rush
      • DaVinci Resolve
      • WeVideo
      • iMovie
      • OpenShot
      • Keynote, Powerpoint
      • Zoom
      • VoiceThread

      Rubrics and resources

      Example podcasting assignments