“Video Storytelling for the Web” just launched on the Poynter Institute’s News University (NewsU) site.
I was delighted to receive that e-mail announcement from NewsU manager Vicki Krueger because I was one of the three who developed the content for the course.
The idea of having online courses, those that would be connected to tuition or certificate-program payment, is the buzz on the University of Florida campus, as every college is motivated to generate its own income to help offset the loss of state income. But not very many of those involved in the conversation — either at the management level or the faculty I-can-put-my-course-online level are aware of the time and logistics involved in creating a successful online course.
This course is a good example of the process involved in developing online training/courses.
The course started as an idea with grant funding. Carol Knopes, Radio and Television Digital News Foundation, approached my colleague Judy Robinson and me about creating a course to help teach media professionals, college and high school students and teachers, and others who would like to do video storytelling on the Web.
Shooting and editing video are skills required in more and more media-related jobs and freelance work, and are skills that right now aren’t included in many media education programs (high school or college) and aren’t provided for on-the-job media professionals.
Judy and I said yes, in part because we had worked with Carol and NewsU on a previous course (Reporting Across Platforms) and had enjoyed the learning experience and the ability to help others through online learning.
Remember that I mentioned funding. That’s an important element in developing online courses — funding to pay the content developers and funding to construct the course. The funding was a grant to RTDNF from the Knight Foundation.
The next step in working with Carol was to list what she wanted in the course. We had to consider audience, what other courses NewsU had that taught related skills, our timeline and our budget.
Next, Judy and I recruited Bonnie Layton to be part of our content development team. We had worked with Bonnie in a multimedia course at Indiana University and knew her skills. And she had 20 years of experience in the news business, most recently as a designer for The Chicago Sun Times. The three of us took the outline of the course and brainstormed on what were the priorities of the course and how we could present concepts in a helpful and interactive way.
Next, we mapped out a detailed course structure with the NewsU folks. Carol and I had a face-to-face meeting at Poynter with some of the NewsU staff. Vicki, in particular, helped us stay focused on the course priorites and avoid “mission creep,” as she called it. That’s the tendency when you are planning a course to say, “Oh, we also should talk about…,” when in fact that’s beyond the scope of the course. Remember the importance of time and funding in course development.
Our course was assigned to Leslie Passante, the NewsU interactive learning fellow. She would be our contact for sending the content we created and helping us plan how to make the course an interactive online experience.
Next, it was time to divide up what needed to be done and get going. Judy, Bonnie and I took different sections of the course to work on. We shared files with Dropbox and Google Docs. We conferred via iPhone three-way phone calls. We exchanged lots of e-mails and a sprinking of text messages. As we completed parts of the course (text documents, photos and video clips), we shared them with Leslie through Dropbox and e-mail.
We were fortunate to identify and work with several video journalists (VJs) or videographers. We were able to include sample video stories in the course. With four video stories of July 4th celebrations, we could include information from each VJ about what was involved in getting that story — the time involved in shooting and editing, the equipment used,, etc. John Sall, a video journalist at the Chicago Sun-Times who trains new VJs, offered advice on different elements of shooting and editing.
As we would complete one section, we’d sometimes realize — or Leslie would point out — that we needed a transition to the next section of the course or that we needed an activity that would “test” whether the course user had gotten the concept being taught.
One effective and fun activity to help test understanding was what we initially called “The Problem Room” and finally was named “Setting Up the Shot.” I’ll talk more about that one activity in a separate post.
Leslie and the NewsU team were taking what we developed as content and then transforming it into the online course content. Sometimes that transformation was just copying and pasting text. But much of the course required much more — creating built-in video players, using a video analysis tool that they had created for another NewsU course, using a drag and drop quiz tool used for another NewsU course.
Judy, Bonnie and I would follow Leslie’s progress and offer feedback.
“Can you move the video clip to the top of a new page?”
“The interactive game is missing some of the answers.”
“Please replace that orange text with another color, as it’s hard to read.”
Finally the time came to recruit beta testers, individuals who would review the course and offer suggestions for making final changes. We had some additional information to provide. The NewsU team reworked one of the activities. The NewsU team wrote the Welcome for the course.
And then the course launched.
We still need to complete the glossary and make a few last tweeks, but the course is up and running.