Blog Post

Media assignments – experiments, experiences, examples?

I am part of a graduate interest group “MIRG – Moving Image Research Group” here at UW Seattle and this quarter we have been discussing the nature of media assignments in courses within (and outside) film studies. By “media assignments”, we mean assignments that involve a production part on the students’ side, i.e. they produce film clips, websites, still images and even PPT presentations. By trying to come up with media assignments for imaginary courses, my group realized very quickly that clear objectives, learning outcomes and assessment criteria need to be established before thinking about what tools students can use.

In addition, there seems to be a bigger than expected difference in assessment between assignments that ask, for instance, for identification of film terms in a film and assignments that ask for a more creative approach (f.ex. when students in a class on ecocritical documentaries have to show in a video essay how a certain topic, like water or food, is portrayed in a film).

So, my questions for the HASTAC community are:

1. Who has experimented or has experience with media assignments either in film classes or other classes? In what kind of classes did you use them? What were the objectives, outcomes and assessment criteria?

2. How does one assess creativity or the creative part of a media assignment (that might be predetermined by the students’ familiarity and skills regarding the tool they are using)?

Looking forward to your feedback!




Hi Verena,

In Learning Technologies at UW, we work with a number of instructors who assign and use media-based assignments. The rubrics often remain flexible, especially when it comes to measures of creativity, which I have yet to see anyone really measure well.

I will note, though, that while there are instructors looking at film, there are also instructors who are looking at a huge number of others mediums whether images, designs, web pages, dance, social media interactions. Often, these are not so much graded by rubric as critiqued through collaborative peer review processes.


Hey Verena,


I work at UW-Madison's DesignLab where we give instructor workshops on various media genres, assignments, and best practices. For assessments  we often recommend using the UX or CAT frameworks. UX is user experience and includes information architecture, information design, and experience design. CAT is conceptual, aesthetic, and technical. Take a look at the DL website---especially under Instructor Resources.

I am also including a link to a blog I wrote about this topic. I would love to hear others ideas.




Hi Verena! I'm a doctoral candidate at UW-Milwaukee and visiting faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology this year. I tend to integrate media assignments into all my classes. I teach within English departments, with my classes often focusing on various film/media studies topics, digital media, participatory culture, and first-year writing. In particular, I assign digital stories (which are critical essays in this context), remix projects, and creative digital assignments. I also integrate blogging and wiki projects into my classes.

I've done this work with two very different student populations. At UWM, many students had limited access to computers and little experience using video editing software. I've tried to build in a lot of scaffolding to lead up to their projects. At RIT, the students are often more experienced with software than I am (although, not always). Generally, this group has been much less hesitant to jump in and just try to make stuff. They genearlly seem much less interested in scaffolding. (I'd say that many of them even seem bored by it.)

For assessment, I generally go one of two routes:

1) If it's a critical piece I'm looking for an argument & focus, analysis & evidence, interpretive tools (typically concepts from class/class readings) and orgnization/clarity. This is the rubric I use across most of my teaching. It seems to work equally well on a paper and a digital story.

One example: In my Participatory Culture class I often start the semester with a visual analysis paper focusing on a film. For the second project, I ask them to remediate this paper as a digital essay. 

2) If it's a creative piece the assignment generally requires the students to select a concept from our class and experiment with it in their project. I ask them to keep the piece focused on experimenting with this concept and to include a 1 pg concept paper with their creative piece. This concept paper has been critical for me. It'ss where the student explains their concept for what they've done and how it connects to our class.

One example: In my Text & Code class my students are turning in creative digital projects right now. Many of them are game design majors and were very interested in our reading/class discussion on procedural rhetoric. In response, several of them have designed games which utilize procedural rhetoric in some way. We also did a segment on glitch art and several students are experimenting with glitch in various ways. Some are glitching images, one student is designing software that merges and audio tracks and creates glitch remixes. 

I've found I also like to do two things with the creative assignments:

I try very hard not to evaluate based on technical skill. I want students to be comfortable trying something and to have a well thought and focused concept. That tends to come through no matter what the skill level is. However, focus and clarity are ways that technical skill may help students in evaluation. That's also why I include the concept paper, it's an additional way for the students to communicate their ideas. 

Aside from 5 min videos, I've also found that asking the students to turn in a piece of a larger project-- an excerpt, storyboards, a critical level in a game, etc.-- is very helpful. These projects can become very overwhelming. By allowing the students to give me a piece of the project, it gives them a specific slice to focus on executing. Often they'll complete multiple parts on their own anyway, but this allows the students with less tech skills to learn and still complete the assignment. 

(I'm very happy to talk more or send over sample assignments, if you'd like to see them.)


I actually published a case study on how using tech/media changed my syllabus design. You can read it here:


(I'd love to see others' sample assignments, too! Big semester long projects are great, but I struggle with media assignments esp in the context of online classes...)


Good discussion!.

I have been teaching informed media practice for 20 years - UK, Europe, and recently as Professor of Film in South Africa.

One recent assignment of many has been to integrate theory and practice in the same project.

So, for example, on a theoretical course on Maverick Cinema the class was introduced to maverick practices (Dogme 95 and French New Wave) and then required to undertake a five minute drame within the criterion that those alternative practices set themselves.

This was particularly good with Dogme 95 and one of the ten commandments that forbid genre!

As an addition, the drama piece was to be framed by a discussion by the students themselves in which they explained to camera the source of their inspiration and then in a prologue to reflect back on their work in an informed and self-critical way, aghain to camera. Hence the final 10 minute project was both a creative exploration and formal presentation in one.

One such example is here. 

Of  course the entire project was heralded with an assignment brief that gave explicit pass, merit and distinction criteria. And students were expected in open forum to claim their grades at the end using this brief as their guide.

best...Dr. ALAN TAYLOR

PN One exceptional example of critical thinking emerged when one student group undertook their presentation pieces (which were expected to be in the mainstream formal style) in the style of the OTHER maverick school. So we had both Dogme 95 (presentations) and French New Wave in one.

PNN. One devilish subtextual aim of the project was to get film school students used to operating behind the camera to perform in front of the camera as both actors and documentary performers and so enhance the quality of their work with both amateur and professional actors in their formal drama projects.


Hi Verena,

My exeperience in this comes from teaching at Edinburgh College of Art in the School of Design at University of Edinburgh and aligns closely with Katie's thoughts.

As part of the Film & TV degree course, the social and online media components surrounding film production are now being built into course assignmenta. This includes tumblrs for early design inpiration, blogs for storyboarding and costume design right through to marketing and distribution. A great benefit of having assessments as part of broader ongoing projects is that a student's performance can be put in context with their history, and in addition the breadth of work can contribute to evening out variance in techical experience.