It’s an almost unquestioned assumption that written assignments need to be used to assess student learning. While traditional writing assignments are appropriate for many types of assessments, there is no law requiring it for all assessments. I’ve had students construct Wikipedia entries, make Voicethreads, and build online games as assessments.
Videos are another fun alternative to written assessments, and the latest technologies have made video creation remarkably easy. Video can be shot with a $200 flip camera, which provides very good sound and picture quality if a microphone is used. Even the ubiquitous smart phone provides remarkably good quality.
But production values are not the point, and poor production values can even add a layer of humor and authenticity to the project. The best advice is that if you are not Orson Wells, don’t try to be. Attempting to reach movie studio quality only highlights the differences. Be self-referentially hokey as a way to make the lack of production values itself part of the production.
That said, your students’ videos certainly will need some editing and tools such as Live Movie Maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac) are free and relatively easy to use. Once your students are done editing and happy with the finished product, they can post it to YouTube for others to view. Vimeo and Screencast.com are other good places to post videos. There is no FERPA rule against students posting their work publically.
A good video assignment is to put students into small groups with instructions to make a video that teaches a key concept related to class. If done well, the video not only demonstrates students’ understanding of the concept, but also serves as a resource that can be used by others. Often you will find that students are proud of what they produced and want to show it to friends, family, and maybe even future employers. When was the last time a student showed a written essay to anyone?
As usual, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and cries of outrage in the comments section of this blog post.