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After a successful workshop at the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle, Murray Leeder and I co-edited a dossier that considered current practices in online teaching in Film and Media. The resulting articles can be found in Vol 3(1) Winter/Spring 2015. Since early 2020, COVID-19 has forced many universities worldwide to rapidly readjust almost all their teaching from face-to-face to online formats. Such experiences have highlighted the need for further assessments of teaching practices and available resources in online teaching, especially in terms of technological innovations, online assessments, student engagement, and perhaps most importantly, the sharing of individual teaching experiences during a pandemic. Therefore, when JCMS suggested an updated dossier it was these areas we most wanted to explore. We also reached out to the original contributors to ask for updates on their earlier work in light of the current circumstances. The result is a blend of articles that updates relevant practices and offers new experiences and advice on teaching online in the time of COVID.
Four of the new contributions deal directly with teaching media production online. Samantha Iwowo, Christa Van Raalte, and James Fair discuss how the current shift online may have provided opportunities for students to improve their employability by emphasizing critical and innovative film practice. Focusing on the re-centering of pre-visualization in the filmmaking process, Iwowo et al. offer a comparative analysis of pre-COVID and COVID student projects and experiences. Their results show how many of the imposed challenges have encouraged keener skills in areas such as risk assessment and project management. In a similar vein, Ted Fisher’s essay on cinematic color correction techniques promotes ways to offer standardized access and fairness in the evaluation of off-site production. Focusing on phone camera apps, Fisher’s essay provides a step-by-step guide to creating course parameters and productive teaching moments. His analysis also suggests the ways current challenges offer opportunities for students to improve employability, especially in navigating decentralized production practices. Lastly, Hamidreza Nassiri provides detailed analyses on issues of equal access, student collaboration, and online pedagogy in media production classes. In his essay, he argues for courses that value processes as much as final outcomes in order to foster student confidence in the exploration of new ideas and practices. Finally, Vladimir Rosas and Luis Horta provide insights into navigating online teaching in Chile. Focused on both production and theory, Rosas and Horta found the virtualization of theoretical and practical film and media modules not only implied a challenge in terms of their elaboration, but also opened the field up to methodological experimentation. Challenges, such as a weak infrastructure, limited access to non-Chilean media, and slow connectivity for internet users were all necessary factors in planning and teaching. The results suggested that, unlike other experiences featured here, the emphasis had to be on the individual rather than collaboration. As Rosas and Horta state, “this type of constraint could open up a new style of image-making” in the region.
Lindsay Nelson’s experience teaching film studies in Japan highlights the difficulties of accessing media across national boundaries. Her essay provides strategies for accessibility and student engagement, but also reveals the benefits of rethinking content to the extent of focusing less on watching media and more on discussing everything that surrounds it. Similarly, a team of film studies tutors from Monash University in Australia, Drs. Luke Creeley, Robert Letizi, Whitney Monaghan, Grace C. Russell, and Simon Troon, were determined to make their Zoom seminars for first year students a dynamic and meaningful environment this year. Working closely together and assessing their models and designs carefully they came up with various ways to make sure their course remained student-centered. Paying close attention to what worked and what did not, they focused on positive experiences, such as the integration of unstructured and unmonitored social interaction into their synchronous online tutorials. Andrea Wood found Flipgrid to be useful in her efforts to ignite deeper engagement and investment in class conversations among her online students. Attracted to the diversity offered by the software, Wood’s essay focuses on the opportunities for personal reflection, debate, scene analysis, and peer review. When synchronous interaction is not an option, she has found Flipgrid to be a valuable tool for increasing engagement, not least because it helps students feel more connected to their peers and instructor.
As well as commissioning new essays, we asked our 2015 contributors if they wanted to provide an update on their online experiences. Kelly Kessler suggests COVID is a time where we should consider “stepping back” from innovation so as to avoid swamping students with too many online tools and options, while Kimberlee Gilles-Bridges offers a postscript to her essay on hybrid pedagogy that focuses on what students need to succeed, such as clear, direct communication from instructors regarding assignments, grading, and expectations. Meaningful interaction and multiple examples, especially real-world examples, help make the online environment a useful and productive environment. Finally, Antoni Roig & Talia Leibovitz provide a detailed update on their developments in collaborative creative environments and tools that shows how the early development of online pedagogy for production courses continues to offer teaching challenges and constructive outcomes for instructors and students alike.