Tagged: Contemporary Media

How I Spent My Summer…

I made a makeshift recording studio in my bedroom, including a cylinder box of rolled oats as a microphone stand.

Pardon the dust around here… it’s been a very busy time for me as the COVID-19 pandemic put a whole lot of extra work on me in terms of class preparation. It robbed me of any desire to sit in front of a computer to post to this site.

I’m sorry. I hope you’ll take me back,

When we went to remote instruction, the administration at Pratt and at CUNY recommended that we turn our courses from live, in-person classes to asynchronous, remote classes—with a short, synchronous weekly session via Zoom or Google Meet.

The spring semester ended about two months ago, but since then I have been teaching two online classes for Queens College in their two summer sessions—Summer 1 in June, and Summer 2 in July.

This is not my first time teaching online, remote classes. Indeed, I have been teaching online sections of Media Technologies and Contemporary Media for a few years now, both in summer and winter sessions. But given what I learned over the last few months, during our emergency switch to remote learning, I thought it best to revise my courses given what I learned in the spring term.

My goals for the summer courses were basically to…

  1. revise the structure of my syllabi to make it easier to find information
  2. break up the recorded video lectures into shorter segments,
  3. in the case of Contemporary Media, assign an open educational resource textbook to save my students—some of whom are food insecure—some money.

For these courses, I have spent an average of six to eight hours working on each module. Since each course has twelve modules, I spent the equivalent of a full-time job working on these courses since early June.

Revising the syllabus was pretty easy. I moved away from the traditional calendar-based schedule to one structured along learning modules. Each module had the same three elements as my previous courses: a textbook reading, a narrated-slideshow lecture recording, and a quiz. But this time I listed each task under each module as “assignments.” You can see an example of this on my Media Technologies syllabus. I hope it was easier for students to figure out their assignments.

There are many celebrants of Open Educational Resources for textbooks, but I am not convinced that this model of textbooks is ready for wide deployment, particularly in the specific courses I teach.

The one textbook that seemed useful for either of this summer’s courses was Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. You can get a copy from the Open Textbook Library. I really liked that it was available in many different formats, including PDF and EPUB, and that you could read it on the web using nothing more than a browser. However, what really made this textbook difficult to use was that it was last updated in 2009.

Since the textbook was woefully out of date, I had to use the lectures to update the outdated information from the book. For example, there are no longer is a Big Four recording music conglomerates nor is there a Big Six movie conglomerates. In the case of music, EMI was absorbed by Universal Music Group and Warner Music with Sony Music as the third conglomerate standing. And in the case of the movie industry, Disney acquired Fox in 2019 for $71 billion, leaving only five major conglomerates.

And then there were five…

Because I was using a textbook I hadn’t used before, I had write new reading quizzes from scratch. This took about an hour per module, but outlining each lecture, preparing each slideshow, and then recording each module’s screencast took an additional six to seven hours a day.

Today, I posted the videos for the last module of the two summer sessions. As a “victory lap” of sorts, I compiled a few numbers from the two classes I taught this summer.

Media Technologies Contemporary Media Total
Modules 12 12 24
Slides 608 593 1201
Videos 46 51 97
TRT 6h 31m 46s 6h 35m 15s 13h 7m 1s
Average Slides per Module 50.67 49.42 50.04
Average Slides per Video 13.22 11.63 12.38
Average TRT per Module 32m 39s 32m 56s 32m 48s
Average TRT Per Video 8m 31s 7m 45s 8m 7s

The biggest reason I wanted to break up the lecture into shorter segments was to make the videos about six minutes each. Previously, each module’s lecture was about 20 minutes long. Based on the numbers, it looks like I failed. Each video for Media Technologies averaged about 8 ½ minutes, and each video for Contemporary Media averaged about 7 ¾ minutes.

However, I have to give myself credit for consistency. The total running time of all the recorded videos for each class were surprising close: 6 hours 31 minutes for Media Technologies versus 6 hours 35 minutes and Contemporary Media. And I also used a very similar number of slides: 608 in the case of Media Technologies and 593 in the case of Contemporary Media.

My Revised Online Summer Intensive Course

This summer, I’m teaching two online courses at CUNY Queens College.

  1. Media Technologies, between June 4 and June 27
  2. Contemporary Media, between July 2 and July 26

I’m following a similar structure from the past, which I have described before on this site. Each course includes twelve modules, and for each module students will have to complete the following:

  • read an assigned chapter from the textbook
  • watch a video lecture of a narrated slideshow
  • take an online quiz consisting of objective questions

After four modules, students will take an exam consisting of subjective questions that they will have five days to complete.

In the past, I used to release module consisting of a video lecture and a quiz for a course topic and would have them due the following day. But having read a blog post by Anastasia Salter about “Rethinking the Online Summer Intensive,” I rethought my own online summer intensive courses. I didn’t quite go as far as Salter who released all the modules at the beginning of the course. Instead, I wanted to strike a balance between giving students the flexibility of completing work on their own schedule but also provide some structure where students won’t feel overwhelmed.

I kept the daily release schedule but changed the daily deadlines for quizzes to a weekly one. Everyday between Tuesday and Friday, I will post a recorded lecture and a quiz. But instead of making them due the following day, I’m providing students some flexibility and allowing them to submit the four quizzes by Monday night. That gives students at least three days to complete their quizzes. They can either keep apace completing a quiz per day or they can procrastinate and binge the weeks’ material.

And I’m also setting up twice-weekly office hours via Google Meet, which I’ve only used once, but I think is a tremendous improvement over Google Hangouts.

I didn’t implement her other changes, such as the 100-point grading scale for the whole semester. I understand the appeal of a “progress bar,” but how would I account for getting ten quizzes and three exams to add up to 100 points? That would require granting students four points for a quiz of at least ten questions.