Media Scholarship in the Liberal Arts: Student Learning

One of our goals in this project was to reduce the perception of ambiguity in evaluation of multimodal student projects. Given that many of our discussions included how faculty were evaluating learning process and product, we also asked professors in these ten courses to literally plot the relative weight they give to process and product in student outcomes.

Figure 2: Distribution of the relative weight given to process and product in ten of the case studies.

The results plotted in Figure 2., indicate greater complexity in assignment design, greater resource needs, and greater time investment in courses with multimodal assignments relative to other types of assignments by the same professor. What does this translate to in terms of student learning? Student engagement in multimodal projects is commented on by several faculty in our study. Professor O'Neill observed that recreating ".. the look of a professional film gives students and incredible high." Professor Haberkorn states that the "project was successful because students became inspired and passionate -- and when one is passionate, learning is easy. The association of affective and cognitive learning characteristics has been a consistent theme in our analysis of multimodal projects. Professor Odamtten explains,

"Generally, it seems that the students come to the course with an understanding that the critical essay assignments are especially analytical, objective and not necessarily reflective of who they are as interpellated subjects. However, they assume that the media assignments ae creative, subjective and demand some kind of emotional investment or risk. One of the objectives of the course is to disabuse the students of such notions. By the end of the course, students should recognize that such binary separations are arbitrary, artificial and temporary. The assignments should demonstrate that such boundaries are tactical and that the relationships are strategic to their learning."

Upon reading Bass and Enyon1, we observed similarities between our project and the learning characteristics reported by the five year Visible Knowledge Project (VKP) . They described:

We asked the ten faculty participating in the media assignment survey if they observed any of these same learning characteristics in their students. All ten reported observing "adaptive release" in students learning. Seven of the ten observed ‘embodied learning" and eight of ten observed "socially situated learning". Experiences in the fifteen case studies and observations during discussions are that in addition to the engagement factor inherent in the interactivity of multimedia, the process of creating or constructing multimodal projects is a form of active learning that requires the author to reflect, evaluate, change course, and produce communication for an audience.

Finally in considering what is necessary to sustain multimodal projects on campus we must point out the significant contributions of ongoing programs (F.I.L.M.2, Friday Night Films and the Alternative Cinema series3), immersive experience opportunities (John Crespi’s Beijing Course4 in the Case Studies of this report and The Flaherty Film Seminar5), and exposure to the perspectives of invited speakers and artists (Scott Pagano & Christopher Willits, see "Events" in this report). We also advocate for ongoing discussions among faculty, academic support and students, such as the Critical Literacies group at St. Lawrence, CEL at Colgate, and HILLgroup at Hamilton. Collaboration across campuses sharing approaches, methods, and expertise was valuable in this project. At our May 15th discussion, we specifically proposed continued collaboration in developing information and media literacy programs and discussions in digital literacy initiatives in our region6. Further, sustaining multimodal projects and developing media scholarship requires direct and formal connections to the academic program. Colgate faculty have been developing visual literacy in courses in their Core program. Faculty who participated in the media scholarship project at Hamilton College incorporated much of what we have learned into the structure of a new Cinema and New Media Studies minor with courses begining Fall 2009.

1. Randy Bass and Bret Eynon, 2009. "Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning". Academic Commons January 2009. <> ^
2. Link to Hamiton’s F.I.L.M. <> ^
3. Colgate Film Series and Alternative Cinema <> ^
4. Crespi <> ^
5. ^
6. The Horizon Report predicts increasing sophistication in visualization tools and has identified yet again the need for formal instruction in information, visual, and technology literacy as "critical challenges" in academia. New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, The Horizon Report: 2009 Edition (Austin, Tex.: NMC, 2009), pp. 5-7 <> ^