Teaching in the time of COVID-19: Using a video-based assessment to enhance student engagement during the pandemic – Benjamin Lucca Iaquinto
Engaging students always has its challenges. But in the context of online teaching, when students can access lectures wherever they have an internet connection, teachers have more challenges to contend with. The range of potential distractions is considerably larger. Students might be logging in on the train or they might be at home with construction going on next door. Face-to-face interactions are also impossible when entire classes are run via Zoom. Even beyond the classroom, HKU students might not be on campus. They could be socially distancing, in mainland China or overseas and subject to quarantine if they enter Hong Kong. In such a context, engaging students during lectures, and providing the resources to students so they remain engaged beyond the classroom, is very difficult. Strategies that worked in the lecture hall, and when students could safely congregate on campus, might not be effective in the online home-based learning context implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In my Tourism and the Shrinking World course, the group project requires students to make a video advertising Hong Kong as a tourism destination. The video assessment was a unique tool to help maintain student interest and engagement in the era of ZOOM. Video works well in both face-to-face lecture halls and online, so there are fewer new skills for teachers to learn. Students can work in groups without ever meeting face to face because the project is designed to promote a division of labor with communication taking place via email or Moodle. For example, in their groups of three, students can share tasks such as filming, scouting locations, developing a storyboard, editing, recording the voiceover, and writing a catchy slogan.
Another strategy I used to boost engagement was to screen a range of professional tourism videos in the first lecture and ask students to judge them. Before playing each video, I explained to students which category it belonged too – ‘the good, the bad or the ugly’. Next, students were invited to explain what each video did well, what each did poorly, and how each could be improved. As the videos are often quite visually striking (or outrageously bad), they help students to facilitate discussions over ZOOM. They also had the added advantage of teaching students how to produce better videos.
Making a video helps to boost student engagement compared to more conventional assessments because it is a fun exercise. Students consider it to be a little out of the ordinary. As it is the first assessment due in the semester, it can also act as a confidence booster. Students are usually more confident of their video-making skills than their academic English writing skills. The videos are usually of a higher standard compared to their essays and exam papers. Scroll down to see some screenshots of student videos from previous semesters.
For those courses in which video-based assessments are possible, teachers can adapt video projects for their own purposes. Another option for boosting engagement with a video assessment is the use of an informal ‘film festival’. A week or so prior to the due date, all videos could be screened during a lecture with student groups invited to provide comments for improvement. Alternatively, the ‘film festival’ could be more formal, with representatives from Hong Kong’s tourism industry invited to view the final videos and vote on their favorites. While COVID-19 has increased the challenges of student engagement, with some adaptations it is possible to maintain student engagement in the online lecture format. Integrating video more substantially into the teaching environment is one technique for doing that.
Figure 1. Showing a different side to Hong Kong
Figure 2. Hong Kong street life
Figure 3. Before COVID-19, Hong Kong was a global tourism hotspot.