M25 at LSE 26 March 2014: Students as Producers


By Martin Agombar and Lisa Baker

Peter Bryant (LSE) set the tone for this meeting by indicating the barriers that exist to student production work. He noted how institutions are highly resistant to change. Students of course are miles ahead and use technology intelligently for their own creative purposes. The institutions’ cumbersome structures prevent them from catching up.

We were treated to several perspectives on student production work and some lively debate. The obvious question of how much work is really being done by students was tackled by Julian Ingle (QMUL), who discussed several examples but wondered how much of this work was only being done by a small minority of talented students? A video by some media students was a case in point. It explained technical concepts to non-technical people and was impressive. What about students without media production skills though? How would they have fared in producing a video like this?

In fact the overall picture was somewhat mixed.  Mira Vogel (UCL) discussed how she worked with an academic to introduce multimedia group work to a history-based course. Mira reported that some students found aspects of the group production work difficult and some were not as convinced as staff members that the exercise had been worthwhile.

With the aid of £30000 and the support of the VC, Tony Coombs and Monika Pazio (Greenwich) were challenged to encourage a producer culture within their university. The staff were asked to bid for the various projectors, laptops and cameras on offer. In the area of public relations students did seem to respond positively.

In an interesting debate led by Julian Ingle, the status of student production work was questioned. Is it really that special or revolutionary? Many felt that students have always been producers and nothing much has changed. Others argued that where technology succeeds there can be a more equal relationship between the teacher and learner.

Chris Trace (Surrey) provided evidence of an established course where students had done better in their assessments. The students carried out veterinary investigations using virtual patients. The technological demands were modest involving PowerPoint.

In the end there were more questions raised than answers given and quite clearly student production work cannot be seen unproblematically as a good thing. Yet there were also some excellent examples of success. It is probably too early to draw any real conclusions but there is no doubt as to the growing interest in this area.

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3 Responses

  1. Thomas

    April 9, 2014 9:09 am

    Thanks for the interesting write-up Lisa and Martin.

    What about students without media production skills though? How would they have fared in producing a video like this?

    As mentioned in your post about the students using PowerPoint, the practice of rapid elearning development is well established (particularly in commercial environments). Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate is one of the most renowned exponents of this approach. He provides lots of tips and tricks (many using PowerPoint) for quickly developing engaging interactive media:


    So I think it is possible to make interesting content fairly quickly. Of course good guidance and some EdTech support would also help!


  2. Mira

    April 17, 2014 2:44 pm

    Just on the subject of the discrepancy between staff an students’ views of the group project – I didn’t have the impression that many students thought the exercise hadn’t been worthwhile – more that it had been very demanding, and not always enjoyable. We’d expect first years to find a group project on the web, with all the new practices and approaches implied, pretty challenging, though. What I’m now trying to confirm is some hunches about how we could design out some of the undesirable challenges. But I think it will remain a sometimes troubling experience – all that negotiation, compromise, uncertain dependency you get in groups of people who didn’t choose each other, not to mention technical wrangling! – exactly as intended.

    Thanks for the write-up – brought it all back.

    • Martin Agombar

      April 22, 2014 9:48 am

      Thanks Mira. I’m sure your efforts will prove worthwhile. I think the challenges of this kind of work are often underestimated. They are of course what make it so interesting too!


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