Sign in or register
for additional privileges

C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2015)

Colleague 2 Colleague, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Video Term Papers as an Expanded Form of Literacy

By William E. Genereux, Kansas State University


Digital technology continually offers us new forms of communication. Literacy in the digital age involves both interpreting and creating texts using these new media forms (Daley, 2003; Hobbs, 2011). One of the most powerful forms of communication is the motion picture, which until recently was left to professionals using sophisticated and expensive production equipment. However, new technologies such as digital cameras and editing software have made digital video both accessible and affordable. These tools coupled with Internet-based publishing platforms such as YouTube make it possible for nearly anyone to communicate with a potential global audience.

According to Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California, the language of the multimedia screen has become the new vernacular, noting that the screens of televisions and computers are what most people in our culture now use to obtain information and entertainment. She observes that the language of the screen is “capable of constructing complex meanings independent of text” and “enables modes of thought, ways of communicating and conducting research, and methods of publication and teaching that are essentially different from those of text” (Daley, 2003).

It is possible for educators to transfer their assessment knowledge from traditional domains, such as writing, into assessments of new media forms, such as digital video (Worsnop, 1996). Given that assessment of traditional writing assignments is transferable to the medium of digital video, during the past several semesters, we have explored the notion of video as a powerful new form of literacy through the use of “video term papers.”

Assigning videos as an alternative form of “writing” in higher education is still fairly uncommon outside of traditional media-making fields such as communications or journalism, but it is beginning to make inroads. In fact, a general education course that uses writing with video is an approved substitute for traditional undergraduate writing coursework at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Avery, 2007). The video term paper assignment described in this article is modeled after some previously published works (Abulencia, Vigeant, & Silverstein, 2012; Jarvinen, Jarvinen, & Sheehan, 2012; Lichter, 2012; Ludlow, 2012).

Video Term Paper Assignment

For the past several semesters, students in an introductory computer networking course at Kansas State University Salina have been creating scholarly videos for a semester research project (Genereux, 2015). Modeled after the traditional term paper, this video project involves selecting a research topic relevant to the course material, learning to do research using library resources to locate credible sources, building a reference list, developing digital video production and editing skills, and publishing the completed videos online for others to see.

A Video Maker’s Rubric (Genereux, 2014) for assessment of the video project was developed using an Association of American College and Universities VALUE rubric for written communication as a guide. (For more information on the VALUE rubrics, please visit the Kansas State University Office of Assessment website:

To assist students with completing this project, four of the hour-long course lecture sessions and one two-hour lab session during the project were developed for use as a workshop for working with video production topics and issues. During one class session, the instructor introduced requirements of the video assignment and presented examples of past student work. Special attention was drawn towards the editing and storytelling techniques used.

In the next session, a staff librarian gave a presentation on useful research strategies. Accessing the various research databases that are available through the library website was demonstrated, along with finding appropriate sources for acquiring video assets to be incorporated into the finished videos. A discussion of copyright and fair use was included in this session.

In the third class session, the instructor provided a demonstration of video-editing software that was available on public campus computers. This software included Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere in a campus computer lab, as well as the Pinnacle Studio app installed on iPad tablet computers that could be checked out from the library. Some students were already familiar with Macintosh iMovie or Windows Moviemaker programs that are available on Mac or Windows operating systems.

Later, a hands-on laboratory activity was held in which students become familiar with using the video-editing software tools and techniques. Students doing the lab activity edited a video clip of Alfred Hitchcock discussing how film editing can change a story (Forgrave, n.d.). Once the lab activity was completed, students were ready to begin working on their video term-paper projects. One additional in-class session was allocated for students to have questions about the project answered and to resolve any technical issues encountered.

A timeline overview of the project is shown here:

Video Project Requirements

Students were provided the following parameters for completing their video assignment:
  • Create an original video essay that informs the viewing audience about a particular topic related to digital computer networks and/or the Internet.
  • Length of video is 2 to 4 minutes, including credits. No more, no less.
  • The format of the video should be a minimum of 360p (640x360). You may make it higher resolution, but this is the minimum requirement.
  • The video must be uploaded and made available for public viewing on YouTube. You may publish under an anonymous pseudonym that does not identify you.
  • Comments on your video should be turned off to eliminate the need for commentary moderation.
  • Like a well-written research paper or informative speech, the video should have a clear and logical structure with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
  • The video should not be an opinion piece but rather the result of research you have conducted about your topic, with arguments supported by credible, authoritative sources. One of these sources must be a printed book obtained from the library or through interlibrary loan. Two of these must be from edited journals or periodicals. Additional sources can be from the Internet and can be in multimedia form.
  • All sources used must be cited in the video credits or in the video description on YouTube. If you use someone else's work in any form that you did not yourself create, such as graphics, video, images, sounds, etc., it must be cited as such. Non-original video clips should not exceed 15 to 20 seconds in length.
  • In creating the video, you must obey all applicable laws, including those pertaining to copyright and privacy.
  • The video should be technically well executed. Things to consider: lighting, sound, composition, camera angles, scene transitions, and pacing.
  • The video should be visually interesting and aesthetically pleasing to watch. Be succinct, to-the-point, and, when possible, entertaining.
  • The video should demonstrate a mastery of the information conveyed. You researched it, and you are the expert; your video should show this expertise.
  • The video must be explicitly connected to the course topic of computer networks. For example, a video about Bill Gates should not simply be a biographical piece but should convey his contribution to the development and operation of computer networks.
Using the assignment guidelines, students created video term papers on their research topics with a length between 2 and 4 minutes. The video length requirement was firm, and no exceptions were made for videos that were shorter or longer. This length restriction provided students with workable parameters. Video projects could be a challenge for those who had never created video before; keeping it short made the project less daunting to inexperienced video-makers. However, the length requirement also forced the student’s attention towards how the information was to be presented. With a maximum length of 4 minutes, a well-made video must be concise and to the point.

Additional Recommendations and Suggestions
  • Use the library's Networking 1 LibGuide webpage as a starting point for your research.
  • Use a musical score to supplement your piece. The music you choose should bolster and not detract. You need to have permission or a legal right to use the music. Consider using Creative Commons-licensed work for this purpose.
  • Use actors you recruit, do a stop-motion or Flash animation, narrate a slideshow or computer-screen presentation, or assemble pieces of video you find online into an original, finished work.
  • Use an automobile (parked and not running) as an audio-recording booth. It does a surprisingly good job for recording narration.
  • Be entertaining, surprising, insightful, refreshing, joyful, engaged, and passionate about your topic.
Major mileposts built into the video project assignment include: 1) selection of research topic from the instructor-provided list of appropriate topics; 2) compilation of a list of possible references and resources to be used; 3) submission of an outline, script or storyboard; and 4) publication of a final version video on YouTube.

Because the videos were composed of video footage, students faced the problem of obtaining usable footage for their video projects The most straightforward solution was to create original video footage using camcorders, animation tools, screen-capture software, and stop-motion photography; however, this was also the most technically demanding technique. Another acceptable option was to locate and download online videos for editing into the final project. Including the video work of others in an academic work as a critique or commentary falls under the “fair use” protections provided in copyright law, provided that the financial viability of the original work is not damaged (Hobbs, 2010). Students were working on 2- to 4-minute video productions, so it is difficult to imagine a situation where a copyright owner would sustain a financial loss from such a use, especially when students followed the requirement of making their own transformative “original work” that was distinct and unique from the original by using only small excerpts (not exceeding 15 to 20 seconds in length).

Students created videos according to the assignment guidelines. After finishing this video, each student was required to create an account on YouTube and publish his or her work to it. After the student-made videos were finished and posted on YouTube, an in-class viewing of their work was held during two lecture sessions of the computer networking class (Genereux, 2015). 


Abulencia, J. P., Vigeant, M. A., & Silverstein, D. L. (2012). Using video media to enhance conceptual learning in an undergraduate thermodynamics course. In Proceedings of the 2012 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition. (p. n/a). San Antonio, TX. Retrieved from

Avery, S. (2007). Media literacy and library instruction: A case study of writing with video. College and University Media Review, 13(1), 77–93.

Daley, E. (2003). Expanding the concept of literacy. Educause Review, 38(2), 33–40.

Forgrave, M. (n.d.). Do the Hitch Cut. Retrieved from

Genereux, W. E. (2014). Video Maker’s Rubric. Retrieved from

Genereux, W. E. (2015). KSU Networking Videos. Retrieved from

Hobbs, R. (2010). Copyright clarity: How fair use supports digital learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Jarvinen, M. K., Jarvinen, L. Z., & Sheehan, D. N. (2012). Application of core science concepts using digital video: A “hands-on” laptop approach. Journal of College Science Teaching, 41(6), 16–24.

Lichter, J. (2012). Using YouTube as a platform for teaching and learning solubility rules. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(9), 1133–1137. doi:10.1021/ed200531j.

Ludlow, D. K. (2012). Using student-produced videos to enhance learning engagement in a chemical engineering thermodynamics course. In Proceedings of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers 2012 Annual Meeting. New York, NY: American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Worsnop, C. (1996). Assessing media work. Mississauga, Ont.: Wright Communications.

About the Author

Dr. Bill Genereux is an Associate Professor of Computer & Digital Media Technology at Kansas State University Salina.  He has been working with computers and technology for over three decades. His research is in the educational use of digital media technology. His TechIntersect blog is found at He can be reached by e-mail at or on
Comment on this page

Discussion of "Video Term Papers as an Expanded Form of Literacy"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Cover, page 7 of 21 Next page on path