Here’s how I used to do it:

Students go out, conduct interviews, cover events, do research, write stories, suggest headlines and possible “art,” reach the assigned length, hand in stories in hard copy. I took a red pen and edited the blazes out of it from start to -30-. Bled all over the thing, covering every element from misplaced modifiers to reporting holes, lame quotes, weak transitions, splended kickers, dazzling nut graphs. I’d “make visible” my thinking, my editing, in this bloody conversation on the page with every single student, on every single assignment. The students felt (after discussing and venting) fully and fairly evaluated, highly feedbacked, individually educated, and astonished at my relentless pursuit of clarity, accuracy and writing power on their behalf.

I did not have children back then.

Today, well a couple of weeks ago, I graded 140-character Tweats on Twitter for a class assignment. I create and borrow and redefine  (thank you MindyMcAdams!!) ways to assess blog posts, combining how deeply I value the “old school” requirements of accuracy, sourcing, fairness, newsworthiness, etc… wtih the new media requisites of personal writing, rampant opinions, hypertexting sources in lieu of actually citing them etc..

Normally my NMC 301 class, Writing for the Media Professional, completes group multimedia projects in teams of two, three or four, with a solid writing component, an actual rough draft with words I can write on.

This term I have a particularly fiesty and motivated group who early on came up with their own project, which includes 18 of the 27 students. I face a new assessment challenge. First, do I let the class take over itself and trust they’ll do it. So far, so good. The two students leading the charge are phenomenal organizers and send out more task lists than I did for my wedding. The project is a massive, multiplatform look at “What is New Media Communications” at OSU. What’s the industry, what’s the program, and what are we doing to prepare students for, well, as we keep hearing, jobs that do not yet exist.

So if you’re someone who wants to write red on words, hundreds of words bumping together to tell a story, how do you give a grade to a class-wide, multimedia, multiplatform project where the “rough draft” is a run sheet, hours of raw vide footage, outlines, hundreds of pages of transcripted interviews, story boards of shots, notes on napkins, a soundtrack in a student’s head…..AND how do I “grade” or account for or reward each student fairly and universally, when they all started out with different skill levels, when many of them have gone to heroic lengths to not only tell stories but learn complicated software programs in order to tell these stories…AND how do I reward the idea of leadership? Several of the students are running the show with the kind of mastery and leadership skills I can only sit back and learn from with awe. Other students are participating, watching, doing their share, pushing themselves in ways not fully verifiable but clear to me in their weekly blog posts I require them to write documenting their work and experience on the project. If somebody who is a full-on class leader, whose work is professional-grade is an obvious “A,” how about the student who learned the technical skills she never had before, who took assignments and executed them…who didn’t come up with her own ideas but from where she started, pushed herself equally, worked equally hard, who may actually have learned MORE than the obvious A student. How do I account for the nuances and subjectivities in that story?

Well, this term, this is what I’ve come up with to respond as fairly and transparently to all possible scenarios. Wish me luck!

Final Project Assessment Guidelines

NMC 301 Winter 2009

Like new media itself, your final projects will cover and demonstrate a wide range of skills, technologies, media, styles, writing forms, perspectives and experiences. This wide range makes the assignment an excellent one, but also one that is challenging to assess.

Each student starts at a different place, brings different skills, works and grows at a different pace and level. Working in teams can be especially motivating for some students and not so much for others. I do everything I can to create an infrastructure within the class to make sure the range of work put into the final projects is made visible and fairly assessed.

By requiring you to write weekly blog posts chronicling your progress on your projects, I can see who is – and is not – doing what. I am so looking forward to reviewing your rough drafts next week, and seeing your final projects presented on March 10.

In classic new media style, these projects will reflect a wide range of your work. The following guidelines are my way of offering expectations and clarification for assessing this big tent of work.

More specifically, here are the components I will use to assess your final project:

Total: 100 points

1. Weekly blog posts describing your work and experience doing the project: 10 points

2. Final “process memo” blog post. This 400-500 -word post, due March 10, 5 p.m., must include the following:

a final summary of all the work you did, what surprised you about the topic, your skills, your sources, the experience. What skills did the project enable you to develop or enhance. What assumptions did the project help you challenge? Honestly describe how hard you worked on this project, what you did well, what role you played on the team and what you would have done differently. 10 points

3. Class presentation of a draft form of the project that must include: must include as many parts of the project in draft form as possible… could include a run sheet, raw footage, an outline, a draft script, transcriptions of interviews, notes from meetings.  5 points

4. Full credit will be given for a final project that:

a) began with a strong idea; did you come up with a compelling, newsworthy story to tell? Is your work accurate?

b) includes a wide range of well-chosen sources; did you conduct well-researched interviews? Do you give proper attribution to your sources (people and documents)

c) includes a written component in addition to final blog post, ie: a script, voice overs, verbal transitions/bridges; is your script written in punchy, clean, clear style; is the tone, word usage and voice appropriate for the medium and subject? Is your copy clean and smooth? Does it read well? Does it demonstrate good editing and careful proofreading?

d) demonstrates strong visual and graphic choices; do your video/audio/graphics/photos enhance, humanize and deepen your story or merely repeat your script?

e) reflects thoughtful, powerful choices about which media platforms best tell this story. Is your whole package compelling? Does it leave viewers/readers/listeners better informed?

f) reflects your best efforts. Did you bring you’re a-game to this project? Did you come up with ideas, contribute good work, work well with the team, execute your parts to the best of your ability, learn new skills; Did you lead or follow? Did you push yourself or sit back, do the minimum and skate by?

25 points

  1. Mindy McAdams, the guru of online journalism education, created a terrific blogging assignment for students. I saw her blog post about it just as I was trying to come up with one for my own class. Here’s her idea:
  3. She asked for suggestions about how to get students to read the blogs of their classmates. I also was trying to find a way to incorporate that into my blogging assignment as well, so I wrote this comment:
  4. Great assignment.
    I’m still struggling with an assignment addressing the same issue — getting students to read and respond to the work of their peers. I’m also still learning the technologies I’m trying to teach as well. (Thank you, Mindy, for your absolutely essential guidance!!)
    I’m still thinking it through but I’d like to find a way to create a graded assignment using peer editing.
    This is still in process but my idea is to have each student choose a classmate’s blog and write a thorough review using the rubric I provide as well as their own added criteria.
    For XX number of points they’ll write a response to the blog’s author productively assessing the blog’s content, writing, presentation, creativity, gadgetry, readability…am still coming up with this part.
    I need to build in a way to keep them from commenting mainly on the bells and whistles and not directly engaging with the content.
    Another concern is that this only requires them to read/respond to one other person’s thoughts.
    What if everybody chooses only a couple of blogs? Do I care?
    And, are their comments public? On their blogs? On Blackboard? E-mailed only to their classmate and me?
    Thanks for helping me think this through, and for the excellent model assignment you provided.

  5. August 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm
Posted, July 17, 2008
UF j-school to create “media farm” for innovation, research
Gainesville Sun
A new University of Florida center will be a “media farm” for growing knowledge about digital journalism. The school’s Center for Media Innovation and Research will train students in digital media and house a think tank conducting research in the field, says UF College of Journalism and Communications Dean John Wright. The first phase of the center will be the construction of a “21st Century Newsroom and Laboratory.” || Read the release.

This new media lab/experiment/farm team model sounds like a marvelous answer to the questions a lot of us are struggling with, including the content/technology balance. I was thrilled to read this in the press release:

The CMIR (pronounced “simmer”) will specialize in original, in-depth news reporting on issues of interest to local, regional, national and international audiences, and it will tell those important stories using new, experimental methods…..

I’m eager to keep track of this project.