The right Medium for student work
I’m in the process of finalizing my course/module descriptions for this year. In one of my second year modules – the digital landscape – we are asking the students to produce a piece of multimedia reporting (the other assignment is to work in groups to pitch a media related start-up idea).
I’m pondering the way I get them to ‘submit’ that work. My gut feeling at the moment is to get them to submit to Medium.
What about a blog?
Across all the digital stuff we do, students are encouraged (or compelled depending on your point of view) to start a blog. All do and some keep it up. So their own blog is one option. Put work on the blog and then give me the links.
But experience has shown me that often the students will only engage with their blog at the point at which they begin to work an an assignment. That raises two issues:
- They don’t really engage with blogging: Some might say that in a social media world blogging is less valuable. I disagree. But I’m also nervous of making it a requirement to blog as it, well takes us back to the main problem of why they are ‘using’ a blog.
- Some students will take the position that, because I have asked them to submit on the blog, I’m responsible for telling them how to use a blog. I become defacto tech support. In principle that’s something I don’t mind but, in general Google faster than me for basic ‘how do I add a link questions’.
We also have a content management system within the department based on Escenic. It’s great and robust but, for a number of reasons, not public facing. That makes it hard for them to promote their work on Social media. They can link out but not in. I know, I know but there are reasons OK!
In and off the media landscape
For this module in particular I want the students to engage with working in the broader media landscape. So I’m trying to balance giving free reign to publish on any platform against the demands for public interaction against practical demands. Hmmm.
My current thinking is based around the following
- Restricting choice: It sounds bad I think it would be useful to make a decision that will practically and technically suit 99% and negotiate with the 1% that want to push the envelope.
- Visibility of content: Picking a platform for their content which already has a strong(ish) content base will give them something to compare/aspire/compete with.
Bearing all of that in mind, Medium feels like the right choice. I’d very much like students to be doing more with their work. I’d love them to pitch to sites like Contributoria – and if Contributoria had an open submission (not a criticism at all) then it would be a great alternative.
But as it stands medium seems to have a workable input system. Not too shy of multimedia and there is a ‘content network’ element which I think would be interesting for the students to explore. This is not an either/or situation. Students will still be expected to have blogs and there are other places in the course where design or ‘code’ are more suited. But I’d be interested in what others think.
** After-matter and notes:** I should note that when I say submit we do have a process here by which I get students to submit the text of their articles so that we can run them through plagiarism detection software.
After tweeting a link to this post a few people added their thoughts:
Tom Rouse from @hotwirepr echoed my thinking:
@digidickinson I like it, Medium's really clean and no bad thing for anyone with an interest in media to understand how it works— Tom Rouse (@trouse11) August 26, 2014
Nick Petrie from the Deputy Head of News Development@TheTimes & @TheSundayTimes also liked the idea
@digidickinson i think it's an interesting idea. Sometimes you get too caught up with features and forget to the the reporting, Medium— Nick Petrie (@petren) August 26, 2014
Adding that medium simplifies things for them. Daniel Bently from @circa did note the limitations of some of the embedding option, but liked the challenge
@digidickinson I'd recommend it then. I find I'm most creative when there's limitations on what I can do.— Daniel Bentley (@DJBentley) August 26, 2014
Siraj Datoo, Political reporter at BuzzFeed UK, was a bit uncomfortable with having student work online:
@digidickinson Hm. I wouldn't have liked to submit my uni work on Medium. Typically university work doesn't nec reflect interests of student— Siraj Datoo (@dats) August 26, 2014
I think there’s a valid point there. Often, for very good reasons, a piece of work may not reflect what a student is capable off. I think we could manage that and there is always the option to remove the work when it has been marked. Siraj also made a good point about the way medium uses social media (twitter in particular) to promote your work. I don’t mind that challenge. I think its good for students to consider the social media impact of their work. Alex Howard, columnist @TechRepublic, made a good point about taking a more fundamental approach:
@digidickinson I vote for them registering a domain & setting up a website & blog. Good practice to learn to own your own platform to begin.— Alex Howard (@digiphile) August 26, 2014
I have some real sympathy for this approach but in the context of this module it’s outside the learning outcomes. But not for other parts of the course. One reservation I do have is asking students to pay. That’s not a general issue – it’s what pays my mortgage. But this would be paying specifically to submit an assignment. Still, Alex makes a good point when he notes…
@digidickinson costs $10 for a year. Ask what they spend on coffee in a given month.— Alex Howard (@digiphile) August 26, 2014