Teaching Media

Use 'Backward Design' to design and teach media-rich assignments.

The projects on the Remix website are merely a sampling of the kinds of media-based work that students can create for an academic class. You can use the projects as they are, modify them to suit your needs, or create your own new projects. When creating learning materials, the Kaneb Center recommends the “backward design” philosophy made popular by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in Understanding by Design (2005). For instructors who would like to create their own projects, this page provides background on backward design plus an additional step—evaluating the project itself:


Establish Desired Results & Learning Goals

The first task in building a media-based assignment is to articulate learning goals - the most important student outcomes for the task. Clearly state how students will demonstrate their learning. Specify behaviors you can observe. Use verbs like apply, analyze, identify, compare, or critique.

The following generic learning goals can be a useful starting point. You’ll want to add items that relate to your specific subject area, of course.

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Learning Goals | generic starting goals

After successfully completing this project, you will be able to:

  • Show critical thinking by...
    • Recognizing problems and finding ways to address them
    • Recognizing assumptions
    • Recognizing relationships between ideas
    • Gathering information, interpret data, appraise evidence and evaluate arguments
    • Drawing conclusions and make generalizations
  • Locate existing media which is...
    • Appropriate for the task
    • Legally usable (with permission, public domain, or CC licensed)
  • Capture new media which is...
    • At a good level of sharpness, volume, brightness, steadiness
    • With minimal unwanted sounds or visuals
  • Manipulate media by...
    • Cropping/trimming to appropriate size/length
    • Adding titles and other graphic elements
    • Combining (remix) media using layers or tracks
  • Show media expertise by...
    • Working neatly, carefully, smoothly (vs. settling for sloppy or rough work)
    • Applying design conventions - contrast, spacing, balance, typography, lighting, levels
    • Correctly citing sources
  • Show creativity by...
    • Synthesizing—combining (remixing) in a novel way; using a metaphor to convey a complex concept
    • Taking a risk—seeking out an untested idea or approach
    • Embracing contradiction—integrating an alternate or divergent concept
    • Being original—diverging from examples, providing a surprising response
    • Explore—incorporating techniques or ideas NOT covered in class or required materials

Identify Evidence for Assessment

Choose a Project

Now that you know the destination, choose the media-based task that will help students get there. The product that students create should provide evidence of their ability to use what their new skills and knowledge. Don’t worry about the details at this point, but here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you know that your students have the skills to do this kind of work? Will you allow time for them to get up to speed?
  • How much do you know about the tools students will use? Do you have time to learn enough to appreciate their work?
  • Where do the students’ interests lie? Will the assignment appeal to them?
  • What would be a reasonable amount of time for students to spend on the project? How much will it add to their workload?
  • Is there room in the curriculum or will other activities need to be eliminated? How much will the assignment add to YOUR workload?
  • Do you have time to develop and test the assignment? Are you willing to create an example yourself?
Create a Rubric

Before going any further, we recommend that you create the rubric that you will use to assess the students’ work. An assessment rubric is a printed set of guidelines that helps instructors distinguish between different levels of quality in student work. Each project page on the Remix website includes a sample rubric. Some of the benefits of using a rubric:

  • Helps with objectivity and consistency
  • Can reduce time spent in scoring
  • Tells learners "what counts"
  • Tells learners what is expected
  • Helps learners achieve a top grade
  • Can indicate the relative weight of criteria

You may find additional rubrics in the Assessments / Resources box.


Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

You have articulated what you want students to learn and how you will assess their learning. Now it’s time to plan out how they will be learning.


A deliverable is an object—tangible or intangible—that a media creator delivers to a customer or client at a certain point during the course of a project. In order to plan the series of activities that will lead students to the goal, imagine the stages of your project as deliverables.

Long, high-stakes projects will have several deliverables. A simple project may only have one or two. When you describe a deliverable, estimate the amount of time required to complete it. Professional media developers typically identify 3 phases to their process. The phases are listed below, with some sample tasks you might include as deliverables:

1. Pre-production - Prepare, Plan, Gather

In this step, you will prepare to record/shoot, plan your project, line up resources and scout locations.

  • Practice media—a low-stakes task where students learn media skills
  • Topic—initial idea in a few words
  • Proposal, pitch, or plan
  • Script (or list of questions, etc.)
  • Storyboard
  • Shot list with dates, locations
  • Peer feedback on planning
2. Production (set up / capture / pack up)

In this step, you will make a recording, take photos, or capture video footage.

  • Unedited original media
  • External media (photo, music ...)
3. Post-production (edit / revise / publish)

In this step, you will edit the raw media, mix in music, titles, images, and and other elements, and deliver the result.

  • First draft
  • Peer feedback on the draft
  • List of titles, credits, sources
  • Finished product - file or URL
  • Class presentation
  • Self-evaluation
Determine Requirements

In this step, you will identifying what you and the students will need in order to complete the work. Requirements include skills and time—both yours and the students'. Consider whether there is enough time to carry out the assignment. Media work requires different resources than writing. Don't assume students already have the necessary resources and expertise.

Items that may be required:

  • Hardware—smartphones, cameras, recorders, tripods, lights
  • Software—editing software, special purpose websites, apps
  • Storage—SD cards for cameras or recorders, flash drives
  • Support—people and places to visit for help
  • Learning—videos, FAQs, training, instructions
  • Accounts—YouTube, Google, SoundCloud, Flickr

Evaluate the Success of the Assignment

How will you know whether the assignment is successful? We suggest answering that question in two ways while you refine the plan: 1) low stakes testing, and 2) action research.

Pilot Testing

There are two ways to pilot test an assignment: (1) do it yourself and (2) have students do it. Building your own sample project gives you a more realistic idea of how long it will take the average student. It’s your choice whether to show your work to students or not.

Learn how to use the technology. You don't have to become an expert, but learn the basics of the tools that students will use. The learning experience will give you an idea of what the students will go through, as well as the time they will need to learn the tools and complete the assignment. When students ask questions you will be better able to help them find answers. They will also appreciate the idea that you are not asking them to do something you can't do.

Conduct a low-stakes pilot test with students before assigning a high-stakes project that you have never tried before. Ideally, do this a semester ahead of time. You may decide to change the project in significant ways.

  • Design a simplified assignment that will take students an hour or two
  • Decide how you will know whether the pilot test was successful
  • Assemble the required resources
  • Conduct the test
  • Revise the project as needed
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

Conducting research on a project in which you are actively involved is often called action research. The goal is to improve strategies, practices and knowledge. SoTL is action research that seeks to advance student learning and practice of teaching.

Begin working on this early—before announcing the assignment to students. The Kaneb Center will be happy to help you design a study and identify journals that may want to publish your results.

Evaluation Tools:

  • Products—examine the work that students submit, looking for technically quality and evidence of in-depth understanding.
  • Exams—test results can provide evidence that students learned what you wanted them to learn.
  • Surveys—ask students how they felt about the assignment and what they learned, technically and content-wise.
  • Focus groups—ask a colleague to interview students about the assignment.

Potential Survey Items:

  • Time—how many hours did you spend?
  • Workload—how appropriate was the load, given the project's role in the course?
  • Skills—how long did it take to learn the media skills required?
  • Instructions—how clear was the assignment? how clear were the expectations at the start?
  • Rubric—how much did the rubric add to understanding the assignment?
  • Relevance—how well did project goals relate to course goals?
  • Evaluation—how fairly were you graded?
  • Feedback—how helpful was the instructor feedback you received?
  • Summary—should this be repeated next semester? should other instructors use this kind of project?

Understanding by Design

A planning framework useful for teaching media-rich assignments.

Understanding by Design
Wiggins & McTighe, 2005
Read Online

Learning Goals | Resources

Additional resources on developing strong learning goals

Assessment | Resources

Additional resources on developing strong assessment rubrics

SoTL | Resources

Additional eesources on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

Propose a project

If you would like to propose a media-rich project for your course, submit your ideas through our online proposal form.

Propose Project

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