Film or Webcam? What makes sense?

(This post is outside of our expected academic posting, but I’m hoping that others will weigh in with their thoughts.)

I work in a lovely, diverse faculty – one that is very forward thinking about philosophy and methodology of teaching. They are always bringing in new points of view and tools to use in a variety of different ways for all kinds of applications. For the most part, we agree on things.

Keep the student at the centre? Check.

Keep the individuals that our students will eventually be in the service of in mind at all times? Check.

Find ways to keep our students engaged and motivated, while helping them to understand what might be a whole new paradigm (to them) about the world, and different philosophies around disability and understanding behaviour? Check.


This fall will see us introducing a new course developed and taught by a colleague. We’re hoping to make the initial face-to-face offering something that can be delivered online in subsequent semesters, one that can get across the visceral experience of having guest speakers – 1st voice – in the room. To this end, we’re planning on filming the guests each week.

The colleague who has written it is interested in high production film (two camera points-of-view, lapel mics for good sound quality, augmentative lighting, visually interesting editing), something that I’ve done before and will be happy to assist with.

I was having a conversation with another colleague about what her department does in such circumstances, and she said that they do their guest speaker filming with a webcam – that the sound is good enough, that the video is fine for their purposes, and that they change and iterate their courses often enough that investing the time and money into ‘capital F’ Film doesn’t make a lot of sense.


This left me wondering…

both instructors are people I have a huge amount of respect for, who push boundaries all the time and innovate educational experiences for students, AND are approaching this idea from completely different points of view. It left me thinking that perhaps my high production value colleague is coming from another paradigm…one heavily influenced by print. After all, we used to put a lot of effort into educational artifacts – textbooks, films, and physical objects to convey information. Creating a film is an undertaking in this paradigm, one that takes a highly skilled staff.

I wonder then, if, in contrast, my webcam colleague is coming from a more contemporary paradigm – video is easy, ubiquitous, and iterative. Anyone with a smartphone can make a film, quality is not as important as accessibility. We’re often asking students to make short films of their own in response to our participation prompts through applications such as Flipgrid, and are less concerned about quality over content.

Or…is it about the need to have polished video that represents what the Institution is doing? Versus iterating until the right ‘note’ is hit?

I’m curious as to what others might think. Would webcam capture be good enough to convey the point to students? Would it make more sense to use higher quality film production? Where are the lines between not good enough, good enough and more effort than necessary?

Related reading:

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. MIT Press.


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