Student-produced videos a key part of Sustainability 200 course

Jamie Oberdick
March 31, 2014

As part of their Sustainability 200 course, groups of students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, have produced several video public service announcements designed to raise awareness of sustainability issues. Facilitated by staff in the Media Commons, the videos have become a key part of the SUST 200 course and are helping to shape Penn State's new sustainability leadership minor.

Nick Smerker, traveling multimedia consultant with the Media Commons, met Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology, at a sustainability minor planning conference at University Park in 2012. “Ann and I got to talking about her planned courses for that fall and realized a video project would be a good fit for SUST 200,” Smerker said

The Sustainability 200 course is a prescribed course needed for a sustainability leadership minor, but anyone can take it, according to Quinn.

“Penn State Erie was the first Commonwealth Campus to start the minor,” she said. “It’s an excellent minor for students in all majors.”

The course is taught by science teachers from two separate disciplines: Quinn, who teaches biology, and Jonathan Hall, a physics instructor, however, it’s also a good course for anyone with an interest in sustainability, according to Quinn.

"The students who gravitate toward the class are not just interested in sustainability but also in service learning and affecting a change. Our class strongly encourages students to take action about the environment. We participate in class service projects: International Coastal Clean up in the fall, and Trash to Treasure and Post-thaw Clean Up in the spring.”

                                                         -- Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology

How do the videos the students made fit into all of this? 

Quinn said raising public awareness is a vital part of the sustainability philosophy.

“Part of public service and effecting change comes through awareness," she said. "We started producing these videos a few years ago as a way to show this — and it has been very successful. Overall, the students have enjoyed the project.”

She goes on to explain there are several educational benefits that students get out of producing the videos. First, video production is not only a different way for students to learn about sustainability, but also a great way to share what they learned with others. Simultaneously, many students learn new skills, such as video production and visual communications, in the process. In addition, she's noticed a great deal of gratification among students after the videos are complete and they view the final result. 

The videos are also being used outside of the SUST 200 course. “We intend to show them on our digital signage board around campus, and one group’s video is being used to promote Greener Behrend,” Quinn added.

The Media Commons and Smerker played an instrumental role in developing the videos for SUST 200.

“I assisted Ann and Jonathan with the SUST 200 course projects from the ground up,” Smerker said. “Initial consultation on the types of projects, length of assignment, deliverables along the way and final submissions was provided by Media Commons.”

Smerker said that the assistance on the videos did not end after the initial time the course was offered. He continued to follow up and help each of the students refine the process of creating the videos.

“After the first semester of offering the project, I worked with Ann to tweak the project for greater student success,” he added. “In-class training on Media Commons resources, support options, and hardware and software tools were provided each semester, as well as an in-person consultation on storyboards, and then online review of drafts and final videos.”

Quinn noted that the assistance the Media Commons offered throughout the process didn’t just help the instructors but aided the students as well.

“Students can and do call the Media Commons with questions and problems as they put the videos together, she said. Different students come in with varying levels of ability, but even students with little or no experience making videos can do pretty well after a Media Commons visit — I think the videos have really been a great addition to the SUST 200 class.”

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  • Screen capture from sustainability PSA video

    A student from Penn State Erie works on a video PSA about composting as part of a Sustainability 200 course project.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 03, 2014