UK media groups enhance online learning

By Morgan Rhodes

Most UK students use Blackboard on a daily basis, and many UK students take online summer courses.

The Blackboard Blackbelts and the Media Mafia of the Arts and Sciences are two small groups of students that work part-time to help UK instructors in their online classroom endeavors.

Members of both the Blackboard Blackbelts and the Media Mafia have found satisfaction in their work for the department.  As a program still under a year old, the Blackboard Blackbelts and Media Mafia are setting the standard for the future.

“My favorite part about working with this group is the freedom that comes with this burgeoning department,” said Spencer Dillehay, a Blackboard Blackbelt.  “We will shape the future of the program.”

Angie Fox, the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Arts and Sciences Department,  praised the student employees.  “They enliven our research,” Fox said.  “They energize me.”

Members of both groups said that they were shown a great deal of respect for their work.  “I like to get their opinions on things.  Their ideas are taken really seriously,” Fox said.

While the responsibilities of the Blackboard Blackbelts and the Media Mafia differ, Fox said she wants to begin to cross-train employees to be capable of working for both groups.

The Blackboard Blackbelts are responsible for training instructors in Blackboard, uploading media to Blackboard and troubleshooting problems.  These students must possess extensive knowledge in test generators, Camtasia software (software used to narrate PowerPoints and screen record), record videos, edit and produce videos and embed videos online.

Media Mafia is responsible for helping instructors prepare audio and visual aspects for their online summer classes.  This includes video lectures, course introductions, recording audio, editing and publishing media.  Extensive knowledge in programs such as Final Cut Pro and Photoshop are essential.  Media Mafia members also test the courses before they are offered to students to ensure that everything works properly.

Three members of the Media Mafia recorded, edited and put together the video lectures for the online class HIS 120 in about a month for a 2010 online summer course.  This course consisted of 43 videos shot with a flip camera and a miniature tripod.  In the program’s first summer term, there were only two courses.  In the second term, there were 26 courses.

“We have a responsibility, and we take pride in our work because people value it.” Travis McKenzie, one of the students who worked on the HIS 120 online course, said.

McKenzie said this job has also played a valuable role for his future.

“The knowledge and skills I acquired here set a foundation for the next step in my career,” McKenzie said.

Online classes for the Arts and Sciences Department are expected to expand for the next summer, potentially reaching about 53 courses, Fox said.  For more information on the Arts and Sciences Online Education program and their student employment strategy, email Angie Fox at [email protected].