Someone filming a video on a smartphone.

Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

This post outlines the changes made in a module at the University of Southampton, moving from an individual written assessment to a group video assessment. Below, we will describe how the students carry out this task, what support resources are available, issues to consider, and how this can be further adapted for a fully online assessment.


The module is a second semester, second year module with a cohort of approximately 90 students. The coursework was weighted at 40% (with 60% final exam) and was to write a grant proposal. A review of the module’s learning objectives and a desire from the academic team to make the coursework both more inclusive and reflective of the varied career paths students would follow, meant that we opted for a group task in which students would plan, film and edit a short video. This was 20% of the new weighting (with another 20% for an individual data analysis exercise). This new group task gave the students the opportunity to work on team and communication skills, develop their digital literacy, deepen their understanding of a particular key concept, and also enhance the learning resources for the module content.

The task

The students are randomly allocated in groups of 5-6 individuals. They will produce an approximately 5 minute video about a particular species on a pre-approved list (if they wish to divert from the list approval must be given by the module lead). There is a formative task, which is to produce a storyboard for the video. The storyboard is subject to peer review and final sign off by the module lead. The Blackboard site contains a dedicated folder of content about the task, examples of prior work, storyboard template, assessment rubric, guidance on group working, and links to numerous resources for creating video content.

Once students have created their final video, they upload it to Panopto. The videos can be viewed via Blackboard and are marked by the academic team and marks and feedback returned to students via Blackboard.


Examples of features for this type of rubric:

  • Clear introduction
  • Accuracy of content
  • Currency and synthesis – recent sources and original insights
  • Accessibility – clarity and terminology appropriate for audience
  • Narrative – organisation of content
  • Creativity

Resources to support the students

Due to advance in smartphone technology, many of us now carry powerful cameras around with us. Great video is achieved with much more than the push of a button though, so we need to provide additional guidance and information. Fortunately there is a plethora of instructional content out there, but the flip side is knowing where to start looking. In this module we have streamed resources into 3 parts for students (contact us if you would like a copy):

1: Watch a single video (10 min) about how to make better video.

2: Spend 30 mins reading top tip guides for getting started.

3: (If you are really interested in this beyond the assessment) Here is an 8 hour playlist on LinkedIn Learning for professional video skills.

There are other great, locally produced, resources from our dedicated Media Developers in Digital Learning such as their vlog.

Free editing software is available across Windows and Mac. At the simple level we recommend iMovie for mac (works on ios too) and Windows Movie Maker/Photos for PC. For more advanced editing we recommend Shotcut – it works on Windows, Mac and Linux. If you have a budding Ryan Coogler or Greta Gerwig in your student cohort they can use DaVinci Resolve – Most are straightforward to use, but it is worth giving students are recommended list rather than specifying one; this way students can pick the software suited to their skill level.

Issues to consider for video assessments

  • Don’t unfairly penalise your students. Most, but not all of us have a smartphone…and we don’t all have the latest all-singing, all-dancing models. Make sure your rubric focuses on narrative and content, not production values and extra effects.
  • Want to commission a video? The best thing you can do is create one yourself first; you will really appreciate how much time and planning goes into this resource-heavy medium. Make sure your students know what they are doing so…storyboard, storyboard, storyboard, before they get started.
  • Consider file sizes when it comes to students sharing versions of their video between the group and for uploading. If they are already using Teams for the rest of the task, then this works very well for sharing big files; Safesend is a good alternative if needed. The video components and final result don’t have to be in full 4k for the purposes of the assessment.
  • Where will your students upload their videos? We recommend Panopto as it is University-supported and secure. It integrates with Blackboard and you have control. YouTube might get a wider audience, but they retain the right to remove content and you should consider privacy settings and how to curate material on that platform.
  • Copyright and permissions. Make sure your students know that they will need to have written permission from participants in the video, and that they use creative commons licensed images etc. We’ve included a copy of the GDPR-compliant form we use below.
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Fully online delivery

The main challenges in completing this exercise in a fully online environment include:

  • Being able to discuss and plan as a group rather than meeting in person; fortunately we have access to Microsoft Teams which means it is very easy to plan group tasks, meet via group video calls, send text-based messages and work on collaborative cloud based documents for storyboarding.
  • More thought will need to be given to the specific allocation of roles such as editor; this makes the workflow more efficient, but make sure everyone has equal input and workload for their roles.
  • Access to appropriate content to film if you are limited to your home/garden in the event of self isolation or lockdown; this will require some creativity! This is a good time to remind your students about the rubric, emphasising quality of content and narrative over hand-drawn diagrams etc.

Alternative assessments: create a video to explain a key concept

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