Online Teaching in Film and Media Studies/ Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier Vol. 3(1)









Online Teaching in Film and Media Studies

Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier Vol 3 (1) Spring/Winter 2015

Co-Editors: Murray Leeder and George Larke-Walsh

Table of Contents

Teaching Experimental Cinema Online by Glyn Davis

Finding the Face-to-Face When You Have No Face: Fostering Student-Student and Student-Professor Engagement in the Online Media Classroom by Kelly Kessler

Using Short Films and Regular Viewing Habits as a Catalyst for Online Pedagogy by Matt Swift

The Awakening: an Ongoing Collaborative Experience for Peer-Based Filmmaking by Antoni Roig and Talia Leibovitz

But How Do We Know They Watched It? Adapting to the Flipped Classroom Conundrum by Ruari Elkington and Peter Schembri

Designing and Assessing Hybrid Cinema Studies Courses by Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges


Murray Leeder and George Larke-Walsh

At many institutions, online teaching is not just a prospect for the future; it is here today. Teaching online in our field carries particular challenges. For instance, how do you teach film studies without the ability to lead students through discussions of individual clips? How do you make screening material available without breaking copyright laws? How does one design meaningful, pedagogically useful assignments while taking account of the online format? This issue of the Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier assembles articles from those who have braved this new pedagogical frontier and thus have experienced firsthand its benefits and difficulties.

After a successful workshop at the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle, we created a Call for Papers that we hoped would encourage the widest range of perspectives on online teaching in film and media studies. We were especially interested in hearing how instructors developed strategies to ensure student retention and engagement; how they created innovative assignment structures and/or alternative media screening practices; and, of course, how they delivered different types of on-line and/or hybrid courses, and how these courses were received by students. The proposals we gathered reflected just how much this topic is of worldwide concern, and the collection we have assembled here offers fascinating and innovative insights.

The challenges and rewards of teaching a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) is something Glyn Davis has experienced in the development and delivery of his course on Andy Warhol. MOOCs are one of the most controversial areas of on-line education development. Championed as a way to bring higher education to people for free, critics have been quick to question the academic quality and viability of such courses. As Justin Pope states in MIT Technology Review “Some wondered whether MOOCs would merely transform the existing system or blow it up entirely.” Davis’ article shows us how a MOOC can promote experiential and collaborative learning. Through innovative design and delivery models, Davis and his team have provided an environment where each student can negotiate their perspective on Warhol’s work through purposeful online discussion. Negotiating the copyright restrictions on Warhol’s films was initially perceived as a hindrance, as most of his films are only available online illegally, but, as Davis notes, student concerns about access led to valuable discussions: rather than inhibiting learning, acknowledging the processes involved in sharing an artist’s work enhanced the students’ experiences.

Kelly Kessler’s article discusses innovative ways to foster productive engagement on-line in her hybrid Media and Cultural studies course.  From building wikis to engaging in on-line synchronous group meetings, her course created small group assignments and discussion forums that responded to the need for meaningful and vibrant exchanges in the on-line classroom.  Kessler states, “although moving course content online can be technically arduous, attempting to maintain a productive and vibrant exchange of ideas akin to the face-to-face classroom can be doubly challenging.” She recognizes that students need to feel they have some ownership in the environment and to ‘buy in’ to the course material and its requirements.

Matthew Swift solved the problem of on-line access to short films by linking his on-line Introduction to Film Studies course to The Journal of Short Film’s on-line film collection. Swift emphasizes the need for instructors to find ways to make personal connections with students in the absence of face-to-face interaction; his course achieves this through report assignments that utilize the short film collection as their locus. Instructor feedback not only focuses on the quality of a student’s work but also offers further viewing suggestions. While introductory courses that are open to non-majors can be difficult to navigate for both instructors and students, Swift’s innovative assignment design is focused on providing shared viewing opportunities that allow students and instructors to enter into and expand conversations about film.

At Universitat Oberta de Catalunya/ IN3, an online institution, Antoni Roig and Talia Leibovitz experimented with collaborative, peer-based filmmaking. Here they present “The Awakening,” a project in which students were given a common narrative premise and then collaboratively wrote, shot and edited a short film within a set of parameters, while subjecting their work to ongoing peer evaluation. This assignment provides a useful and innovative model for incorporating collaboration, as well as for overcoming specific hurdles associated with teaching film production online.

Ruari Elkington and Peter Schembri discuss their experiences with the “flipped” film and media studies classroom, in which students are expected to screen films and other media on their own time in advance of lectures and tutorials. The obvious question becomes: what mechanisms can instructors put in place to ensure that flipped classrooms foster meaningful student engagement with screened materials? Elkington and Schembri describe their own frustrated experiences and suggest possible solutions for overcoming pedagogical challenges specific to flipping film and media studies classrooms.

Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges discusses her experiences with hybrid pedagogical approaches which mix face-to-face instruction with online components. More specifically, she discusses two versions of a hybrid Women Filmmakers class she has taught at the University of Washington, each time with slightly different design, assignments, and assessment protocols. As Gillis-Bridges shows, cultivating a hybrid approach has allowed her to productively extend the parameters of her classroom to include the Seattle International Film Festival.


Glyn Davis is Chancellor’s Fellow and Reader at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. He is the co-editor, with Gary Needham, of Warhol in Ten Takes (BFI/Palgrave, 2013), and the co-author of Film Studies: A Global Introduction (Routledge, 2015). He is also the author of Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Columbia University Press, 2009) and Far from Heaven (Edinburgh University Press, 2011). He is currently writing a monograph entitled The Exhausted Screen: Cinema, Boredom, Stasis.

Kelly Kessler is an Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University. Her research engages primarily with the areas of gender and genre studies in American film and television. Kessler’s book Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Mayhem explores the shifting form of the Hollywood post-studio system musical and the resultant shifts in the genre’s articulation of masculinity. Her work on the mainstreaming of lesbianism in US film and television can be found in anthologies and journals such as Film Quarterly, Television & New Media, Televising Queer Women, and Feminism at the Movies. Kessler has been engaged in online learning at DePaul since 2009: conducting faculty workshops addressing online teaching techniques, developing and teaching three different online courses, and serving as the Chair of the university’s Online Education Taskforce since its 2013 creation.

Matt Swift is the Program Coordinator for OSU’s Film Studies Program where he mentors students and teaches film theory at the undergraduate level. His background includes a Bachelor’s of Arts in Film Studies and Art History from the Ohio State University and a Master’s in Library and Information Science  access from Kent State University focusing on digital collections, preservation, and access. In 2007 Matt was inducted into the International Library & Information Studies Honor Society (BETA PHI MU) for his work on digitizing collections at the Columbus Museum of Art. Recently he has received multiple grants and a fellowship from the Greater Columbus Arts Council for his continued work in media arts. Currently, Matt Swift serves as the Productions Lead and Graphic Designer for the Journal of Short Film and is a cofounder of The Columbus Moving Image Art Review (CMIAR), a quarterly screening event that curates Central Ohio moving image artists.

Antoni Roig ( is a senior lecturer at the UOC (Open University of Catalonia) at the Information and Communication Sciences Department. His research has been connected to the different ways of opening creative processes in digital media production. He has been writing, from a critical point of view, on participatory culture in video sharing sites, videogames, fandom (particularly related to fan movies), machinima, collaborative filmmaking and transmedia experiences, as well as on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding in filmmaking projects. He has also been writing on practice theory in community-based filmmaking processes.

Talia Leibovitz ( is a Ph.D. candidate at the “Information and Knowledge Society” program in the Open University of Catalunya (UOC) and the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3). Her research in Film Studies focuses on cultural production and collaborative practices in the digital era. She is a part of the research group MEDIACCIONES at the UOC. She has also directed several documentaries and short films.

Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Washington, where she also directs the Computer-Integrated Courses Program. Since the mid-1990s, she has experimented with educational technologies and smart classrooms in her film, literature, cultural studies, and writing courses. During the 2013-2014 academic year, she participated in the Technology Teaching Fellows Institute, a program to support faculty redesigning traditional courses into hybrid or online formats. In addition to teaching, she gives frequent, invited presentations on technology-integrated pedagogy and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her writing has appeared in More Ways to Handle the Paper Load–On Paper and Online (NCTE Press, 2005) and The Bedford Bibliography of Basic Writing (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004).

Ruari Elkington completed his undergraduate degree in Film & TV with First Class Honours at the Queensland University of Technology. As a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Creative Industries and Innovation, he is strongly grounded in the industry context of film distribution with a focus on documentary content. His other research areas include screen content and cineliteracy. He is supervised by Dr. Sean Maher and Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham, and his Ph.D. thesis is titled: The Education Market for Documentary Film: Digital Shifts in an Age of Content Abundance.

Peter Schembri is a film, television, and screen analyst and lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology. He holds a PhD from The University of Queensland in film and television studies. He has developed and taught courses on Hollywood film and TV genres and on narrative film and television form and style. Among his present interests are connections between film and TV genres and cinematics (i.e. cutscenes) in video games, and Heritage Studies approaches to the study and interpretation of historical narrative films and TV shows.

George S. Larke-Walsh is on faculty in the Media Arts Dept at the University of North Texas.  She has been teaching a large enrollment film history class on-line since 2007.  Her publishing history includes articles on authorship and performativity in documentary as well as various articles and a book on the representation of the Mafia in Hollywood.

Murray Leeder is a Limited Term Instructor in Film Studies at the University of Calgary. He holds a Ph.D. from Carleton University and has taught online courses through Algonquin College. He is the author of Halloween (2014, Auteur Press) and editor of Cinematic Ghosts: Haunting and Spectrality from Silent Cinema to the Digital Era.
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