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Students interview during their service learning projects

Andie Walla: Service Learning

Note: This is the third story in a series about service learning across Ohio University. Several OHIO faculty will be featured, showing how they are utilizing service learning in their curriculum to form mutually beneficial relationships with local and global nonprofits. Each service learning course is unique, given that the style of the professor, course objectives, and community partner experience all vary. Read the first story in the series.

by Emily Baxstrom
October 2017

Andie Walla, lecturer in the School of Media Arts and Studies, said students in her Intermediate Video Production course remember more and maximize the experience when there is service learning involved. “The students come back and talk about it,” she said. “That’s what keeps me wanting to do it, because it’s more enriching.”

Walla first grew interested in service learning when she attended a free lunch held by the Center for Campus and Community Engagement (CCCE). She initially was intimidated by others whose service learning experiences involved international trips and life-changing work with those in need. “I thought, ‘All I do is make videos,’” said Walla. But once she started talking to others involved with the CCCE, she realized her piece to the puzzle: her contribution to service learning could be producing videos about projects and organizations that help others.

Walla was one of the first faculty to have a class endorsed as a “C” class. A “C” class is the University’s official recognition for a class that marks specified service standards. “Important criteria include having 20 hours of service embedded in the course curriculum, a mutual benefit for both the community partner as well as for the students, and integration of critical reflection on the service experience within the classroom experience,” said Diana Marvel, former director of the CCCE. Students that complete a “C” course receive credit for such.

“The CCCE made it so easy to apply for a ‘C’ class endorsement,” said Walla. “It was so great to have someone to turn to; it’s a really valuable resource and I don’t think I would have been able to do it without them.”

Walla currently teaches two courses on video production that include service learning components: Intermediate Video Production and Media Production for the Community, which is a special topics course designed around service learning and designated as an official “C” course at OHIO.

Videos for the Community

Walla partners with two Athens nonprofit organizations per course per semester, and her students produce videos for them. Before each semester, she meets with the leaders of the nonprofit and preps them for anything they need to know and to ensure priorities are met on both sides of the partnership.

The students work with each nonprofit as if they were a real-world client. They create any type of video the nonprofit may need, including promotional videos, introduction/about videos, event coverage videos, and more. Students write proposals and present their idea creatively to the nonprofit, so the nonprofit has the say of whether or not it is what they want.

“Videos can be really expensive to have done, and nonprofits are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to budgets, so it’s a really great way for them to meet in the middle,” said Walla.

Filmed by Andie Walla's Media Production for the Community class, this video gives viewers information about the Athens County Humane Society.

Some organizations are easier to describe visually than others, but that leads to further learning in the course. For example, it was a challenge to show the Athens County Foundation’s story since they have so many moving parts in the community. “We had to travel to a lot of different places to make it a visual story, but that’s our job,” said Walla.

Walla’s students have even created a video for Gawande College in India. The international nongovernmental organization submitted photos and stock video, and Walla’s students interviewed people in Athens and edited everything together for a complete end product.

“The idea of producing for a client teaches the students two-way communication, as well as things like brand standards—including certain fonts, logos, etc.,” said Walla.

Walla originally taught the Intermediate Video Production class without a service learning component. Her students used to recreate common shots or scenes from movies to get practice with lighting and blocking, but adding in the community partnership has enriched the experience for her students. “Giving them content and a nonprofit to work with makes their videos more memorable,” she said. “They put more effort into it because they’re working for someone else. It’s a whole other level.”

Walla’s students learn not only about the nonprofit their particular group works with, but they learn about the other groups’ organizations as well because they watch rough cuts and critique each other in class.

Filmed by Andie Walla's Media Production for the Community class, this video showcases the goings-on at ARTS/West, an Athens community art center.

Overcoming Challenges

Rotating nonprofit partnerships each semester means Walla also redesigns her course each semester. To lessen the burden on her planning, Walla keeps a basic outline of a time line for things like production/planning, visiting locations, scheduling shoots, and project deadlines. “It can be overwhelming for me to work with so many things so I try to limit myself and optimize opportunities,” said Walla. “Working with nonprofits is a big task and a lot of responsibility, but I remind myself that the experience the students get is something they carry with them for the rest of their life. Something’s going to stick.”

Walla has also utilized a mini grant through the CCCE to fund a teaching assistant (TA) to help her supervise students. This way, she can travel with one group on a shoot while the TA can travel with the other group.

Walla students interview a community member.
Walla students interview a community member for a video they produced in her Media Production for the Community course.

Another challenge Walla experienced was organizations’ apprehension to work with students; many nonprofit leaders would say they spent an entire semester working with students on interviews and filming and never saw the final product. Once the student graduated, the file was almost impossible to track down.

Walla’s solution was to apply for the above-mentioned mini grant through the CCCE and purchase external hard drives. She buys new hard drives each semester, on which the students store all their files. At the end of the semester, she requires her students to submit the hard drive with every file on it. After she grades the final projects, she gives the hard drive to the nonprofit to keep.

“That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned in doing this is the final delivery,” said Walla. “I have students write thank-you notes at the end of the semester as well. After finals are done and grades are in, I deliver the hard drive and note to the nonprofit so they have everything.”

Organizations Walla has partnered with in her courses include the Athens County Public Libraries, the Athens County Foundation, Live Healthy Appalachia, Stuart’s Opera House, GoodWorks, Nelsonville Music Festival, Community Food Initiatives, Go On to College in India, Athens County Humane Society, Kids on Campus, Democracy Over Corporations, ACEnet, and the Nelsonville Presbyterian Farm.

To watch more videos Walla’s students have produced, visit the Ohio University CCCE YouTube page.

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