How you can involve students in creating video content for your school

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Students creating video at COBIS School Tokyo.

We all know that creating video is popular, particularly with our students, but did you realise that video content will account for 80% of all web traffic by 2019?  It is hardly surprising then to learn that over 60% of any visitors to a website would prefer to watch a video rather than reading text. 

Clearly it makes sense then that producing and creating video content is something that all schools should be thinking about. However, if you have no experience, or perhaps, as is more likely, little time, how can you add video production into your school’s hectic daily schedule?

What I’d like to suggest and see more of, are schools making use of the greatest resource at their fingertips, their students. How many of your students are doing this already, at home in their spare time? How can you practically harness that talent? Could you go so far as to commission your students to produce films which can be used to market, promote and even entertain current and prospective students and parents? The answer is YES.

So how do you go about doing this? Here’s a 6-point guide:


    (if you don’t already have one)

    This isn’t a film club to watch and review films, this is a film club whose sole purpose is to produce film/video content. In an ideal situation this would be managed by a member of staff who has a keen interest in video, working closely with the marketing team, but it should also be led by a student, so that they have responsibility for what the group does. We recently worked with a school who have a film club that is represented each year at their Activities Fair, where interested students can learn about what they do and sign up to take part. They found they had a greater uptake of both girls and boys when there was a girl member, as there is a danger that boys will try and take over! At the last fair, with a mixed group on the stand, they ended up with over 100 students wanting to join the club, including over 25 girls. Obviously, this is far too great a number and many will drop out, but it shows the overwhelming interest there is for filmmaking from school children


    So what equipment do you need and how much is it going to cost? Obviously, this depends on what you intend to do, but it doesn’t have to cost nearly as much as you might expect and perhaps more importantly you may find that you already own quite a lot of what you need. For example, does your school use iPads or GoPro’s? Do you have a media or photography department and do they have digital SLR cameras – in which case they will also be able to shoot video. Does your school have a license with Adobe for use of Creative Cloud, in which case you may already have access to Premiere Pro, which is industry standard and a very powerful editing software. Otherwise there are free or cheap ones, which can be used. It might be worth asking for some advice from your video supplier or a trusted retailer on equipment. Setting up with a DLSR camera, microphone, tripod, editing software and hard drives starts from around £600.


    This is the one element that should not be forgotten or neglected as in the end it will save you time and money. There is a great deal of online training already available and should your school have media staff there may be someone in-house who can help, but I would advise you to train both key members of staff and pupils in how to create short video content.  They in turn can then become trainers for future staff and pupils. There are training courses in filming and editing, which will help prepare those in the film club to produce short (1-2 minute) films, based around interviews and teaching them how best to manage their time. The courses can be as little as one day, but we always advise on a second day to concentrate on editing – see below.


    If you want your school to have consistent video content, plan what you want produced. Don’t be too ambitious to start with and expect your film club to be producing a film every week! Perhaps just one film a term to start with and allow the film club the opportunity to produce some of their own ideas – it needs to remain fun. However, it is also important that they know that they are being commissioned by the school to produce something and that it will be seen by lots of people.  Be clear with the brief and deadline and try to make sure that you give clear notes on re-editing and don’t show it to lots of people after you’ve agreed changes. This will just lead to further changes and then you’ll end up putting off those involved. Perhaps you can give an incentive that the better they get and the better the club and productions get, the more ambitious you can become.


    The key to great films, whilst also potentially something that can become so daunting and time consuming it puts people off. We regularly speak to schools about students going out and filming and filming and filming and then never seeing an edit. Almost certainly what is happening is that the students enjoy the filming part, but when it comes to the edit they don’t know where to begin. This goes back to the training and it also goes back to planning, so that not too much material is shot, there is a realistic deadline and that they don’t end up in editing hell!  This comes from experience and we’ll all remember the first time we’ve worked on an edit all day, only for the computer to crash and it not to be saved!


    You need to review how the club is doing, are they producing what you want and when you want it, if not why not? Is it making a difference to the website? Are you getting comments from parents and pupils? Are the videos being watched all the way through, if not when do they stop watching them? Have you included subtitles for ones being shown on Facebook? Set yourself a goal for the beginning of the year and then you’ll be able to know if you’ve achieved it by the end.


A school film club can benefit your school in many ways, not only producing on-going school video content that can be liked and shared, but also giving your students the opportunity to learn or hone a new and valuable skill whilst working with children of different ages to produce an end result they can be proud of. In can also be of benefit when applying to university and for jobs. You no longer have to be thinking about working in the media industry to be making films, in fact before long everyone will be doing it. We think this is a opportunity schools can embrace to jump ahead of competitors and benefit the development of their students. What do you think?