Lights, Camera, Ag-tion!
Student Bailey Higa interviews Professor John Eadie for her class video project. (Chris Nicolini | UC Davis)
For decades, UC Davis students in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have learned how to milk cows, drive tractors, and grow plants. But a new class may add one more skill to the Aggie traditions list: video production.
Students expect their courses and instructors to cover all of the skills and information necessary to land a future job. But in the increasingly-connected world we live in, simply knowing the material no longer ensures a successful career — especially if you're unable to explain your knowledge using a medium that colleagues understand. And most professionals — regardless of field — would likely agree that the ability to communicate your knowledge about a topic is almost as important as what you actually know about that topic.
To teach students multimedia production skills, the college now offers "Developing Digital Communication Skills in Agricultural, Environmental, and Human Sciences." The two-unit course teaches students interested in digital communications how to organize, plan, and produce topic-specific videos.
"Students come to the university and they need to learn how to write, to speak — everybody understands that — and I think how to produce video is another important skill because of how video is exploding in society and gaining traction here at the university," said James Carey, a distinguished professor of entomology and co-instructor of the video course.
The concept of creating a class to develop and improve digital communication skills for CA&ES students began in 2008 when Carey connected with Professor Arnold Bloom of plant sciences, an early adopter of video technology. As the idea grew, Susan Ebeler — associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs — suggested that students in the course could produce videos about their major that would be posted on the college website.
"Sue [Ebeler], to her great credit, saw the potential here and came up with the idea that the students should produce videos about their major," said Carey.
"I started to learn that one of the most important ways that students learn about our majors is through information on our website," said Ebeler. "One of my goals was to highlight our majors so that we could tell prospective students and their families what our college is about. They're the ones who know about it, they can express their own enthusiasm and personality about their interest in the major — and the information would be communicated to their peers in a way that's so much better than I or someone else could do creating a video with what we think is important. But what do the students think is important?"
Students enrolled in AED 098 quickly realized that good video production requires much more work than just picking up a camera and pressing the record button. There are many logistical and scheduling challenges that need to be addressed before filming can begin. Since the videos for the class were limited to two minutes, the students also learned to communicate the most relevant information concisely.
"It's very cool being in charge of it [producing a video] to see what scenes look good to you, to figure out which angles to film, and to having people redo things several times to have a lot of footage to choose from. It taught me a lot," said Bailey Higa, a junior majoring in wildlife, fish and conservation biology. "I think that people who want to take it [AED 098] are people like myself who are super passionate about their major. It's a great way to see the majors that UC Davis has to offer through the eyes of the students."
CA&ES Academic Majors | AED 098 Student Produced Videos