Production as Plugin: Method Complexity

Complexity of the work students do can vary from one assignment to another, but the core difference is about the number of separate actions or skills a student needs to execute effectively in order to produce an assignment submission. So if the assignment is asking the student to show satisfactory understanding of the concept of video editing, say, then a simpler version of the assignment might be pared down significantly in range and depth, focusing on even one single skill such as matching an outgoing clip’s out point with an incoming clip’s in point. By contrast, the more complex version of that same assignment could include a wide range of necessary editing skills – sequencing, pacing, rhythm, narrative alignment, cause-effect chain management, emotional engagement, and on and on – as well as considerable depth in each of these, asking students not only to show they can accomplish these tasks, but challenging them to develop nuance within their own work, consider their personal style as editors, think critically about each one’s role in the overall project, be self-reflective about the benefits and challenges of working with the video medium, and so forth. So the question I want to raise here is, what does thinking about complexity add to the design process for these methods?

First, a reminder of the methods we’re considering (for now; it’s certainly possible that this work I’m engaged in will uncover others as well).

  • Prep exercises/assignments
  • In-class workshops
  • Additional workshops
  • Exemplars
  • Peer learning
  • Faculty-guided self-learning
  • Simple self-learning

Again, these were arranged roughly according to time commitment from most to least, so there is no structured relationship to complexity here. Instead, each has the potential to be incorporated into a course with more or less complexity. But imagine multiple different versions of in-class workshops, where students are asked to work on a video creation task like recording a video clip with their camera, say. There are more and less complex versions, with the most simple taking the form of something like “turn on your camera, press record, count to five, and then press record again,” and the most complex comprising a wide range of different camera-related skills that could take up an entire course. Any of these seven methods for video assignment learning support can be structured with more or less complex elements.

One concept that can be of some use here, it seems to me, is Bloom’s Taxonomy. Though there are certainly issues (for example) worth addressing with this concept, and we should not apply this unilaterally to the question of video assignment design, the core approach to analysis of learning processes in the Taxonomy is also one of complexity. Patricia Armstrong, writing for the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching notes that the six categories “all [lie] along a continuum from simple to complex and concrete to abstract,” with what visually are the “lower” levels but in this sense we might instead consider the “earlier” one generally requiring less complexity, and the “later” categories requiring more.

For example, I have made several different kinds of video editing assignments over the years, both at different levels of course complexity, such as Digital Video Production I versus II or Elements of Media Making versus Advanced Video Production, as well as in different learning contexts, where the depth of video editing skill has been lesser or greater, as in these courses above that are focused entirely on production skills, versus courses like Viewers, Users and Fans (a course about media consumption and use) or my film noir course, where the focus is on a topic, concept, or medium, and video creation is one of several different kinds of student work present in those courses for a much more specific purpose and therefore requiring much less video creation skill complexity than the former group. If you look through those assignments, you will notice how these two axes – introductory versus advanced and production- versus studies-focused – shape the criteria for the assignment in terms of length, topic range, and number of separate criteria for evaluation. We might lay that out in a simple chart as follows:


My thought here is just that, when it comes to the movement through Bloom’s categories (and really, I’m looking at the Revised categories published in 2001), we can see an alignment with what they were hoping to catalogue about learning with their taxonomy and the way I’m thinking about complexity with regard to video assignment design.

In addition to this simple structure, there is another important concept the Taxonomy raises for me worth touching on, which has to do with the reason the categories are arranged in the order they are, and that is the notion of progression. In Bloom’s (original or revised), a learner who has mastered a later category for a given field of knowledge may be assumed to have mastered the earlier ones as well. For example, trying to Evaluate before you have learned to Analyze is likely to lead to thin, overly simplistic conclusions and judgments. Will Fastiggi makes this point clearly:

“As Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchy of progressive processes ranging from the simple to the complex, in which it is necessary to first master those lower down the pyramid before being able to master those higher up, the framework promotes what Bloom termed ‘mastery learning’. In other words, by moving up the taxonomy, students become more knowledgeable, more skilled and develop an improved understanding of the content they are learning.”

“Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to the Classroom,” Will Fastiggi

So if look more closely at the Advanced Video Production project above, you’ll notice that a fundamental part of that assignment is not only to create a narrative fiction video with certain specific parameters, but also to write an extended reflection about the process of producing it, in which students engage with some important metacognitive questions about that process of creation. I require this in that class because as an advanced production-focused course, part of what I’m asking students to do is operate at a high level of complexity, weaving together discrete recall and understanding of things like screenwriting and video camera technology, apply them in the creation of a new work, but also to be noting, through analysis, the distinct elements of that process of creation and then produce a detailed evaluation of it against their initial goals for it when they began the course. I don’t ask them to move through the categories in a sequential fashion, but I do expect them to be able to do them all for this project. In various ways, none of my other courses require such a holistic approach to Bloom’s six categories of learning when it comes to video assignments: they are all less complex, but that is completely fine, even appropriate, given the role each video assignment plays in those courses.

Again, I don’t want to overemphasize the value of this model, especially since learning rarely happens in neat, ordered sequences where we first fully master analysis before we ever evaluate anything. But the point is not to suggest this, I don’t think, but rather to note that more complex thinking, making, and learning necessarily builds on more simple first steps: crawl, walk, run. When we are thinking about any assignment design, we should keep this in mind. With video assignments, where the last level of Creation is such a fundamental engine to the learning that happens during their production, thinking about and making plans to address complexity in our assignment designs should be key.


Production as Plugin: Rethinking Methods

I had outlined seven common methods faculty might use to help students learn the techniques of video production for their assignments. They are:

  • Prep exercises/assignments
  • In-class workshops
  • Additional workshops
  • Exemplars
  • Peer learning
  • Faculty-guided self-learning
  • Simple self-learning

Unlike my thinking about faculty concerns, my approach to outlining these methods was more grounded in specific evidence drawn from several sources: assignments posted by other faculty to the site, a few of my own assignments, and a broader selection of course materials posted by faculty in media studies (the site itself is oriented toward media studies faculty specifically, hence the latter group). I did a short post recently re-linked the urls for most of the original examples I had used in the original post, and if you look through those, I think you’ll see the same range of approaches to supporting student learning for video assignments that I did.

My labels for some of these are a bit obscuring (e.g.: “prep exercises” refers to the broad range of scaffolding assignments for video as well as less complex practice assignments). However, the general movement above from top to bottom is from more hands-on, time-intensive activities built deliberately into the course to more hands-off ones faculty might rely on instead. In fact, looking back at it now, I notice the word “time” appears 18 times in the 1800 word piece (which is probably too high a rate for almost any word), which only underscores the time-based framework I laid out.

Here what I’d like to do is reconsider some other factors besides time that make these approaches more or less useful in different contexts. Complexity of work, degree of guidance, and the role of creating versus analyzing in each assignment are three additional instructional design factors worth thinking about more deeply.

Complexity of work recognizes that some assignments will have more steps and/or interrelated elements than others, and more complex these are, the more attention will be required both on the part of the faculty member to explain and supervise student work (lest they misunderstand the assignment), and on the part of the student work through the process with sustained focus and deliberation.

Degree of guidance refers to how much an instructor is involved in overseeing the work students are doing. Note that this need not be the faculty member: it could be other institutional staff or someone off site. Also, this is separate from complexity: even a simple assignment may need careful guidance on the part of the instructor. This is often especially true when students are first learning the skills necessary for a video assignment.

Creating versus analyzing draws attention to the extent to which an assignment requires students to analyze existing works, drawing connections to their own work process, versus to create something new that relates to video. Some blend of both is probably ideal as the two modes complement each other, but at the level of an individual assignment, either one is privileged heavily over the other, or they are separated entirely.

In the next three posts, I will look back at each of the seven methods from the original piece using each of these three as a new lens to look deeper at them.

Production as Plugin Sidebar: Broken Links

I mentioned previously that some of the links in the original piece are now missing for whatever reason. Some of them – mostly individual faculty assignments and syllabi from their personal websites – would still be broken even if they were included.

But there are several that still work, so I’m re-posting them below in case you find them useful. 🙂

Production as Plug-in Update: Faculty Concerns

In 2013, I had identified two primary faculty concerns: expectations of student familiarity, assessing your own facility and comfort with media production. Let me try first to reconstruct something of my thinking about these two concepts, then I’ll look more closely at what I wrote then, and then I’ll offer some updates for today.


Though it’s pretty hard to recall much of my process from almost a decade ago, I know that the brief outline of faculty concerns about video assignments I wrote then developed out of my interactions with my colleagues at AC. Several have sought me out over the years for different kinds of advice regarding video and other kinds of digital media, mostly as they relate to teaching: how to use video clips in different classroom situations more effectively, techniques to create videos for in-class demonstrations, ways to capture video and other media to use in class, and what kinds of things to consider if they wanted to assign a video in one of their classes.

I’ve spoken to faculty in chemistry, education, music, physics, and political science about these and other issues related to video and pedagogy, and I’ve tried to really listen to them about why they wanted to use video, what they hoped to gain from its introduction, and what they are concerned about with the process. All of that was filtered into that opening section of the piece, where I was hoping to distill the most prominent concerns those colleagues had shared with me on our way toward finding solutions to their problems regarding video in their classes.


I chose to frame those concerns around familiarity/facility – among students, among my colleagues themselves – because it seemed the most clear and coherent way to summarize what I had been hearing over and over from my colleagues. “Expectations of student familiarity” and “Assessing your own facility and comfort with media production” were, in my mind, mirror reflections of each other, sitting right at the core of the teacher-student relationship and fundamental to engaged, lasting learning.

Writing about student familiarity, I focused on the “range of familiarity” they are likely to have with video making, because in my experience, it can be considerable. Some (even then, more so now) will have essentially all the knowledge they need to produce a video they are assigned, and in the same class there will be some who not only have never made a video for others, but have reasonable anxiety about such work as well. This led me to conclude that “in most cases, you will need to plan for some kind of production skill training “plug-in” in conjunction with your assignment.”

Turning that concern around to faculty facility with video, my focus was on encouraging and empowering my faculty reader, while still being realistic about the range and depth of knowledge necessary and useful to make this kind of assignment work. I wanted to be clear that introducing a video assignment will necessarily require balancing each faculty member’s available resources during planning: “Consider what kind of time you are willing to devote to facilitating student learning of production skills relative to the time you already devote to facilitating their learning of existing material in the syllabus.”


Since 2013, I have had more time to think about this, about the ways video assignments create opportunities and challenges for student learning. One important opportunity of my own was to be a fellow for the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant the college received in 2014. Many of the more than 30 grantees of that project used video in some way, so I had a chance to talk to most of them at some length about their concerns. The two I identified above have remained central in those conversations, but a few others are worth noting as well.

First, several expressed concern about the role copyright necessarily plays in the dissemination of all digital media, but especially video. This is a concern I’ve heard articulated with regard to the use of existing, copyrighted works as well as with the original works students produce. In both cases, the concern is focused on lacking familiarity with the laws regarding copyright and worrying they and/or their students might suddenly step into treacherous waters.

Second, it won’t surprise anyone familiar with teachers and teaching to hear that concerns about the process of evaluating student video work was a common question I heard. This is in some ways an extension of the question of facility, but as anyone who has taught for some time knows, there are still important differences between knowing how to do something well, and knowing how to evaluate that thing in the context of a course that features it. Especially given the rise of the use of rubrics for evaluation in skill-based assignments over the last 10-20 years, colleagues asked me over and over again where they could find an existing rubric to assess video assignments that would help them frame its central components and communicate different degrees of skill and quality to students.

Third, many of my colleagues asked about strategies for organization and planning of video assignments during the run of the course. These questions were focused on the logistics of actually engaging students and helping them to succeed during the course itself. I did talk around this set of questions to some degree in the original piece, as several of the methods I identified then had to do with when students would receive the knowledge and training they would need to complete the assignment. However, I did not address it head on then, nor do those tangential comments constitute anything I would consider potentially helpful to faculty considering a video assignment today.

I hope to return to all of the concerns above in the longer piece I am working on. More to come.

Production as Plug-in: Limitations, Schedule

The original piece worked well enough in its context, but it did have some limitations.

First, there was little room to provide support for the theoretical claims upon which the structure of the piece was based. However, there has been some work supporting these claims both before and since the piece was published that are worth considering further.

Second, there are more ways to support video assignments than the seven I outlined in the original piece. For example, many campuses now have IT and/or instructional design staff who can help manage different aspects of the assignment support (such as in-class workshops, out-of-class meetings or support), opening up more options for the faculty member in structuring video assignments.

Finally, the method I used in that piece to support each approach, linking to actual assignment descriptions for each one, has some limitations of its own. First, many of the original links are missing (it would appear that only the internal links to other posts are still working). I do have the links I submitted then, but some of those are now broken as well. In addition, I only accessed those assignments passively, never speaking to any of the faculty who assigned them. So for the next iteration of this piece, I will supplement direct links with ethnographic responses from the creators themselves.

So here’s how I thought the project might develop. My hope is that by the end of this process, I’ll be able to articulate more clearly the structure and outline of whatever the updated publication might entail.

  1. Introduction to the project, gathering my thoughts.
  2. (This post) Referencing the original piece, identifying limitations and areas in need of revision.
  3. On the first section, on concerns faculty have: expectations of student familiarity, assessing your own facility and comfort with media production.
  4. On the second section, the seven original methods I outlined.
    • An overview of the time-based approach I took originally.
    • Looking at the methods again in terms of:
      • complexity.
      • degree of guidance.
      • creation versus analysis.
  5. Plans for the next steps of the project: interviewing/surveying as a means to capture existing experiences with video assignments; journals that would make sense to submit this work to; ways the work can positively impact my colleagues at Austin College.

(I’ll update this post as the other posts are published so it functions like a table of contents as well.)

(Re-)Starting a Project

I’d like to get back into some professional development and scholarship of teaching and learning work I started several years ago but have put on the back burner since. I will focus on developing best practices for higher ed faculty who use video assignments in their classes, but are not trained to teach video making.

First, my sense from talking to my immediate colleagues is that many faculty do already use video assignments, and a decent number of others are interested but not sure how to begin. This suggests to me that there is considerable need to provide resources for them, and yet such resources are not readily available. There are certainly general-use tutorials available, both free-to-use via sites like Youtube, and for-pay through sites like, but these do not pay any attention to pedagogical matters or questions of instructional design. Especially if your institution does not have an information technologist with instructional design experience on staff, or the staff so designated do not have specific experience with video, the need will remain high and unmet. So there is room here to develop more resources for this group, and it’s clear to me the group will only grow into the future.

To do that, first I’d like to return to the piece I wrote for Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier way back in 2013, and update and/or expand on what I wrote there. I had identified some concerns I was hearing regularly from colleagues about challenges of video assignments, and I had developed a kind of loose typology of approaches to integrating them into a course. That piece today is not only somewhat dated given how video making has grown in the intervening years, but also lacked depth due to the constraints of the format.

What I’d like to do is re-blog here much of that piece, with the goal of updating and expanding on each part in the hopes of not only developing it with an eye toward more scholarly rigor, but also sharing some thoughts and ideas against which others may comment and engage, as well as providing a place from which I may draw material for future writing. I’ll start these posts in earnest next week, and am hoping to stay on a daily schedule until that work is complete.

I also want to survey the current landscape, something I did not really do when I first started this work, and analyze its contours. I’ll be developing a survey/interview instrument made up of questions that should help clarify where faculty are at today with video assignments. Some of the questions motivating that part of the project include:

  • What do faculty who assign video today think about it ? How do they understand the relationships between video assignments and the learning they want their students to gain? What do they see as the relationship between video and other media, especially writing, as tools for students to express their knowledge, thoughts, and understanding? About what are they excited when it comes to video assignments? What are the greatest challenges for them in assigning video?
  • For those faculty interested but not sure how to begin, what are their reasons for not taking that next step? What kinds of resources, should they become available, would allow them to do that? Among those already assigning video, what were the factors for them that generated the energy necessary to take that step already? Are there deeper issues or concerns for them about introducing video into their classes, like a shift away from writing/print toward visual media, or the ongoing struggles of media producers to deal with copyright?

From there, my goals are two-fold. First, to gather all of the above into a coherent statement about the current state of video assignments, their possibilities and their challenges, as articulated by the faculty who use them or are considering doing so. Second, to use the work in a concrete way to support colleagues at my own institution directly. Not necessarily to grow the number of video assignments on campus or faculty offering them – although that strikes me as a natural offshoot of sharing this work – but to help expand the depth and complexity of video assignments into the future.

There is no question about whether video viewing will continue to grow, and little question about whether the uses of video in all aspects of life will continue to grow as well. So it makes sense for all of us to develop facility with the medium in the same way it has made great sense for all of us to develop facility with writing. My goal is for this project to make some needed progress toward that kind of development.

More to come next week. 🙂

DNN Tool: Wakelet

This is a quick shot, and I’m certainly not the first to consider this, but I wanted to mention Wakelet as a solid tool for making social media stories. It has the essential elements we need: it allows you to pull into a collection (their term for what Storify used to call stories) individual items from social media feeds on platforms where you have an account, and crucially, it allows you to sequence them in the order that’s most fitting to the story you’re telling. Love it.


Spring 2020: Doin’ All This Dope Producin’*

And away we go again! This semester, I’m focusing quite a bit on media making in different forms and contexts.

Because of other changes in the media studies curriculum here at AC intended to encourage students to see production/making and theory/criticism as more closely inter-related, I’ve renamed Digital Video Production II to Advanced Video Production. It is the same course – deeper focus on video production through a semester-long, group-produced short film – but without DVPI (it’s now Elements of Media Making), DVPII doesn’t make much sense). We should end up with two short films from the class, which we’ll screen at the end of the semester during finals week.

I’m also teaching Digital Networked Narratives, a course that offers a way for students to explore ways to tell stories with media other than video: image, sound, interactive tools, and social media. We’re using Bryan Alexander’s The New Digital Storytelling, 2nd edition to help frame the exercises and projects the students will be making in the course, and I’m very much looking forward to what the students in there will create.

Finally, I’m teaching Persuasive Media, a course I developed a few years back to help students think about the various ways media influence us. (It’s also a way for me to stay connected to the world of rhetorical studies, where I did a significant amount of my graduate studies and that formed the argument in my dissertation, and as a bonus, we watch several documentaries.) The focus of that course is more analytical than the other two, but I do have these students producing a rhetorical critique on the web that includes a video essay.

So for perhaps the first time since I’ve been at AC, all three of my courses in the same semester have a significant media making component. That’s something worth noting. 🙂

*The title references a line from NWA’s “Express Yourself” (1988).

Sabbatical 2018: Central Concerns

I’ve written recently about other aspects of my sabbatical, but in this post I’d like to start thinking semi-publicly about the more traditional goals I’ve set for myself: producing scholarship for potential publication.

In the past, my public work, limited though it has been, has been in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) genre. I’ve published and presented shorter pieces on using digital networked media like video production, social media, and alternate reality games (ARGs) in media studies courses, including thinking about their pedagogical impact on the ways students learn, as well as the practical logistics of getting such projects and assignments up and running in non-media production courses.

In addition, I’ve been doing service-teaching hybrid work at my institution for a while that supports digital networked media use for learning in disciplines outside of media studies (such as education, chemistry, anthropology, and languages) as well as other campus programs like study abroad and career services.

Guiding Questions

So my thinking for this sabbatical has begun to focus on the intersection of these heavily related areas. Questions that are animating me right now include:

  1. How seriously can we take the claim that in our digital-networked-media-saturated era, “literacy” must necessarily include “digital literacy” and specifically “digital networked media literacy”?
  2. Beyond this, how important is the ability to create digital networked media? As a tool for communication? As a vehicle for learning? As a mode of expression?
  3. Might it be fruitful to think of media production learning the way James Paul Gee writes about “cultural processes” of learning in Situated Language and Learning?
  4. If this is fruitful, how can we improve the way we approach media production pedagogy in light of this?


First, maybe it’s too obvious to start with 1. – is this not, in 2018, taken for granted? On the contrary, based on conversations I have had with some of my colleagues, this remains a point for which we must continue to make a robust argument. It is not foregone. Perhaps the question is not whether “literacy” includes things digital and networked, but where we should focus our energies in incorporating those things into student learning (and by extension, our pedagogy).

As for 2., it begins with support for the argument that higher education in the U.S. should feature a “liberal education.” For me, this is one that emphasizes strong fundamentals in modes of engaging the world like critical thinking, the scientific method, systems thinking, and creativity.  These are strongly supported by fundamental communication skills we each use to express our thoughts and ideas, which have traditionally included reading, writing, and sometimes speaking. If we agree with this outline of an argument, it is not much of a leap to ask whether strong digital networked media literacy isn’t also important to develop for all students as well, and within that package of concepts and skills, certainly producing such media would be a core if not even a capstone element.

On 3., a bit more detail.  Gee writes about three broad approaches to language learning, “cultural processes,” “natural” processes, and “instructional” processes. The latter two are approaches with which we are likely more familiar: natural refers to times when we learn “through immersion and activity” (9), while instructional happens between a teacher/instructor and a student.  “Cultural” processes, by contrast, hold a kind of middle ground in Gee’s eyes: they are guided by a master, and include things like observing the master. The also feature “good enough” learning for the majority, plus expert learning for a minority.  This differs from natural, where “good enough” is what everyone achieves, and instructional, where expert learning is not only common but often expected.

When we turn to consider how well this maps onto the current state of media production (brief pause while I open a draft – now coming soon – of a new post on the production vs. creation vs. making tangent), there are some intriguing contours to consider.  First, it seems to me that this is surely where we find ourselves today with social media making. With both text and image creation, most users of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have developed “good enough” knowledge for how to navigate and create new media texts – micro-content posts that include text, still images, and graphics intended for small to medium-sized audiences. Perhaps we are headed toward this with video and interactive media making as well: consider the explosion of non-professional video production in the last year or two – with Twitch, Periscope, Snapchat, to name a few – much less the sea-change of the past decade that Youtube has wrought.

One element to consider is, who is the “master” in these scenarios? I would argue that, not unlike another powerful concept in Gee’s writing, affinity spaces, the master(s) for today’s media makers can be found in chat rooms, forums, and other social spaces online where “those who know (how)” teach those who don’t.  But they can also be found on video sharing platforms themselves (especially Youtube), in the form of (what very well may have reached the millions by now) “how-to” videos, on what seems to be every imaginable subject. This sub-genre of typically also non-professional media fascinates me, because in it you find so many who are in need of “good enough” learning about media making because their goal – to serve as a “master” to others seeking knowledge on a topic they know well – includes learning to produce online video only incidentally.

Finally, 4. is really the objective of all of this potential research. I would like to provide fellow media creation teachers – and again, not solely or even primarily those of us with graduate-level training in how to teach this stuff – with new ways of thinking about what services we are providing our students when we teach them the skills for making new media, and how those skills can support the other work they are doing in higher education to develop and grow.

How to do eSports…? (No seriously. I’m asking.)

As I mentioned in another post on my (non-research) sabbatical projects we really have no idea how the esports program will actually function as of now (although we’re starting one anyway – it would seem there may be too much possibility of falling behind not to try to stumble our way through the startup). So here are just a few of the things I’m thinking about as I begin to try to organize my own thinking about how best to get this off the ground.

  • Practices. Since its a competitive team, of course there must be practices. But will these be primarily face-to-face, synchronous but at a distance (i.e., in dorm rooms and offices but streaming live), or asynchronously as individuals/small groups/teams?
  • Matches. Matches themselves will mostly be run using the second method, either in self-organized “scrimmages” or through one of the esports conferences sprouting up (NACE and TESPA are the two big ones right now), but there’s certainly room both on campus and regionally in North Texas where we’re located for the first model as well. How much should we be committing our time to matches versus practice? My wrestling coach in high school was all about “practice as you compete”: our practices usually ended with full matches, both for conditioning but also for skill development. Is that something that will work best for esports? Could it be game-dependent?
  • Organization. Some aspects of esports today strike me as akin to Chess in the way they pit individuals against one another in largely-strategic matchups. Others are more like what I imagine Track and Field is like: each game is a distinct event in which some team participants will compete; some very strong competitors may end up competing in more than one event/game, but most will specialize in one. What mental models will be most useful for us in terms of organizing ourselves?
  • Support. Who else in our community may be out there interested in helping to make this program a success?
    • As a college team (as opposed to a professional one), there surely must be some aspects of the program that connect to things our students are actually learning at our college (as opposed to just being a training ground for future professional work/play). So my faculty colleagues can hopefully help me think through some of those issues as well. Will they be interested in taking time away from their busy schedules to help me engage these questions?
    • There are admissions, advancement, and student affairs staff who need to be at least in the loop if not actively helping to steer the program, and of course IT looms quite large in all of this as well. So far, I’ve had really productive conversations with folks from all of these areas of campus, but of course they have their own full-time jobs to deal with as well (and no sabbatical within which to experiment with time allocations). Will it be easier or harder for them to take time to support esports than faculty colleagues?
    • What about alums? Do they have a role to play in this endeavor, and if so, what might that be?
    • And of course, students: they will be the team in a real sense (especially those who play games I have little or no experience with). But also, there is the much larger segment of the student body who play games regularly but for various reasons won’t be on the team. How can we engage them in ways that are productive and fun?
  • Budget. What is reasonable to expect going forward in terms of dollars into the program for the gains we’re hoping to draw from it? To my mind, it is unreasonable to expect college employees – faculty or staff – to provide more than an hour or two a week to the program without additional compensation.  So far, the only person that it looks like this “rule” would directly affect is me, but I’m very aware of how committing the time needed to the success of a program like this would create much more problematic conflicts with the work I’ve actually been hired to do for the college. And of course there is the very real fact that esports has a pretty heavy upfront cost (unless we choose a bring-your-own-device model, not something we’ve decided to do with our program). What is the best ratio of gaming stations to team participants? What specs are the most important to focus on if you’re on a budget (and who isn’t)?

Tentative answers to these questions will certainly help us get off the ground in the coming weeks, but we will need to continue thinking about them as we move forward. That is where you come in: what are your thoughts on the roles esports can play at a contemporary small liberal arts college and how we can best support such a program?