Worried about Engagement? Have Students Create 'New Media'?


  • Will Rifkin
  • Nancy Longnecker
  • Joan Leach
  • Lloyd Davis


Science lecturers are now assigning students to create blogs, wikis, video, and podcasts based on course content. Are such assignments a gimmick or a portent of things to come, where the laboratory notebook surrenders to the laptop and video camera? A number of the dozen ‘pioneers’ whom we have interviewed have stated that they are driven by a concern about ‘engagement’. They are willing to take a risk on ‘new media’ assignments because they are sure that more conventional approaches lack punch. Others suggest that they have been painted into a corner by a decline in lab space or a lack of funding for the desired number of laboratory sessions. They are not blind to the many challenges imagined by the hundred or so lecturers whom we have had in focus groups. Nor are these pioneer daunted. They have been drawn by the attractions identified by these focus groups – engagement, creativity, developing students’ new media skills and insights, and providing students with practice in teamwork. This paper captures a work in progress by an emerging community of practice. It covers the promise, examples of assignments, inferred impacts, and challenges noted by lecturers who seem intrigued by the possibilities.