Integrating Weebly and Go Daddy.com in a Streaming Media and Audio Production Portfolio Course
This abstract focuses on integrating Weebly and Go Daddy as effective tools for teaching streaming media in an audio production curriculum. By combining these web elements, audio production students are introduced to convergent and integrated broadcast media concepts while building their final portfolio to graduate.
Daniel A. Walzer
Senior Lead Faculty/Department of Audio Production
Art Institutes International of Minnesota
As traditional media outlets converge towards a fully integrated digital platform on the internet, the need to address these changes in an audio production curriculum is essential. Capitalizing on the myriad of web-based portals to simulate broadcast environments is both cost effective and an excellent tool for building a comprehensive portfolio as students near graduation from the academy. By creating class projects that teach the essential aspects of simple web design, video blogging, podcasting and audio production, students are exposed to a well-rounded set of course competencies that foster creative thinking, entrepreneurship, and effective promotion. By incorporating this comprehensive approach, students are better served to navigate the demands of a changing media landscape while learning to creatively express themselves using simple web-based portals.
According to Britt and Eppes (2003), audio production curricula have grown considerably over the past decade in large part due to the powerful marketing and interconnectedness between popular culture, media, and electronics technology (1). Students in a typical baccalaureate audio program are exposed to sound for picture, MIDI production, electronics, video editing, mixing, music production, live sound, sound for animation, and multimedia web production. As technology has become more integrated with the internet, aspiring audio professionals have the ability to create and upload sonic content almost instantaneously.
According to noted American author and educator Mark Prensky (2005), 21st century audio production majors are fully immersed in a “digital native” culture (2). Prensky defines digital natives as “students [who are] native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language of computers, video games and the internet”. (Prensky 2005, 2)
Streaming media and web-based production courses are specifically designed to showcase student work and facilitate creative multimedia expression in a cost effective fashion while observing the changing trends in Web 2.0. According to Brown and Adler (2008), the rapidly changing influence of technology has infiltrated the educational marketplace and students are now poised to powerfully influence multimedia expression on a global scale in an extremely cost-effective way (18).
Generally a course of this type would showcase student demo reels and occur in their third or fourth year of undergraduate study. At this point of their degree matrix, audio production majors should have taken foundational courses in digital audio, video editing, computer applications and studio/live recording classes. These varied courses would also serve as appropriate prerequisites for the convergent streaming media class. A streaming portfolio course could also serve as a perfect capstone for the internship and/or graduation.
An audio-focused streaming multimedia course is set up in two distinct ways. The first is a lecture-based format in which students are exposed to the basic theoretical principles of streaming media. During this portion of the class, students learn about web- delivery formats, audio and video-specific codecs, Web 2.0 principles, and the general history of media production for the web. Students learn about the aspects of effective web promotion through the analysis of metadata, search engine optimization and effective keywords. Additionally the students learn about the evolution of social networks and their role in the media marketplace, and a history of media players as well.
The second portion of the course focuses on laboratory work, where students produce and refine various types of media content. In considering the space and web design limitations, a web-based portal serves as an effective host for student websites and audio/media portfolios. The comprehensive “reel” and corresponding website are built over the course of the term in stepwise fashion.
Weebly is a website with dedicated web templates that allow students to customize the layout of their site with a number of multimedia options. Some of these options include embedded video, music players, and slide shows. The students are given short weekly video assignments in which they review a product, provide instruction about some facet of audio production, or present a video diary. Other students chose to produce sonic poems with still photography and original compositions. Once the students produce a simple two-minute video, they’ll transfer the raw footage into Final Cut Pro and proceed to edit the projects as assigned.
The web videos are then exported using Quick Time conversion into a streaming format that was small enough to fit on a website quite easily. Over the course of the term, each student will produce six to eight finished videos, complete with edits, fades, and the appropriate slate. Each student is required to tape a "video greeting" which will appear on the front page of their website.
As a part of each lab time, the students critique each video and are encouraged to develop a mini-series based on these short video exercises. The goal is to foster a creative mindset for producing short-form content. As a result of this, by the end of the quarter each student's web videos increase in depth, production value and overall content. This portion of the project also familiarizes them with multiple video compression formats and multiple delivery streams. Some students chose to create their own YouTube channel as well. By cross-promoting their YouTube channel, they drove traffic to their content in a quick fashion. This is a great benefit to lab time as Weebly also has a multimedia feature that allows web site builders to link to other media outlets as well.
After the students build some momentum in the video realm, they were encouraged to take pictures with a digital camera and create a Flickr account as well. Since Weebly allows for a Flickr slide show, the students already have two or three significant elements for content on their website. A portion of each week’s lab time is dedicated to exploring the Weebly templates and each student receives instruction in how to drag and drop the elements into their website.
Weebly has a feature that allows for configuration of a domain name from an external source. In this case, the students are presented with two options. Most of the students in the course upgrade to the Weebly Pro account for a nominal fee. This allows them to further customize the html to their specific needs. By doing so, they can embed their current resume, contact information and additional portfolio pieces.
Go Daddy is one of the most visible domain hosts on the internet. Students in the class researched the available domain names and then encouraged to purchase their domain name through this site. By doing so, they could register the name and then reconfigure it with Weebly's site. In total, the cost is under thirty dollars for the Weebly Pro and Go Daddy registration for six months.
Once the students purchase their domain name, the final step of the process involves redirecting their Go Daddy domain name with Weebly's site. In the FAQ section of Weebly, there is an entire tutorial in how to configure a customized domain name with their server. The students redirect their Weebly default address to the customized domain name. Within a few minutes their individual domain names appear with the Weebly website they have just built from scratch.
Students started including additional audio and post-production projects that serve as appropriate demonstration recordings. Some choose to link these videos to their YouTube channels, and others take advantage of the Weebly music and video players. In all, the students are required to submit three finished web videos, three finished audio mixes, an updated resume and contact information, and their other multimedia projects on the Weebly site. The final element includes their personalized video greeting. This video greeting helps personalize the site and is a memorable alternative to a standardized cut-and-paste cover letter that is written. Additionally these elements take advantage of the simple multimedia tools that are at the consumer's disposal.
By the end of the quarter each student has an individually designed web page that is truly reflective of their personality and interests. In the beginning of the term, the students often express apprehension in trying to build a website without much experience. This alternative has been most effective in showing them how to be empowered in the Web 2.0 era. The project gives them a tangible item they can continue to revise after the course is finished. With a simple click of a mouse, potential employers can peruse the student's demo reel and portfolio, thus increasing their chances of standing out in the job market, all while giving the student a viable avenue to display their originality and creativity.
By configuring Weebly and Go Daddy into a comprehensive semester or quarter-long project, audio production students test out the web domain without serious complications. Secondly they learn vital web-based design skills while fostering an entrepreneurial mindset through search engine optimization and metadata manipulation.
In this digital era, audio production students need every advantage they can in order to foster a creative multimedia presence on the web. As the paradigm changes with media convergence, this project has created a synergy between technology, entrepreneurship and the stated learning objectives of the course. This project has also been a cost-effective solution to limited server space. And most importantly, it has reinforced the importance of well-roundedness as our audio production majors enter the job market after graduation.
Britt, Timothy, and Tom Eppes. "Audio Technology as a Gateway to Engineering." Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Session 3448 (2003): 1-6.
Brown, John Seely, and Richard P. Adler. "Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0." EDUCAUSE Review January/February (2008): 17-32.
Prensky, Marc. "Listen to the Natives." Educational Leadership 63 (2005): 8-13.