Cameras continue to roll
|December 15, 2020|
When the pandemic forced Loyola to shift most fall classes online, it created a unique challenge to students in video and audio production classes. With limited access to the School of Communication’s sophisticated video equipment, students came up with creative ways to complete their projects. In this essay, Rebecca Vandeventer, a junior Film/Media Production major, shares how she and her classmates prevailed, producing some attention-getting and award-winning video projects.
By Rebecca Vandeventer
The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the world as we know it, and of course, as college students, our educational experience was flipped on its head this year.
One element of Loyola’s curriculum that was especially affected by a shift of fall classes online was the Engaged Learning course, COMM 337: AD/PR Multi-Media Commercial Production, taught by Professor John Goheen.
This class is unique in its roster alone, as the course combines students studying Advertising and Public Relations with Film/Media Production students. COMM 337 typically has students create broadcast or web-based advertising spots for real clients.
The challenge this semester was that students were taking the class online. Access to the School of Communication’s Owl Lab, which houses sophisticated video and audio equipment, was limited to students living near campus. The remaining students had to use iPhones and other mobile devices to record their projects.
Professor Goheen encouraged students to come up with safe and innovative ways to create commercials. It was challenging to say the least.
Through social media outreach and personal connections, students found clients for the assignments, both in Chicago, and in other locations. While clients ranged from a local flower shop to an Indiana children’s museum, there was one client that all students shared: Indivisible Chicago, a voter advocacy group.
For the service component of this Engaged Learning course, students produced a video for Indivisible Chicago to encourage voters to head to the polls for the 2020 election. The unique mission of this assignment required students to grow, not only personally and professionally, but also in the realm of civic engagement.
“The ‘Get Out the Vote’ video reminded me that even during unprecedented times, our voices can still be heard, we can continue to create pieces that relate to others, and working together for the greater good is something that should be at the forefront of what we do as a country,” said Jessica Douglas, a second year graduate student in the Digital Media and Storytelling program.
International Digital Storytelling graduate students Ying Fu and Yucheng Jiang along with sophomore AD/PR major Luna Qin, all from China, completed this assignment having a limited understanding of the American voting system themselves. And that may not have even been the most difficult part of working on assignments together.
With Luna stuck in Shanghai this semester, coordinating and collaborating as a team often required patients and understanding when dealing with a 14-hour time difference. Yucheng explained that it was just one of many obstacles that had to be dealt with this semester.
“It was harder for us to work as a team, because of the time difference. Depending on the time of day, there were times when we just weren’t able to instantly communicate. Sometimes Luna could only apply to my message after I went to bed, and sometimes we had to get up in the middle of the night to have a zoom meeting,” Yucheng said.
Despite this, the “Get Out the Video” they produced was praised by Indivisible Chicago and was distributed by them on various social networks.
Ying Fu had reservations about producing content on a topic so unfamiliar to her. She managed to produce a spot seen outside the U.S. using video sourced from a video library Loyola has rights to. Her connections and understanding of China’s social media allowed her to post her spot on social media back home. Within days, the spot went viral with over 1 million views.
Other assignments caused students to face challenges due to the pandemic. Learning how to adapt to the ever-shifting filming circumstances was probably the most challenging obstacle. Figuring out how to safely work with people to produce content was the biggest hurdle.
Second year graduate student Paige Taylor working on a spot for a local tattoo shop had actors cancel at the last minute due to positive COVID-19 results. I once had to direct an entire commercial over Zoom while my partner, Wheaton Webb, who is an AD/PR major, filmed it because I was required to be quarantined after my roommate tested positive for COVID-19.
Even though this semester led to an added layer of challenges during this Engaged Learning course, the benefits of the class were well worth the difficulties.
“The engaged learning experience raised the stakes and expectations of what is required when it comes to my professional ability to work with clients,” said Goodspeed Ko, a junior Advertising major.
This course was the first time that many of us had been expected to work in a professional setting to apply our skills in a real-world context and or course to figure out how to do it safely and effectively.
The Engaged Learning requirement is one that all Loyola University Chicago students are required to fulfill, but the circumstances during which this class was held forced Professor Goheen and all of us as students to consider how we could best serve clients and our community in the safest way possible.
Despite these challenges, the videos created by my classmates were undoubtedly incredible work. It was inspiring to watch a group of young creators, from different backgrounds, physical locations and various abilities, come together to serve clients and communities alike.
Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, students in the School of Communication proved they are still able and committed to the pursuit of knowledge and to use our skills for the benefit of others.