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The IGTV Video Class Assignment
How can we get our students learning and doing more with video? IGTV videos – or Instagram TV videos – is one such way. That’s why I had my social media class create an IGTV video show this past fall. In the below post, I share how I set the IGTV class assignment up, link to examples of student work, and discuss key takeaways and considerations.
Using Instagram in the College Classroom
Instagram is extremely popular among college students. For the last several years, I’ve had students in my social media class [download social media class syllabus | All posts about this class] create content for our department’s Instagram account, @ShepComm. That content is primarily still images with occasional short-length video, most of which are posted as stories.
As long-time readers know, as a semester-long project, my social media class takes over the communication department social media and learns to create content for it. The students are divided into teams, with each team in charge of a different social media platform. You can learn more about that project in a breakdown I wrote several years ago. This semester-long project is the focus of my 2019 book, Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love.
In fall 2018, the student team in charge of Instagram created a video interview that was too long to be posted on Instagram. So we uploaded them to account’s IGTV page, which allows for a max length of 10 minutes.
As we all know, video has had an increasing role in social media these last few years. There’s no doubt it will continue to grow in 2020. In fact, one study predicts that video will account for over 80% of all Internet traffic by 2022.
As I tried to think about more ways to bring video into my social media class, I found myself impressed with the work of Professor Anastacia Baird’s students on her department’s Instagram account. Professor Baird’s students create content for Instagram.com/ULVcomms and I noticed a few IGTV posts they had done. With that, an idea was born. Maybe I could have my students create an IGTV show in the fall 2019 edition of my social media class.
What is IGTV?
If you’re not familiar with IGTV, it is the long-form video platform for Instagram. Technically, IGTV is a standalone app. But the basic functionality of IGTV is available through the Instagram app.
As Instagram has grown and changed over the years, it has sort of become a Frankenstein of social media platforms. Instagram started with chronological feed posts. Then, they added direct messaging and eventually story posts (disappearing posts, a la Snapchat, that tend to be more casual and fun than the highly-polished feed posts). Then, in June of 2018, Instagram released IGTV as a way for Instagrammers to upload longer video content. [Learn more about IGTV].
Any existing Instagram account can have an IGTV channel. So you just need to set one up. This can be done through an existing Instagram account, or by downloading the IGTV app. Here are instructions for getting started with IGTV via the IGTV app.
To find IGTV videos to watch, you can go to an Instagram user’s profile and select the IGTV icon or search for IGTV by going to the search section of Instagram and selecting “IGTV.” You will see a list of suggested IGTV videos. You can then click search and search for IGTV videos.
The IGTV Class Assignment: Making a Video Show
In the past, my social media class has been in charge of our department’s Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts as well as our department’s blog. The class usually has 20 students in it, so four teams of 5 students works well. I decided to move away from the blog to something more on par with the other platforms. So I divided Instagram into two groups: Instagram (feed posts and stories) and IGTV.
I let my students create their own groups. But I made sure that the team that ended up with IGTV had prior video editing experience, as I would not be focusing on teaching video editing in the class. The team that became in charge of our IGTV channel had two students with video editing experience, learned through taking other courses in our department. Both had worked with Adobe Premiere, which we have access to in our classroom.
Because the videos would not require a great deal editing nor editing expertise, students could also use Adobe Premiere Rush (which we also have in our classroom). [To learn more about Rush, see this article on how Karen Freberg used Adobe Premiere Rush for a class project] One of the students decided to use another web-based editing software tool, which she preferred and paid a few dollars a month for. A third student did not have any editing experience but was eager to learn and jumped in. The two other students in the group contributed in other ways.
The IGTV was given a broad task: Create our department’s very first IGTV show. I left it to them to decide what the show would be about, offering guidance along the way. I did not have any specific expectations; this was new and exciting territory and I had no significant prior experience with IGTV or in creating any type of video series.
Like the other groups, the students were tasked with creating content and then turning that content into me for grading. The students showed their content to the class for feedback. Then, content that was approved, was published. This cycle repeated 3 times during the semester (again, to learn more about the details of the assignment and specific instructions and requirements, see the blog post I created about the semester-long assignment or my book, Teach Social Media).
So, how did it go?
IGTV Video Class Assignment in Review
#ShepShow was born!
We published 9 IGTV videos (of the 11 videos the students created) over the course of the semester, with the longest surpassing 5 minutes. You can watch all 8 at @ShepComm by cicking the IGTV logo.
Each video contained 3 things: The video file, the thumbnail (e.g., cover art) for the video, and the video description.
With each video, the students learned something. For example, tThe first video (#ShepShow Episode 1) was a long interview (our longest) with an interviewer/interviewee format. The interviewer was new to being on camera and was looking down and away from the camera a bit. But some good things came out of the video, and we chatted about what worked and what didn’t. The students used that feedback to improve. For example, I suggested that they have an intro and an outro to the video to let the viewer know what the episode was about. So the added an intro and an outro and used that format for the videos that followed. We also decided the videos could use a bit more editing and a faster pace. We also decided that asking the questions off camera would allow for easier editing and a quicker pace. In all of this, we thought about the primary public – Shepherd students. What type of content would they want to see that would also further our key messages, theme, and objectives?
#ShepShow contained a mix interviews with students, faculty, and alumni and fun person on the street style episodes.
The students had a lot of fun with this. I had to reign them in a little, teaching them a few things about staying on message and creating brand-appropriate content. It was a cool thing for them to be learning to consider these things through a project rather than just a lecture. The students did a great job of mixing humor and information, in an ‘infotainment’ manner that would be interesting to their fellow students. Ryan, who presented the intros and outros, was lively, friendly, and comfortable on camera.
One of the videos the students created fell outside of the parameters I set for the class. The content itself was interesting and engaging in the same style of the #ShepShow episodes 3 and 4, but, given the topic, I did not feel it was a good fit for the department’s brand. It wasn’t an inappropriate or problematic topic, it just wasn’t the right fit. To the students’ credit, they quickly created a second video to replace it.
I also had the students re-edit a few things for messaging and branding purposes. This created a bit of extra work on everyone’s part.
I also did not publish one of the videos due to quality issues. There was an issue with a smartphone ring light that was causing the smartphone used to do the recording to attempt to auto-focus continuously. Thus, the picture was focused and then blurry and then focused and then blurry again. This was caused by an equipment issue because the students had to use a different ring light than they normally used. It could not be fixed in post production, and we were on a tight deadline.
Things to Consider When using IGTV in the Classroom
I’m very pleased with the outcome of our first ever IGTV show. There are some issues, of course that came up. Logistics is also something to consider. Keep the below takeaways in mind if you decide to do an IGTV video assignment in your class.
Posting Videos: Posting the videos to IGTV is easy because you can upload them directly from a desktop computer into the platform. Therefore, large video files and files that have been editing on a computer can be easily uploaded. I found this super helpful and took care of uploading all of the videos myself. See Instagram’s instructions on how to upload IGTV videos via the app or via desktop. We did not use the IGTV app.
Video dimensions: The video dimension requirements are strict (see IGTV video requirements). IGTV videos are best viewed on a phone where you can turn your phone horizontally to view. Viewing the videos on a PC renders them cropped small with a large black border. The same is true for some smartphones. For example, on my Android I was not able to get the videos to turn horizontally for full view.
Thumbnails: We had some issues getting our thumbnails to fit right. Over the semester, text and other editing was added to the thumbnails to try and make them more attention grabbing. We tried them horizontally and vertically, basically experimenting to see what looked best. The video description title text is automatically placed at the bottom of a post. This covered text on several thumbnails. I wish I had gotten best practices for thumbnails sorted out, as opposed to learning as we went.
Turning the Videos In: Because of the large file size of the videos, I had the students upload them to Google Drive and then share them with me. For some reason, a few of the videos were not processed when they were uploaded. So I was not able to download them. I had to go back to the students and ask them to upload them using a different service. OneDrive and Firefox Send seemed to work better.
Editing and video format: As noted above, editing can be done on a number of platforms. Your students don’t need expert editing skills to make IGTV videos. Also, because the editing can be done on a computer or smartphone, you’ve got options. However, IGTV only allows MP4 video files – so make sure that the video editing software you use can export to MP4. Or, you could use a multimedia file format converter like Adobe Encoder.
Equipment and Sound: Spending a little money on equipment can go a long way. As I wrote last semester, our department recently bought a number of tools to help students create higher quality multimedia content. That included a ring light tripod, several mics, and a few other things. Sound is vital to successful video. No one wants to watch a video with poor sounds. The students preferred the shotgun mic as it was best for person on the street interviews and other scenarios. However, we did have some sound issues. One of the interviews was recorded outside on a breezy day and there was some interference. The students could not get the windscreen that came with the shotgun mic to fit on the mic. In the final video, #ShepShow Episode 9: Interview with Alum Tess Hyre, Ryan was too far away when recording his lines, making it hard to hear.
Metrics: Monitor metrics for IGTV videos. To do this, go into the video that is posted, select the menu icon (three dots), then click ‘view insights.’ You can see views, likes, comments, and average percentage watched. Average percentage watched shows you the drop off viewership rate for your video across time. Through this metric, students were able to see how their videos were performing in terms of keeping attention. The drop off rates were pretty high, but there were some differences. The videos that involved fellow students in a person on the street format performed the best. Insights like these can be used to create more compelling content. Below is an example of metrics for the video with the best completion rate, episode 4: Are you smarter than a college student?. You can see that only 20% of viewers watched the entire video.
Take Risk and Have Fun: It is important to ensure that the content is of a high quality and is appropriate. But, as the metrics clearly showed, people want to watch content that is fun, relatable, and authentic to the platform. As a professor, if I had designed the content my students published, it would have been staid and dry. It probably would have just been a series of talking head interviews. By letting my students create the show and take some risks, their content performed better. Yes, it can be a little scary to us professors to let our students publish silly content (example: Episode 4: Are You Smarter than a College Student?). If it’s one thing I learned during the last decade of teaching college, it is to not take myself so seriously. My students have taught me to have a little fun.
IGTV Video College Class Assignment Summary
In summary, the IGTV assignment was a great way for students to learn more about video in social media. It provided a fun environment for students to experiment, learn some new skills, and learn by doing. While each student played a different role in the project, they learned about working with tripods, ring lights, lapel and shotgun mics. They learned about lighting, camerawork, video editing. They gained experience being on camera. They had to come up with creative ideas for content, had to adapt their content to their audience and objectives, scout locations for shoots, create scripts, recruit and schedule interviews with alumni, deal with equipment issues, and more.