When students go beyond simply writing essays to present information, they learn about effective communication, engagement and creativity. Linda Kelly who lectures in planning explores how using video helps students extend their communication skills, with planning students Kathryn (Katy) Murphy, Harseerat Kaur Thind and Morgan Blamey reflecting on what they learned – and how they also had fun – in undertaking a video assessment.

“I learnt a new way to present ideas and I also learnt how to make sure my communication was clear and concise to effectively get a message to my audience.” (Morgan Blamey, student)

Communication skills – a core competency for students

Incorporating video-making into the planning program at Macquarie University has proven to be a fun way to develop students’ communication skills. Communicating issues, and at times complex ones, to the public is a core skill required of urban planners. The Planning Institute of Australia has identified this skill as a core competency for planning students. The importance of video communication has been highlighted this year as opportunities for face to face meetings and discussions are limited by public health orders.

For the last few years third year Bachelor of Planning students have made short videos for an assessment task which provides the opportunity for students to show their understanding of a current planning issue, and to communicate this information to the public as well as motivate them to take action. New topics are chosen each year, with this year’s choices being community action on climate change, living with urban wildlife, small apartment design, and re-imaging roads for people.

What do students think?

I asked three of our students about their experience – what they learnt, the role of videos in communicating in planning, how they approached any challenges, and whether the exercise was fun.

Katy Murphy’s video was set in the Snowy Mountains area on the topic of community action on climate change. She utilised the majestic scenery of this area with the impacts of the recent devastating bush fires to tell a compelling story about the need for action.

“The video assessment was an incredibly engaging and interesting assignment that I thoroughly enjoyed creating, although it did not come along without a couple of hiccups”, Katy said. She approached the challenges of this assessment format by researching the well-used first port of call – Google, and then You Tube videos.

” The next step was finding relevant high-quality videos, luckily for me, I decided to base my assignment location in one of the most beautiful regions in Australia, so there was no shortage of stunning high-quality videos.”

Watch the videos created by the students

Watch Kate Murphy’s video on community action on climate change:

Morgan Blamey also produced a video about climate change action, however, her community was the outer metropolitan area of Penrith. When asked about how she overcame some of the challenges Morgan said, “I found the creativity of how to set out a video and make it engaging a challenge. I overcame this by watching similar style videos and then trial and error with my own. First I attempted just making a video with pictures and narration before I realised it needed some music and key words on screen for people to engage with it better”.

Watch Morgan Blamey’s video on a low carbon future for Penrith:

Re-imaging roads for people, not cars, was the video topic chosen by Harseerat Kaur Thind. Harseerat, like her fellow students, approached the task with a combination of research and trial and error. The result was an effective learning experience.

“Through my experience with the community video, I learnt to effectively apply information, visual layouts and effective communication of the topic, which related to the community for them to feel engaged” she said.

Watch Harseerat Kaur Thind’s video on re-imagining roads for people not cars:

“Visual representation through video-making, is an incredibly effective communication tool in planning, as it is an engaging form of storytelling that has the potential to connect with a large audience of people, I believe this assignment really highlighted this fact.” (Katy Murphy, student)

Link between enjoyment and engagement in learning

Research has demonstrated a link between enjoyment and engagement in learning, for example, “learning while having fun” was explored in research into planning student engagement with role-playing games by Dorina Pojani and Roberto Rocco (2020),

Morgan agrees, “It was definitely a fun task as it is something different to the report style or essay style we would usually complete. Fun is an essential part of learning, because for me at least, when I am having fun I am usually more engaged with the task at hand. This means I learn more and I also perform better”, she said.

For Harseerat not only was the experience fun, but also interesting and beneficial as she developed her understanding of involving the community in the planning process.

Providing planning students with opportunities to be creative beyond the usual written assessment or face to face presentations has an important role in developing skills and knowledge. Learning can be fun. And crucial to making better futures for us all – as Morgan Blamey points out:

“…the more people that engage with planning, the better our cities and towns will be. So the role of videos in communicating planning messages is vital”. 

Posted by Linda Kelly

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