My first foray into a GRASS project public initiative has been great fun – and, luckily, very successful. As a result of watching Emma’s publicity screencast, used on Open Days and such like, I decided to do something similar. We don’t do cake, sadly, so I couldn’t use Emma’s strongest selling point, but we do have a departmental YouTube channel and so I decided to use that instead.
A colleague in my department, Nicola Abram, kindly looped our various YouTube screencasts so that they could play throughout the day (thanks, Nicola!). We then had an office set up (our Head of School kindly donated her office for this) and, by using a mobile projector and screen, with a semi-circle of chairs, we had a small viewing room.
This was set up right beside the larger room in which we display students’ work and talk with our visitors on a one-to-one basis, so whenever that got too busy and visitors could see that they would have to wait, it was natural for them to take a moment to sit down in the viewing room. We didn’t give any background information to the screencasts beyond that they were produced by students and staff for our YouTube channel, but that seemed to be enough. The screencasts gave, I believe, a genuine flavour of how our department works and what we are trying to achieve. I hope by the next Open Day to have added to our offerings with a suite of screencasts describing all of our modules.
I have learnt that, by showing both student and staff screencasts, there was not too much emphasis placed on the screencasts as the ‘last word’ in any of the topics that were covered – it was more of a taster and I think that our visitors saw that. Next time, I might leave a sheet with some explanation of what is being shown so that viewers can read as well as view. The screencasts certainly generated interest and gave us an ‘added attraction’ on the day. Another colleague, Mary Morrissey, added even more interest in the room at points in the day by using it to demonstrate rare book handling.
As one of the principles behind the GRASS project is to assess what we are already doing well and then to improve on it, I am pleased to think that this experience falls into that remit. Overall this initiative can be judged a success, but it has also given me ideas about how I could build on that for our next Open Days.
The initiative also gave me one of the most surreal moments of the Open Day. I was striding along to the lecture theatre, running through in my head what I was going to say to our visitors about academic placements. As I thought to myself ‘Good morning, my name is Dr Cindy Becker and I’m….’, I heard exactly that phrase coming from the open door of our screencast room. Most peculiar!