Get active- watch TV

Jason Williams mid-way through our ‘Challenge Jason’ scenarios as we explore media-enhanced teaching and learning in practice

My colleague Jason Williams at ARU’s DigiFest (#ARUDigifest) introduced our academics to Box of Broadcasts (BoB), a service provided by the British University’s Film & Video Council (BUFVC). The service provides access to 65 ‘free-to-air’ channels and their current and legacy programmes for subscribing UK universities.

While in my work on media-enhanced teaching and learning, I gravitate towards the value of user-generated content by staff and students and the benefits associated with co-creation of knowledge through authentic learning, BoB would seem a remarkably ‘passive’ and unfocused service; not at all the epitome of active learning.

I wanted to set out two or three learning design scenarios that challenge this perception.

BoB for scenario-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) situates the active learner amongst authentic problems that foster epistemic curiosity and which develop strategic thinking and behaviours. Coming up with good problems and articulating them convincingly is one of the keys to problem-based approaches. Creating a credible conceit is fun, but nevertheless challenging for academics. It requires imagination, some risk, and a taste for adventure! At the heart of this challenge is the question of how to present it. Two answers to this are: as a scenario and using video and audio. If that media is ready-made, so much the better – the challenge is just to find it.

Scenario-based analysis sits within the realm of PBL (though it has other uses, e.g. usability testing (Carroll, 2000; Fowler, 2004). Carroll gives us clues for designing good scenarios and I run workshops on this. But we use scenarios as part of our everyday parlance in the same way that we use metaphors and anecdotes. When we do this we are conjuring up conceits, illusions, and conundrums in a natural, conversational way.

Ready-made downloadable video provides us with a rich panoply of materials. How often does a student or an academic say, “Did anyone see [such and such] on TV the other night?”, often referring to an example or a situation and not necessarily the whole programme? Often, we are looking to develop some empathy when we do this, but usually we are trying to provide some vicarious insight; a shortcut to explain a significance idea or an alternative way of presenting and clarifying an idea or situation. But that’s fine for the 5% who may have also seen that. What about the rest?

If you see something you think you might use as a catalyst for conversation or to present a situation or metaphor, make a note to go to BoB and grab it. BoB allows you to build a personal collection of professionally made video; either whole programmes or selected clips.

BoB for co-creation and peer assessment

My second suggestion is to ask students to create exemplary scenarios. This is a fine formative activity. It epitomises co-creation. Ask students to interrogate BoB and to find videos and produce clips that will work as problems, scenarios, metaphors and illustrations to establish an authentic conundrum. They’ll develop their information skills in the process, hopefully discover many useful resources, and hopefully begin to build their own collection of clips (with ready made citations). They can construct their conundrum around the video and test it on peers in next week’s session. Peers can assess these. Warn students about ‘rabbit holes’ – getting distracted and losing time by following their curiosity and interest too far – but this is an essential information skill anyway, and it may be refreshing to see how such skills are applicable to working with a range of media – not just text.


In both of the above suggestions, what may have seemed passive has become a catalyst opportunity for deep, active learning once situated,.


Box of Broadcasts

Carroll, J. M. (2000). Five reasons for scenario-based design. Interacting with Computers, 13(1), 43–60.

Fowler, C. (2004) Scenario-based design. Chimera: Institute of Social and Technical Change. Online at:

About Andrew Middleton

NTF, PFHEA, committed to active learning, co-operative pedagogies, media-enhanced teaching and learning, authentic learning, postdigital learning spaces. Key publication: Middleton, A. (2018). Reimagining Spaces for Learning in Higher Education. Palgrave.
This entry was posted in Active Learning, BYOD, Co-operative pedagogy, Creativity, Learner Engagement, Media-enhanced learning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s