Redesigned Courses to Accommodate Large Class Sizes and Lack of Structure

While at USC and ASU, Collis effectively redesigned courses to accommodate over-enrollment and a lack of structure by re-conceiving these courses.  Utilization of state of the art technologies and Collis’ MBA training at UCLA Anderson, particularly in the area of Operations, was instrumental in conceiving and implementing these solutions.

Upon taking the position of Visiting Professor of Film Directing at ASU, Collis was given responsibility of both the Directing class and the Capstone classes, which are classes that enable students to make their thesis films. 

Prior to Collis, these classes were very loosely structured.  If students had work to review, it was reviewed.  If not, they would have class discussions.

In addition to the lack of structure, there were also too many students to properly teach the class within the time allotted.  With some 45 students to manage, there was no way to watch and read student work in class while also giving feedback creating major bottleneck issues. 

With these problems in mind, Collis chose to take the following steps:

1) The Pre-Class Critique - Using Social Media to Solve a Growing Problem in Public Universities

Breaking with traditional film school convention, Collis developed a system now referred to as the “Pre-Class Critique.”  By off-loading work typically done in class, this system frees up class time for a more in-depth and solution-oriented feedback session.  A course website was created where written materials are submitted, a Vimeo account where cuts of movies are uploaded, and blogs where students type in their feedback.  Students review each other’s work and provide written feedback on the blogs outside of class.  One of the many benefits of this system is the opportunity it gives students to work on their writing skills.  It also allows us to give every student solid feedback on a regular basis.

This system allows the class to process a much larger number of students without compromising the educational experience.  In fact, that experience has improved in terms of what this does for the classroom experience.  Now, students have a chance to digest the work and the feedback before responding.  As a result, classes are problem solving/brainstorming sessions as opposed to simple negative critiquing sessions.

2) Digital Journaling - Creating Course & Creative Structure with Interactive Software

To add further structure, Collis created an extensive “Filmmaker Journal” to guide students through Capstone 1 (the pre-production class) and Capstone 2 (the production and post-production class).

The journal is a digital tool.  Using an advanced software technology called Notebook 3.0, students can add text, pictures, video and sounds with the ease of click and drag.

The Filmmaker Journal is a place where all the ideas related to a student’s project can be stored and organized.  There are chapters for Scene Analysis, Casting, Cinematography, Production Design, Picture Editing, Sound Design, Budget & Schedule, etc.  Collis designed several hundred questions to help young filmmakers learn how to think through all the important details of their films.  If answered thoughtfully and thoroughly, the journal will give the student a very complete picture of the film that they are trying to make.   They can use this for their own creative process and also as a collaborative tool to help communicate their ideas with their collaborators.

3) Mentorship Program - Instilling Quality Control and Student-Faculty Engagement

As a means of giving Capstone students more perspectives on their work, Collis created and manages the Capstone Mentorship Program.  The program requires that each student receives feedback on their Capstone from another faculty member at least twice over the course of each semester.

There are many benefits to the mentorship program including:

•A form of additional “Quality Control” over the Capstones

•An early warning system for projects headed in the wrong direction

•An increased sense of program-wide camaraderie and connectedness


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