March 10, 2006 – For most college students, spring break is associated with beaches and bars. But for a handful of University of the Virgin Islands students, spring break meant going to class.
Eight UVI students at the St. Thomas campus and another 17 on the St. Croix campus spent their week shooting and editing digital video, and learning the latest in production techniques from a couple of stateside pros.
The upper-level communications course included 30 hours of classroom instruction from Tuesday through Saturday after which students will continue to work on their own projects for an additional 15 hours or more with their professors via instant messenger systems or over e-mail.
Communications student Jessica Klein said her professor, Jeffrey Galusha of New York University, "just threw us in and got us used to it."
By the end of the first day, all the UVI students had planned, shot and edited short autobiographical video pieces.
Klein said the course's intensity was a benefit because she was able to focus on the one class instead of spreading her concentration among several. "If I could do all my classes this way, I would," she said.
This week, Klein paired off with another student to work on a project about how others were spending spring break, which seemed like going to beaches and bars.
And though Klein does have homework for other classes over her spring break, she said this class is the one she thinks about when she goes home at the end of the day.
The short intense classes are especially helpful when students need skills to really sink in, said Annette Markham, who heads UVI's communications program.
"Once you get the spark lit, they're ready to go," Markham said.
Self-direction plays a significant role in the digital video class. Students were asked to come up with their own concept for a two to three minute informative video piece.
Student Kishma Harrigan's "The Mold and the Beautiful" was a study of mold problems in the university's foreign language lab.
Harrigan, a third-year student, said, "I'd rather take this than any other class I'm taking right now." She said this type of class will help in her career; she is interested in television or radio journalism.
Another student, DaraMonifah Cooper, said she plans to use her new-found skills in her career as a graphic designer. She is interested in documenting weddings as well as V.I. culture and history using multimedia elements.
For this class, though, she is taking her viewers through a day in the life of Ummi's 1st Impressions Daycare on St. Thomas, where her own son goes.
The students shot their videos with Sony Digital Handicams and edited on Windows-based computers using Adobe PremierPro.
Most students had never used a digital video camera or any video editing software before the first day of class Tuesday.
Klein said Professor Galusha "lets us do the work and make our own mistakes."
Mistakes or not, Galusha said he was impressed with the students.
"They're good at coming up with creative ideas and creative solutions to problems," he said.
Galusha has taught digital video editing around the world. He is also the executive director, producer and editor for Konscious Media in New York.
Markham said students are asking for more courses in Internet skills, such as digital photo editing and Flash media classes. Future classes will depend in part on what the students are interested in, Markham said.