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Celtx Studios in the Classroom

July 31, 2011

If you’ve ever taught a writing or screenwriting course, you know one of the central challenges is the collection of student work, and distribution of reviewed student work.

Traditionally, students would hand in assignment printouts to you; you’d mark them up; then you’d return them.

Printouts have their uses.  For a huge chunk of the past decade, I was on a roundtrip airflight weekly or bimonthly — and the only way to make that work is to use planes and airports as your mobile office. Reviewing student work had the bonus effect of warding off chatty once-a-year air passengers (seeing a professor mark up work brings back too many bad memories for most people), and of course, you could be working on both ascents and descents.

But printouts have their downsides. Students will tell you they turned in their work, when they haven’t — but how do you prove a negative? Students will tell you they didn’t get homework returned, when they did.  When they do get homework back, they’ll often lose the homework — and all of your painstaking annotations. And of course, you might even leave a sheaf of homework assignments on a plane (or subway car or airport shuttle bus).

Consequently, many instructors have turned to electronic delivery from students, and electronic distribution of reviewed work. But if you’re doing all this via email, the traffic direction alone gets daunting. In addition, students often aren’t terribly diligent at reading email, and the same issues remain: “But I emailed the assignment”, “I didn’t get the homework back”, “My spam filter blocks your emails”, and so on.

Many institutions deploy Blackboard, a content management system, for instructional delivery and distribution. And while this solves some of the traffic direction problems, Blackboard is still pretty clunky when it comes to collaboration and maintenance of version histories. If your institution doesn’t deploy Blackboard, then tough luck.

Enter Celtx Studios, a very low-cost “cloud” platform specifically built to share Celtx content, maintain version histories, and assist in project management.

The platform has been designed for small media production teams to collaborate on projects — but the same platform is highly adaptable to classroom use, and solves a number of the above-mentioned issues in collecting and tracking assignments, annotating assignments and distributing reviewed work.

Here are just some of the advantages:

  • Students can save their Celtx projects in one central location, enabling them to continue work on the project at home, on their iPhones or iPads, at other campus computer labs, or any other location with a computer.
  • All projects are automatically shared with the studio admin (typically, the instructor), eliminating the added step of “submitting” work.
  • Instructors can then use Celtx’s Notes feature to annotate and comment on work. Additionally, instructors can add new project elements (like an “Overall Comments” page) if necessary.
  • Instructors can also assign collaborative exercises for students, and have the students share projects with each other in the studio.
  • Instructors can track progress through Celtx Studios’ Archives feature, which maintains a version history and allows for side-by-side comparison between drafts.
  • Instructor reviews are instantly available for students — eliminating the step of “returning” work.

Celtx Studios isn’t a perfect solution — no real search or sortable data features exist yet, and you’ll need to enforce some consistent project naming conventions in order to quickly find an assignment. But if you’re teaching any kind of writing class (Celtx’s Novel template will handle any kind of prose writing), screenwriting class or storyboarding class, Celtx Studios may be worth checking out.

Chapters 14 and 15 of Mastering Celtx (which you can find on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble) discuss Celtx Studios creation, administration and usage in great detail. The book explores all of Celtx’s features so that you can determine if it’s right for you to use — whether for personal or professional use, or in the classroom with students.

In the works are instructional resources for teachers thinking of using Celtx in the classroom — subscribe to this blog, or follow our Twitter feed, for updates on these resources.

  1. Jon permalink

    I’m thinking of using the Celtx Studio in my writing class. I’m interested in knowing if instructors are paying for the extra “subseats” themselves, or having their college/university foot the bill?

    • To me these should always be reimbursable (and even better, pre-paid) classroom expenses … like chalk and paper would have been in the old days.

      As we know, institutional budgets have never been tighter, and if the institution doesn’t agree to pick up the tab on studio seats, then the question is whether the studio’s value is worth the personal expense… It would indeed be interesting to hear if institutions are greenlighting this classroom expense…

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