Collaboration in teaching – How do I pay for it?

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stop02I was recently lucky enough to be invited to an awards evening where students from different departs of my FE institution were present to collect awards for outstanding achievement.

These evenings are great at showcasing the various achievements but the main thing that sticks out is this – collaboration, no matter how small, unlocks students potential more than independent learning.  Here’s how.

Over 18 months ago my HoD and I were discussing what I wanted to do with my 2nd year moving image students.  We were conducting some blue-sky thinking, shake it up a little and the resounding answer was this –

“let’s chuck them in the deep end and let them make a 30-minute film.”

Now I’m all up for the ethos of ‘sink or swim’ but I say that knowing that I can tread water. Asking 16 teenager students to make a 30-minute film is pretty much saying ‘sink or swim’ in shark infested waters.

The only way to describe what happened in the following months is to divide into categories that I’ll divided into separate blog posts.

  1. Funding
  2. Getting people onside
  3. Enthusiasm
  4. Empower the student
  5. Be prepared for it to go wrong

So, let’s get stuck into item 1.

FUNDING.

One of the biggest problem facing Further Education in the UK right now is funding.  There isn’t any.  Departments across the country are having to baton down the hatches as institutions realise they don’t have as much money anymore (thank you ConDem Govt).

This was the scenario facing us with this project.  We wanted the film to be the best it possibly could and the only way to do so was to invest in the necessary kit.  Equipment such as jibs, tracks, lighting etc. We wanted to upgrade our existing stock but we had a limited pot of money to do so.  Rather than give up I had a think because usually the answer is staring you in the face. Turns out it was. The solution was simple –  crowdfunding.

So what is crowdfunding? Quite simply, it’s fundraising with incentives.  You set a financial target/goal you want to hit – you then ask people to pledge specific amounts in exchange for incentives that you create. e.g pledge £5 and you are entitled to a ticket for the screening.  What this would mean is that the students would bring in the money and it would cost the college zero pounds (apart from fuel and vehicle hire).

Getting this started within an educational institution can be tricky.  As soon as you mention things like PayPal, credit card transactions and tax codes your finance department quite rightly start to get a little twitchy.  My advice at this point is always keep them on your side – be patient and clearly explain what you are doing.  Crowdfunding has not been around that long and more often than not the employees that work in the finance department may have been there for ‘x’ amount of years and have a set way of doing things.

For my group we set a target of £2000 in 7 weeks.  This can seem quite scary at first – especially to the students.  Break it down.  With my students (there were 16 of them) I highlighted what they need to do on a daily/weekly basis – for example.

Campaign length/target – 7 weeks (49 days) / £2000

2000/16 (amount of students) = £125 (overall individual target)

125/7 = £17.85 – weekly target

125/49 = £2.55  daily targets

Once we had established their personal targets we put together a strategy that encompassed social media and tapping into local businesses.  By following local groups on twitter (every village, town or city will have one) we were able to get our message out there. Another thing we did was offer our creative production services in exchange for pledges thus giving our students experience working with clients.

Do not underestimate the power of local press coverage.  We would put out press releases all the time to squeeze any sort of media we could!

You need to sell your story – video is the best way to do this as it gives your potential donors a chance to meet the people they are backing.  We made a number of films but here are the 2 main ones.

Finally, and this is the most important bit – the majority of money that is raised will come from immediate family and friends.  They will want to be kept updated with whats going on – make sure you send out a regular email informing them of how the project is going.  The relationship between you and the people who pledge is really key – the reality is that if you keep them updated and informed on your campaign,  the chances are they may donate again if you are struggling to meet your target.

When our campaign finished we had successfully managed to go beyond our £2000 target and you can watch the finished film below.

If you are an educational institute and considering a project like this feel free to get in contact.