Faculty borrow a page from Hollywood as spring term nears

Biology professor Diana Libuda

This spring term promises to be unlike any other, and several UO faculty members are taking to social media to assure students as well as their colleagues that the change also presents opportunity.

That includes Diana Libuda of the biology department. For her Biology 320 course this term, she produced, and directed and acted in, a movie trailer that fits right in with the mold of a summer blockbuster, dramatic music, rapid cuts and all.

Her tweet with the video took off instantly, with other faculty members chiming in with their praises, some asking her for advice and many, many others liking and retweeting it. It had amassed more than 16,000 views in only a few days. And now other UO faculty members are following her lead.

“I thought, how do I start off on an enthusiastic note and transfer my energy and love for genetics to my students,” said Libuda, whose research lab studies DNA repair.

Like other faculty members, she had been asked to reach out to her students about what to expect for spring term.

“I tried to write an email, but it felt flat,” she said. “It didn’t feel like it was setting the right tone.”

She saw another professor take a similar approach and decided to give it a try. She had been prefilming some of her lectures and demonstrations and had that footage on hand. She used a movie trailer template, and using iMovie, she spent about two hours assembling video and still pictures into a 55-second masterpiece.

“I thought it was a much more dynamic way to share with students what they could expect for the course,” Libuda said.

So far, the Department of Psychology’s Learning Lab, led by Caitlin Fausey, has produced a similar movie-inspiried clip aound its spring course, as did Andrew Kern, also a biologist. They are among those who have produced similar movie-related clips around spring courses. 

As for Libuda, the process helped put her more at ease as the UO embarks on what will be an unprecedented spring term.

“When we were first told to prepare to teach online, I was initially very daunted by this concept,” Libuda said. “It’s entirely new for me. I’ve never taught online. I’ve never learned online. But I’m approaching this from a different perspective. It’s a new journey and it made me feel more excited about online teaching.”

—By Jim Murez, UO Communications