Is your uni maximising opportunities?

As university research funding become more tied to targets, more and more universities are drawing on academic research

Putting this into context; universities must prove that they are promoting their work beyond their four walls, if they are to secure funding for research. With this in mind, Gordon Lynch, Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology, Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kent chose to work with not-for-profit education website, TrueTube on an impact project which focused on ‘The Sacred in the Modern World’.

With a ready-made audience of teachers on one side, and a team of professional film makers on the other, TrueTube was well placed to support the project, and Gordon Lynch tells us why.

“I approached TrueTube with an idea, as part of an AHRT fellowship project, which involved developing a book on theoretical ways of understanding the sacred. I decided that these ideas were things that people could use to make sense of what was going on in contemporary society; so for example, recent news stories about some individuals choosing not to wear a poppy, which indicates that sacred symbols still play a very powerful role in contemporary society.

‘I wanted to try and develop a very theoretical way of thinking about the sacred, which I did through this research, but that was being published in a very technical, academic book. I was therefore looking at ways of communicating the concept to other public audiences, and was extremely interested in looking into ways of getting these ideas across to a school-age audience, at secondary school level.

‘I discussed the idea with TrueTube and it was agreed that there would be benefits for both parties, and so the work began on the Sacred Films. There were three things that were particularly helpful in making it work. Firstly, TrueTube’s production standards are very high and the fact that they are linked to CTVC means that they are very familiar with producing media content for national and international broadcasters. As a result, the content and production values were of a much higher standard than I am used to when working with freelance film-makers – it really was a very professional standard.

‘The second thing is that the people at TrueTube were very good at working with the abstract ideas that I had, and translating them in a way that would make the content engaging for Key Stage 3 and 4 audiences. So for example, I found that I was quite over-ambitious about what I thought a six minute film could achieve, in terms of the ideas it could present, so they helped me focus on what the absolutely essential ideas were that I needed to get across and found particular formats for doing that. To demonstrate this, one of the film makers that they worked with used a lot of humour in the film, which, when we’ve evaluated the films in classroom settings, we know has worked really well with students and has really drawn them in. It’s a way of preventing what could be a dry, theoretical discussion being boring and uninteresting, so TrueTube enabled me to produce films that would engage students and make them think as well.

‘Lastly, TrueTube has a very good approach to distribution. With a combination of the high volume of traffic that goes to the website and very good links with key educators working in PSHE, Citizenship and Religious Education, they are able to market and distribute the material effectively to the people that it is of interest to.

‘Just under 60,000 Key Stage 3 and 4 students have now watched the Sacred Films in around 18 months, which demonstrates their success. The experience of working with TrueTube on the Sacred Films was so effective that I went back to them with a second impact project, which was about building up knowledge of the Magdalene Laundries. That film has only just been launched but has also been very well received.”

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