Institute News

University of Southern Denmark Students Construct Videos on IWitness

Longtime Visual History Archive user Professor Therkel Straede took his use of testimony one step further last semester by giving his students an assignment to construct their own videos in IWitness, with inspiring results.

Straede has long incorporated testimonies from the Visual History Archive into his research (including a current project on cannibalism in the concentration camps of World War II) and has shown testimonies to several of his history classes at the University of Southern Denmark in the past, but had never assigned students to construct their own videos in IWitness. Last semester, he decided to give it a try, in a graduate course he teaches called “The Holocaust: Narratives of Victims.”

Straede gave the students the option of doing a written or oral exam at the end of the semester. If they chose the oral exam, they would need to construct a seven-minute video featuring one or more testimonies on IWitness, focusing on a topic from a list provided by Straede, and then present the video to the rest of the class.

The possible video topics included violence, parent/child relationships, resilience, forced labor, the importance of giving testimony, and more.

Straede said several students chose to make videos and he was impressed with how they turned out.

“The videos were so good and so interesting,” he said. “It’s incredible how much they were able to bring in under the limit of seven minutes. I was struck by the quality.”

One student who made a video connected her own experiences as a Muslim to the forced identification of Jews during the Holocaust, and told Straede his course was the greatest she had ever taken at university. Hearing a comment like that and seeing how much his students learned from constructing their videos, Straede said, “makes you feel that you’ve succeeded as an educator.”

The students will also present their videos at a university-wide lecture series, alongside fellow students and renowned professors, next month. Straede’s students will screen their videos and talk about why they chose their topic and the testimony clips, which Straede hopes will encourage freshmen to sign up for his undergraduate course and work with IWitness next semester.

The ability of students to edit their own videos – incorporating testimony clips, text, audio and other sources – is what makes IWitness a valuable, active learning opportunity, Straede said.

“Students will draw on this later and use these tools in future classes,” he said. “Everyone who worked on [a video in IWitness] was very inclined to use it in other classes and in teaching kids. It’s a great tool.”