July 16, 2015 at 2:15pm

Educational podcasting has developed into a useful way for students and faculty to teach and learn. Content can include audio and video, but what about using it to instruct dance courses?

Angela Miller, Millikin assistant professor of theatre and dance, and Ariana Shelton, a senior dance student and marketing major from Oreana, Ill., are working together on developing innovative teaching resources to be used in dance courses at Millikin. The collaboration is part of Millikin University's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program.

Shelton is assisting Miller with video documenting dance course exercises. They plan to use the footage to create podcasts to which students can refer throughout Miller's technique dance courses in ballet, modern, jazz and tap. Links to the podcasts will be available on Moodle, an open-source learning management system, so that students can review course material anytime, anywhere.

"Dance courses typically do not employ a textbook," said Miller. "Typical note-taking techniques by both students and faculty can document to a certain degree of effectiveness, but with video documentation, students can have a more comprehensive study aide for use inside and outside the studio."

Several of Miller's course exercises are geared toward the specific needs of Millikin dance students, many of whom are learning dance as adult beginners. Miller's advanced courses often include a mix of dancers who have been training their whole lives and dancers who have had a few semesters of training.

Miller noted, "We started with ballet exercises and things I tend to repeat in my courses that are the backbone of what I think builds a strong dancer. Once we are done documenting ballet, then we will move on and look at exercises that I think make a strong jazz dancer, tap dancer and so on."

Ariana Shelton grew up dancing in studios in the Decatur area and trained mainly with the Springfield Ballet Company. She was selected for the fellowship because of her excellence in both the technical and performative aspects of dance. She also teaches dance at the Dance Centre in Decatur.

"It's an honor to be involved with the project and to have the opportunity to help grow the dance program at Millikin," said Shelton. "The project is especially important for dance students because they have midterms and finals that cover dance combinations. They can use the podcasts for practice."

Once the podcasts have been created and shared, Miller plans to present the research at conferences hosted by the American College Dance Association (ACDA) and the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO).

Video documenting has developed but I don't think it will replace one-on-one teaching," said Miller. "Having the teacher provide the physical corrections for the dancers is always going to be important. However, I see the podcasts as a way to share and to inspire other teachers to think about teaching dance combinations another way.

Miller says she sees potential for broadcasting the podcasts more widely, whether through a standard industry publisher or through her own website.

"I am interested in learning the advantages and disadvantages of podcasting versus uploading videos to a public host," said Miller. "Creating podcasts for key elements in my courses will be a valuable resource for current students. If a student in any discipline is interested in pursuing the dance minor and they want to know what style of ballet, modern, jazz or tap Millikin teaches, the best way for them to understand it is by seeing it themselves."

From a hands-on learning point of view, Miller says, "It's taking an art form and creating a concrete product that we can then share with a third-party stakeholder, whether it's a prospective student or a dance studio. It's taking something that happens all the time in the classroom and making it accessible to a wider audience."

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program (SURF) 

Millikin's SURF Program pairs a student with a faculty member to perform in-depth research throughout the summer months. An example of Performance Learning, the research is one of the "graduate level" opportunities undergraduates experience at Millikin.

The 2015 SURF Program features Millikin students and faculty across multiple disciplines conducting research and collaboratively building new academic ground. This summer, three SURF fellowships were granted.