Documentary Style Video

Online learning offers convenience and flexibility, but it also presents some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is incorporating the real world into the virtual classroom. When field work isn’t an option, how can we bring the field directly to the student?



For George Mason University’s Autism Spectrum Disorders Graduate Certificate with MEd Option, our solution was to produce “case studies” of four different people with autism spectrum disorders in a documentary format. Students followed these people in their day-to-day lives and bore witness to obstacles they must overcome, all without leaving their computer.


Our program is so grateful to the partnership for... making the program better than it was.

In a survey conducted by Mason, 100% of students agreed that the videos improved their understanding of the varied experiences of individuals with ASD — and nearly 80% of students strongly agreed. Additionally, over 95% of students felt a connection with the video subjects. “I will remember these four very different individuals and their families forever,” one student wrote. “Their honesty made me forever change how I communicate with families.”


Dr. Jodi M. Duke, Associate Professor of Education and program coordinator, credits the partnership with Wiley for improving the program, raising its reputation and profile, and ultimately increasing enrollment. “Our program is so grateful to the partnership for... making the program better than it was,” Duke said, “[and] for providing resources that we would never have been able to access.”


Ultimately, we found that a thoughtful, professionally produced documentary style video can help introduce students to interesting people, give them an intimate look behind the scenes of their chosen field, and allow them to engage with the course material in a meaningful way that reflects real life.