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Academic Outreach

Faculty Focused

Animated Characters as Information Messenger

W. Mark Franks, Adjunct Instructor in Sociology and Anthropology, created animated mini-lectures to give his Juvenile Delinquency online course a make over. Unconventional characters were given different voices to deliver lecture content to students.

Receiving a WOW! Grant for the summer of 2017 was a wonderful honor and a great opportunity to learn a new technology and hopefully create even more student engagement in my online course offering, Sociology 333/Juvenile Delinquency.

The WOW! Grant allowed me the time to learn a very user-friendly animation platform offered through NAWMAL.COM.  I’ve been using audio-only mini-lectures in each of the course lessons, accompanied by typewritten transcripts, and wanted to add another choice for how students are pointed to some key elements I want them to focus on.  The audio-only mini-lectures and transcript files are still available in each lesson, in their “new and improved” forms, but now in addition there are links to fun little animated shorts I have placed on YouTube.  Some of the material in the course can be “dry” and students need to be encouraged to read, think about what they read, and then write competently about the material.  My goal in adding the animated mini-lectures, which are pretty goofy and hopefully fun and hard to forget, is to create an interesting and engaging introduction to each lesson.

I would encourage anyone teaching an online course at Ole Miss to consider applying for the grant, and can’t say enough about all the support and encouragement I have received from Mary Lea Moore and Wan Latartara at the Department of Online Design and eLearning.  I am also indebted to my department Chair, Dr. Kirsten Dellinger, and Dr. Stephen Monroe in the Dean’s Office of the College of Liberal Arts for their assistance, encouragement and support throughout the process.

Why did I choose animations as an addition to my online course?  When I was a lecturer, I often used humor to gain students’ attention, and found that once I made them laugh, they were relaxed and attentive, waiting for what I would say next.  And of course, that’s when the serious part of the lecture began.  My audio-only mini-lectures have worked well, but I also wanted a visual element in the course, something beyond just a video of me delivering the mini-lecture.  I’d seen a number of entertaining and engaging animated shorts using the format offered by, and decided to give it a try.  The technology was very user-friendly and allowed for a lot of creativity.  If you have a chance to check out one or two of them, I do hope you enjoy them.

Lastly, let me add that the WOW! Grant is very aptly named.  I’ve spent the summer of 2017 working with animation technology that I had never explored before, quite often finding myself with nothing to say but “Wow!”  I am very grateful for the freedom this grant gave me to improve the quality and uniqueness of Sociology 333/Juvenile Delinquency, and to offer Ole Miss students a more memorable and meaningful educational experience.

-W. Mark Franks
Sociology and Anthropology
2017 WOW! Grant Recipient