Academic Spotlight: Sam Coley

With a huge variety of wonderful staff members and academics teaching our courses and shaping the futures of our students, we wanted to unpack their stories and discover how they got to where they are now.

Sam Coley, Course Director for MA Media Production and Associate Professor International, shares an insight into his career and work.

What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University?

I joined the University in 2005 as a Senior Lecturer in Radio, and today I’m the Course Director for the MA Media Production and an Associate Professor International. This means I’m responsible for the overall management of the MA Media Production Course and work alongside colleagues to grow various international opportunities. I teach on a range of radio and audio related modules and contribute to the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research.

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?

I previously worked in the New Zealand and UK radio industries and continue to produce documentaries as a freelancer. It’s very useful to draw on my personal experiences of when things went well - and not so well - when teaching my students. Having first-hand knowledge of current industry practices helps to keep my teaching up to date and lets me know about potential placement and employment opportunities.

What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?

Having a book on documentary production published and receiving industry recognition for some of my radio productions have been personal highlights. But, in all honesty, it’s the achievements of my students that gives me the most satisfaction. Seeing them progress into employment, or having their content broadcast, is always rewarding. Many of our students have won international awards for their production course work, which is also very gratifying.

What makes the courses you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like?

Our philosophy is to prepare students to be “industry ready”. Our equipment and media facilities give students the opportunity to create high quality content in a professional environment. The staff are encouraging, and many have extensive industry backgrounds, so they’re able to offer constructive, practical advice. We try to build an inclusive environment and encourage students to follow their own interests to create meaningful content. Students get to work as individuals and in team situations and we aim to replicate ‘real world’ industry practice as much as possible.

Why do you think Birmingham is a good place to study?

Birmingham is a young city, with a real sense of energy to it. There are always plenty of things to see and do. In terms of media, there are many independent production companies and broadcasters based here, which is especially helpful for networking and securing industry placements. The city is also centrally located, so it’s an excellent base for exploring the rest of the UK.

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What can students do to help prepare them for the courses you teach?

That’s easy… make content! I would certainly encourage students to use their initiative to create ‘real world’ productions. Whether you have your own YouTube channel, blog, or podcast etc., the more content you produce, the better you’ll get. Learn your strengths and weaknesses and try to identify areas to build on in the future. It is also important to start consuming media analytically. In other words, don’t just watch and listen to things you enjoy. Broaden your understanding of audiences and production approaches by engaging with a greater variety of content and try to understand why these productions are effective.

What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?

I really enjoy working alongside our students as they bring their concepts to life. Watching a media project grow from an initial seed of an idea into final, fully realised production is always rewarding. The enthusiasm of our students and the original work they create helps to keep things fresh and interesting for me.

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