They hoped to get assistance at DesignLab with producing their video. While the teaching assistants have some technical knowledge, their primary focus during consultations is focusing on conceptual and aesthetic aspects of the media project, offering assistance with project management goals, developing media project ideas and discussing assignment drafts. Students can also meet with teaching assistants to practice their upcoming presentations and get feedback for improvement.

Newman said the teaching assistant viewed what they had shot, discussed their goals for the assignment and had many helpful insights to share, especially tips for filming and aspects of video production.

"We discussed what things would make (the video) more suited for a commercial, and better suited for our goals for the project," Newman said. "(The teaching assistant) suggested certain camera angles for our re-filming of it, like angling it from top or bottom, depending on whether we're trying to convey a certain mood."

Walsh added that they also received helpful advice on lighting for future filming -- as in, avoid filming in areas with only fluorescent lighting.

"(The DesignLab consultation) was super-helpful," Newman said. "I can't imagine where people would go before this. How would (students) even do these projects? I have no idea."

Noting that laptops and smartphones are ubiquitous on campus, McKenzie said DesignLab also offers a valuable service because it recognizes that IT -- the Web, smartphones, PCs, iPads -- is central to both the learning and lives of students.

"Many students are already coming in (to the university) with (digital media) skills. They're already doing this on their smartphones, and we're focused on how we can enhance them and enrich them and give them a critical language to think about media and information while they're here," McKenzie said.

"Many students are already coming in (to the university) with (digital media) skills. They're already doing this on their smartphones, and we're focused on how we can enhance them and enrich them and give them a critical language to think about media and information while they're here," McKenzie said.

He added that once students learn the languages of these different media, DesignLab can really help ramp up students' skills by empowering them to get into more of a savvy digital media production mode rather than a consumption mode.

"And that would go a long way for preparing them for whatever it is they're going into," he said.

McKenzie said DesignLab is also connected to a larger societal mission in creating knowledgeable citizens.

"One of the missions of DesignLab is to democratize digitality the way that in the 19th century the universities helped democratize literacy. We took it wholesale and tried to educate everbody and get everybody to read and write, and so we need to do an analogous thing now with the medium," he said.

"There's a ton of evidence that all sorts of industries have been transformed by smartphones, iPads and computers. So getting society in general more skilled, both critically and creatively, on these devices is an important thing," he said. "Traditionally, literacy was tied to the creation of knowledgeable citizens. So, if you want democracy to continue, what is that same function in the digital realm? And we see examples of it online, on blogs, online voting -- it's all kinds of things that are out there in our future. So having our citizens skilled and knowledgeable is an important thing."

UW-Madison Libraries and DesignLab are organizing the fourth annual Digital Salon, which will be held April 14-20. The Digital Salon is open to UW-Madison graduate and undergraduate students to showcase artistic and research-based projects that take digital form or rely heavily on information technology in the production process. Podcasts, experimental videos, graphic novels and essays, websites, blogs, multimedia installations, posters, other new media work will be exhibited in College Library's Open Book Café and online.

DesignLab is funded through the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates, which charges students a supplemental tuition fee to provide for additional faculty and enhanced student services. More information about DesignLab can be found at designlab.wisc.edu.