My suggestions for upcoming changes in the JMC curriculum

There’s been a lot of talk within the department here about what/why/how the curriculum should change to include more instruction dealing with Online Journalism and its buzzwordy comrades — Convergence, Multimedia and Interactivity.

Although I’ve been nudging a few faculty members in directions regarding my ideas on the topic, this is the sort of thing I simply don’t have the time to really lay out in some sort of grand, all-encompassing presentation that will automagically explain what I think, what everyone else in the world of the Internet and Journalism thinks, and what should be taught about it all.

That said, here’s my short list of DOs and DON’Ts, not that you asked. Okay, some of you asked, but here it is anyway…

  • Do – Create an Online Journalism track, with its own 61-level writing class, 132, 134, and a final production class where students design, layout, and edit an online “magazine” using content created by students in the department and from across the university (think Access).
  • Don’t – Teach HTML to every incoming undergraduate.
  • Do – Develop the online presences of the Spartan Daily, Access Magazine, and Update News
  • Don’t – Eliminate print editions of existing publications.
  • Do – Use blogs in the 61-level Writing for Online class to introduce students to content managment systems, very basic HTML, and allow students to give each other feedback.
  • Don’t – Worry about privacy. We’re here to become journalists, to write in public, not to hide our work behind a firewall.
  • Do – Create podcasts and video podcasts in 163 (Audio and Video streaming for the Web). This is the current technology in the medium, and it’s not that hard to learn. There are some great software tools out there to make this more of a cut-and-paste process than some elaborate code jockeying ordeal.
  • Don’t – Assume every student walks in the door with a blog and expertise in Photoshop. I’ve watched undergraduates and graduates alike struggle to figure out why Microsoft Works is different from Word and why it matters to their instructors.
  • Do – Push the wireless program, but keep the computer labs up-to-date with hardware and software. Leasing computers makes sense to me as a way to keep hardware fresh. Communicate with alumni at software companies to work out deals for software.

There. That’s more DOs than DON’Ts. How’s that for optimism?

My next post will juggle some ideas about where Online Journalism is going and who is paying attention to it… I’m off to class.

7 Replies to “My suggestions for upcoming changes in the JMC curriculum”

  1. Speaking of photojournalists (Jason), I should have mentioned photo. I haven’t talked with the faculty much about it, but the Daily photographers have a good idea of what they want to do with Flash slideshows. They’re ahead of the game.

  2. Heh.

    That sounds like a matter for A.S. to take up on a grander scale.

    But, there has been talk of adding a “lab fee” for the computer-lab-heavy classes in JMC — the money would pay for…wait for it…new computers. Or software, or something useful.

  3. The beginning curriculum should include a survey type of course. That would take our entry level students a taste of all facets of Journalism and Mass Communication. They would be able to make a more informed choice about their major or minor and be able to contribute sooner in their academic career.

  4. Jessie –

    We saw what some of the faculty’s plans for 100W are, but I agree with you – I get the impression that undergraduates put off 100W as long as they can, thus defeating the purpose of using the class to give students a taste of everything.

    I always try to relate the curriculum structure here back to my undergrad film school experience — both are essentially craft schools, with different tasks to perform and media to specialize in.

    My freshman year, I was required to take one semester of a Sound class and one of a Photo class, but the emphasis in both was on storytelling.

    The following year, the required production classes were a semester of (silent B&W) film and a semester of video — in each class, we formed crews and worked together doing the different jobs of filmmaking. In the video class, we also did studio work and were supposed to rotate through the job positions throughout the semester, although I sure do remember doing a lot of lighting.

    Junior year, the required production class was Color/Sync – each student made a color film with synchronized sound, working on the 4 films of your crew members.

    Okay – so what did I learn from all this? Everyone gravitated to their specialty Sophomore year when we got a chance to produce our own little films & videos. I chose camera and lighting and never looked back. Other students loved to record, design and edit sound. Others only wanted to direct.

    How can we give students an opportunity, early on, to choose their specialty based on their own experience?

    Okay, that logic isn’t going to get us anywhere – but how can students learn the basics of journalism and touch all the media taught here at the same time?

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