Journalism students at Colorado State University are learning to incorporate new technologies into their work. Starting last semester and continuing into the spring, each student in a required multimedia and technology course received a high-definition camcorder, microphone and memory card. A course fee covers the cost of the equipment.
Ownership of the camera allows students to work at home and in class. Faculty members in CSU’s Department of Journalism and Technical Communication endorsed the idea to enhance students’ understanding of audio and visual communication concepts and practices.
The required course, Computer-Mediated Visual Communication, centers on use of multimedia as an integrated part of journalism. With the help of a competitive grant from the university, the course was re-designed to accommodate the many new technological skills required for professional communicators.
“With the new course design, we draw on habits students already have. They post videos to YouTube, learn new software in labs and through online tutorials, comment on wikis and blogs and use mobile devices to communicate with instructors and with each other. Those things aren’t distracting them from class, they are the class,” said Rosa Martey, one of two professors involved in the redesign.
The redesign of this class is just one aspect of the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication’s continuing efforts to keep the curriculum up to date. These efforts began in the 1990s with new courses and dozens of revisions to existing courses. In fall 2011, the department will begin to implement a major curriculum revision.
“We have been tweaking our curriculum for more than a decade, but we saw the need for major updates a few years ago and started bringing professionals to campus to help with the process,” said Greg Luft, chair of the JTC department.
“Faculty members have attacked this challenge with gusto, learning new software, incorporating new content into current courses and connecting with other programs on campus for interdisciplinary approaches to communication technology,” Luft said.
With the new curriculum, students will need to satisfy a certain number of requirements in both skills and theory courses. With the help of faculty advisors, they will also have the opportunity to shape their course of study to prepare for specific careers.
The curriculum review and revisions are similar to those going on at other accredited journalism programs across the country. While the mandatory ownership of camcorders may be unique, it fits with the overall goal of helping students learn to adapt to new experiences they may encounter professionally.
“With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, increased interactivity in news websites and the use of blogs, it’s clear that tomorrow’s journalists still need to be fluent in narrative writing and critical thinking skills. We believe they also must be fluent in the development of hardware, software and the Web, including strategies necessary to stay current with technology,” Martey said.
Students in the computer-mediated communication course have turned in their first video assignments, with classmates helping to judge their ability to communicate specific messages without the help of written narrative.
CSU’s Department of Journalism and Technical Communication focuses on journalistic and other uses of mass media by engaging in teaching, scholarship, interdisciplinary education and service. More information about the JTC Department can be found at www.journalism.colostate.edu.