How to make the transition to teaching online media courses


Periscope is used to live stream the recent #WomenInMedia event to Valencia College online students and others. (Photo: Rebecca Newman)

Students DO NOT watch the evening news and certainly do not read a print newspaper. Sometimes they can click on a news site like CNN or ABCNews, but if they click on something, it’s probably BuzzFeed, Vice, or ENews.

They are not not consume news; they get it and share it in a whole new way.

“There are so many ways to make online learning engaging and meaningful. “

I realized it when Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ student journalists broadcast live via Snapchat and Instagram as their school, friends and teachers were under attack. Despite horrific circumstances, these student journalists continued to film to share with the world what was happening at this school. As a result, these young people created a movement that was born and is now being communicated with their peers and the strictly online world.

This means that as teachers we need to meet our students where they are – online, all the time. It’s a challenge because you have to constantly change with technology and what’s popular with students, but that’s the reality of our business, and I’m going to show you how my journey to being an online journalism instructor has evolved. .

My, how things have changed

I started teaching online media at the end of 2013. Facebook had been around for a while, but Twitter and Pinterest were just outliers. Instagram and Snapchat were practically still in the womb.

Fast forward JUST FIVE YEARS and social media tools have exploded in popularity for teens and young adults. They use devices to communicate – with their friends, parents, teachers, employers. They use social media to maintain their social life by “liking” and “following” photographs, celebrities and even causes. Students also discover the world – good and bad – through social media.

On our recent learning day at college, I attended the “bricks, clicks and tips for teachers”On how to learn to communicate and collaborate with students. We had ‘app time’, learned about teacher time savings and dazzling design, but I was amazed that some colleagues were still arguing over ‘student responsibility’ and ‘why. they [students] expect email responses faster than 48 hours.

I thought, students hardly ever use email anymore, and if I had to wait 48 hours for an answer to my assignment question, I’d go bonkers! I realized during the session that while some of these tools are great for teachers, they are not necessarily great for students beyond the face-to-face classroom. Tools like Kahoot and Go Soapbox can be cool in the classroom, but they’re not particularly useful online. Teachers seem to fear Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter – for a number of reasons – but that’s where the students are, and we need to be there too.

Go from face-to-face to the web

I teach the full range of media courses – Introduction to Reporting, Writing for Mass Media, Writing for Social Media, and Introduction to Public Relations. I teach them all online, except for the intro to reporting (for now).

At first it was a real struggle. I was trying to teach online classes like my face-to-face classes. I quickly understood that it was not possible. Online students generally adopt this type of format because they need flexibility. They often work full time and go to school.

Face-to-face students meet local public relations professionals. Online students participated via Twitter Chat at #ValenciaPRChat. (Photo: Rebecca Newman)

Over the past five years, I’ve changed, reorganized, restructured, and gained a ton of new skills because I’m trying to make learning work for my students. Students do not read textbooks. They don’t patiently wait for me to respond to them by email. But they like clarity and consistency. They also enjoy interactive homework and challenge them to practice real-world skills. How do you do that? The answer is, it is a work in progress, but it can be done. Here are a few tips :

1. Use the social media that students use: Obviously I have limits, but social media tools really make it easy to give students quick feedback when they need it. I use Twitter in my classes since that’s what journalists use. I allow them to DM me with questions and comments, and my response time is actually a lot faster than traditional email.

2. Live guest speaker events: Twitter Live and Periscope are great tools for broadcasting live events with professional speakers. Use whatever tool works best for you and where you have the most followers, but for your information, students are no longer using Facebook. For these events, I collect my students’ questions in advance, so that they can also “ask” questions during the event.

3. Study the applications and available technology: Do you want to hear students interviewing sources? Have them record it and send it to you as an audio file. Want students to build their “professional brand”? Give them an assignment to create a LinkedIn profile. Want your social media students to be able to post “professionally” designed content? Introduce them to Canva (free) and have them start creating and publishing. There are TONS of choices out there. Find the free and easy-to-use tools. Share them and use them.

4. YouTube is your friend: There is so much great content on YouTube. Students love to watch videos, so let them be. I am using an excellent video from Dr Kim Zarkin which teaches new journalism students how to use the AP Stylebook. I then create a series of quizzes that get them to use the book and recognize the important style elements.

5. Be present: “Talk” to your users online – FREQUENTLY. Every semester, I host virtual conferences (for a note) via FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangout. Not only is it simulating remote meetings in the real world, but it is also an opportunity to check in with these people, so that they can put a face with the stranger behind the computer screen. . Does it take time? Yes, but it’s definitely worth it.

There are many ways to make online learning engaging and meaningful. There are so many cool tools to use to get this job done. Some come and go, but if you pay attention to the right people (other teachers and colleagues), industry and kids, you will know what is working and what is going to be obsolete.

Embrace online learning. It’s here, and it’s the future.

Rebecca Newman is a professor of media at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. She is an educational advisor for the student information organization of Valencia College, Valencia Voice.


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