The University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications is implementing a first-of-its-kind visual communications program for fall 2016, which will give students experience with the technologies and techniques needed to be powerful and effective storytellers.
The new visual communications curriculum replaces a traditional skills course model with an emporium-style model that encourages challenge-based learning. Students will leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems, with the help of faculty available in a learning resource center.
“At the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, we educate and train storytellers,” said Dean Maria Marron. “The college has a stellar reputation as one of the nation’s top media and journalism programs. This new visual communications curriculum will provide the foundation students need to be powerful storytellers and will ensure the college continues to be a leader in media education.”
The program replaces lectures with an interactive digital media hub. Students will complete online modules to learn the basics of different technologies and produce content with the technologies and techniques learned. Faculty and interactive computer software will provide personalized, on-demand assistance.
Plans are in place to transform the lower level of Andersen Hall to an open-concept interactive digital and social media hub. The construction will support the emporium-style program, where students can seek help on assignments and collaborate with peers on projects. Part of this space will be dedicated to social media analytics where students will learn how to work with real-time data visualizations to monitor conversations, create content and engage with audiences in the digital media sphere.
“Content is about more than just production,” Adam Wagler, assistant professor of advertising and public relations, said. “It’s more than just pushing buttons. It’s strategy, planning, audience, placement, format and medium. In this program, students work with instructors to push ideas. The emporium-style course gives students help when they need it.”
Students are put in charge of their own learning by encouraging them to adopt problem-solving skills and seek out help when needed.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University implemented a similar model for math about 15 years ago to push students through the curriculum at their own pace, but the UNL journalism college will be the first to implement a program like this for communications.
“In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world of technology, it’s imperative students develop the skills to problem solve and adapt to new technologies,” Associate Dean Frauke Hachtmann said. “This emporium-style model encourages collaborative and hands-on learning where students work independently and with peers, teachers and experts in their communities and around the world to establish a foundation of basic skills.”
The students will begin with modules in design thinking and problem solving, storytelling and how technology works. Students will go on to take modules in video production, audio production, photography, layout, typography, web design and mobile.
From there, students will choose which proficiencies they want to master by taking additional modules in these areas or experiment with other media including animation, app development, 360 video, drone journalism, virtual reality or data visualization, to name a few.
The program will culminate in a final group project where students work as a team to plan, produce and promote visual content.