'Pop-up' courses deliver timely topics to students

· 5 min read

'Pop-up' courses deliver timely topics to students

Nebraska's Matt Waite (second from left) works with students in a drone journalism pop-up course offered in fall 2018.
David Carson | Courtesy photo
Nebraska's Matt Waite (second from left) works with students in a drone journalism pop-up course offered in fall 2018.

Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can customize their class schedules with pop-up classes and mini courses that will be offered during the 2019 spring semester.

The fast-moving one-credit, pass/no pass classes are open to all majors and offer a taste of topics of high interest to college students.

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications will be offering pop-up classes for the third straight semester in 2019. This round of classes will teach skill sets to give journalism and marketing students an edge in the job market: becoming a “ninja” with Adobe After Effects software; using electronic sensors to gather information for news stories; using 360 video technology; media sales and account management; creative problem solving in marketing; and covering criminal cases in the Nebraska courts. More classes will "pop up" as the semester progresses, including a class on play-by-play sports coverage connected to the April 13 Red-White Spring football game.

College of Journalism and Mass Communications students covered the 2018 Red-White Spring game from the Memorial Stadium press box during a "pop-up" course on play-by-play sports coverage.

The Department of Educational Psychology is introducing three mini-courses to provide students a sample of hot topics in the discipline: nurturing talent; boosting motivation; and understanding the brain.

The innovative classes put Nebraska in the company of several other universities across the country that have recently begun offering temporary courses that provide a quick dive into emerging subjects. Sometimes the classes develop into a permanent part of the curriculum, such as the “Essay as Resistance” class that debuted at Pomona College in California in March 2017. Others come and go with events, such as Bennington College’s “Am I Charlie?,” held in 2015 in response to the attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France.

It takes about 15 hours of classroom time to equal one credit hour. While Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications has offered some one-credit boot camps and workshops by scheduling 15 hours over a weekend, the educational psychology classes meet for three-hour sessions once a week for five weeks.

“We’ve got a lot of interesting topics that people may not be aware of,” said Kenneth Kiewra, professor of educational psychology. “And with tight schedules, students might not have room for a 2- or 3-credit course. These courses work for students who might need one or two credits to fill in their schedules – and we can give students a nice taste of a new topic.”

The educational psychology mini courses – each held for five weeks on Wednesday afternoons, starting with “Nurturing Talent: Yours and Others” on Jan. 9 – also serve as a way to test curriculum for a positive psychology minor that is now under development. Kiewra will teach the talent class; while lecturer Mary Zeleny will teach “Boost Your Motivation Now,” beginning Feb. 3; and Assistant Professor Carrie Clark will teach “Neuromythbusters: The Truth About Your Brain,” beginning March 27.

Students can register in one, two or all three of the spring 2019 mini-courses under the course heading Special Topics in Educational Psychology (EDPS 498).

Matt Waite (second from right) assists a student with drone controls during a pop-up course offered during Nebraska's fall 2018 semester.

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications offered its first five pop-up courses in spring 2018. One example, “Play-by-Play for Beginners,’’ gave budding sportscasters a try at delivering play-by-play coverage of the Huskers’ spring football game from a broadcasting booth. Other offerings from the college have included a media literacy workshop, a podcasting class and a boot camp on drone journalism.

“We like to have as many of these on the schedule as possible,” said interim Dean Amy Struthers. “They allow us to bring in professionals to teach – who can do a weekend but can’t commit to doing three hours a week for 15 weeks in a row. These applied classes are very experiential and hands-on and they allow us to take advantage of professional experience in the community and among our alumni.”

The classes are reviewed by the college’s curriculum committee, but the college has moved quickly to test the concept and to keep the classes topical, Struthers said. She urges her faculty to come up with new proposals even late in the semester, noting that after the 10th week often is when students may need an extra credit or two to remain full-time and eligible for financial aid.

Matt Waite, a professor of practice who taught the drone journalism boot camp, said he enthusiastically promoted the pop-up concept.

"Journalism and the media are evolving so quickly right now, we have to have a curriculum that evolves with it," he said. "Sometimes things come along that are so new, we don't know how they will fit into the curriculum or format of a class. Pop-ups are low- cost way to do a quick turn and try new things out."

Spring 2019’s offerings so far are: "Audio Podcasting 101," March 29, April 5 and April 26, taught by broadcasting Associate Professor Rick Alloway; "Covering Nebraska Courts,:, March 15, March 29 and April 5, taught by news-editorial Professor John Bender; “Become an After Effects Ninja,” Jan. 25-27, taught by Colby Dolan, a motion designer with the Swanson Russell agency; “Media Sales and Account Management,” Feb. 9-10, taught by David Thiemann, director of sales and marketing at The Daily Nebraskan; “Storytelling with Sensors,” five Wednesdays beginning Feb. 6, taught by Waite; Creative Problem Solving by Archrival, March 8-10, taught by Clint! Runge, founder and managing director of Archrival agency; “360 Video Story Telling,” three Sundays beginning Feb. 17, taught by journalism Assistant Professor of Practice Alan Eno.

“These classes are experimental, interdisciplinary and cross-campus,” Struthers said. “Cross-disciplinary study is one area where the college should be a leader. How much more cross-disciplinary can you get than advertising and journalism?”