Time Saving with Online Learning

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Today, I turned in my grades for my first online course. I’ve been a distance learner but this J-term was my first time teaching a web-based class. When I proposed developing the curriculum for online learning, I still had my doubts if I could effectively meet my course objectives. I prepared the course with the best examples of online learning I researched. To my delight, my students achieved the learning outcomes and reviewed the course positively. Additionally, I gained deeper insight into online learning. In an increasingly digital world, digital courses must be at the forefront of higher education. Online education allows faculty and student alike to be freed of the restrictions of time and space; giving back time to better approach their work.

The Department of Education reported that around 4.5 million students of Title IV schools were enrolled in some or entirely in online courses. This accounts for a quarter of enrolled students in the institutions. Additionally, many turn to web-based courses through services like Udemy, Coursera, and dozens of other massive open online courses (MOOCs). Online learning is clearly gaining traction as a staple of higher education.

As I developed my online class, Hyperlocal Storytelling, I initially thought of only the convenience it offered me and my students. Within the first week, I learned there was another advantage. Time. I had time to work on other courses’ lesson plans. Similarly, my students were able to attend more courses. The confines of traditional courses can actually limit what can be accomplished. Online courses can be worked on at any time from anywhere. This flexibility gives students more freedom in their academic load and in pursuing internships or careers.

Online education isn’t perfect for every situation. Education Database Online notes two reasons students would seek traditional learning; students can utilize a university’s equipment and access tutoring and assistance. Furthermore, many students desire the tangible experience of a classroom.

Part of the challenge for online classes might be in their structure. Are the faculty creating the right learning environment? In my own preparation, my research advocated for students to have significant access to their instructors and be engaged multiple ways. My approach was to teach through the collective of emails, video lectures, reading, and diverse online and offline assignments. Additionally, students could get my assistance via video chat, phone, emails, and even office hours. Anticipating their needs, I tried to overcome some of online education’s shortcomings. The outcome was overwhelmingly positive.

I don’t believe the choice in higher education is either-or. I foresee a hybrid environment becoming the new status quo. There are now countless web-based tools for communication, collaboration, and content creation. Could writing and research based courses make a digital shift? What if more lecture heavy classes were adapted for web-based learning? Could it stand to reason that half Gen. Ed. requirements be taken online? Gaining back time doesn’t equate to a sacrifice of quality. It could mean, however, that students will have the opportunity to explore their field of study more fully.

It will take major changes to transition higher education to hybrid learning. The educational environment will need to be rebuilt from the ground up and long-held traditions will need to be revised. However, as students gain more flexibility, they will discover new ways to invest in their learning. Faculty will be free to strengthen their pedagogy. As a whole, higher education will become more relevant to those in pursuit of knowledge. An efficient online learning environment that is in tandem with traditional courses will create an education that is time well spent.

 

Why the Digital Revolution Changes Nothing

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It was the French journalist, Alphonse Karr, who said “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The advent of mobile technology and social media has both drastically altered the news business and also hardly changed it at all. A contradiction? No, it just depends on what you are examining. The relevance of these changes depend on whether you are speaking of the news organization or the journalist.

News organizations have had to adapt quickly to the era of the smartphone. People are engaging far differently with news content than ever before. According the American Press Institute, well over 70% of mobile device users utilize their devices for news consumption (API, 2014). News audiences are demanding immediacy from their news sources. The news organization must meet this growing demand with a vigilant online presence across multiple venues.

The news organization that creates content for traditional and digital audience benefits from increased viewership. While statistics demonstrate a large boost in digital audiences, the Pew Research Center shows healthy growth for broadcast news, as well (PRC, 2015). Local TV news has seen a 2-3% growth with national TV news growing by 2-5%. This data shows audiences are not choosing one media or the other but engaging news across a variety of platforms. News organizations that fully embrace their digital venues are seeing not only a larger audience but a more engaged audience.

Unlike ever before, audiences are more than just consumers but producers of the news. Whether they serve as news aggregators or even citizen journalists, audiences are now involved in the discussion alongside the reporters. Their added voices to the conversation is a double-edged sword. As stated previously, an engaged audience is certainly a boost for news organizations but that same audience creates an uncontrollable factor. The risk of a single bad tweet, a single inappropriate photo, a single piece of misinformation is ever present. Audiences are not bound to expectations of journalistic integrity. Additionally, the audience’s demand for immediacy dictates what journalists will cover and how it will be covered. News organizations now face the risks and challenges of engaging an audience who can talk back.

Yes, the things have changed. It seems as if the whole news world, for better or worse, has been turned on its head. My companion piece, Wagging the Dog, shows as much. However, the solution to all the challenges faced in this brave new digital world has always been known. Good journalism requires good journalists. In their book, “Advancing the Story: Journalism in a Multimedia World,” Debora Wenger and Deborah Potter write, “ As the technology used to manage the content becomes easier to navigate, multimedia journalism is likely to become less about knowing how to post a story or use a smartphone to capture video and more about the skills its takes to gather and present information that is relevant and compelling to an audience – regardless of whether that audience is watching, reading or interacting with the story.”

The role of a journalist has not and will not change. We are still expected to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent (SPJ, 2014). The advances in technology and audience engagement complicate our roles and will require more effort. However, the responsibilities of a journalist will remain the same across time, technology, and culture.

References:

American Press Institute, 2014. “The Personal News Cycle: How Americans choose to get their news.” American Press Institute. 17 Mar, 2014. Web. 19, May, 2015.

Mitchell, A., 2015. “State of the News Media 2015.” The Pew Research Center. 29 Apr, 2015. Web. 19 May, 2015.

Wenger, Debora Halpern, and Deborah Potter. “The Multimedia Mind-set.” Advancing the Story: Journalism in a Multimedia World. Third ed. CQ, 2015. 11. Print.

SPJ, 2014. “SPJ Code of Ethics.” Society of Professional Journalists. 6 Sept, 2014. Web. 19 May, 2015

#BeMoreDigital

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Last week, I had the pleasure to attend OBEA’s Student Day held at OETA. I was greatly impressed by the presentation on the growth of digital content by OETA’s own digital/social media producers. Their works apire to change PBS’s image of being old-fashioned and attract millenials with technology/pop culture content via online videos. Their digital content strategy was presented under the hashtag “BeMoreDigital.”

I read articles about how different local TV stations utilize digital content. The biggest take away is that there are no hard rules. We are all pilgrims in a new land. Some stations utilize social media and digital content for promoting the brand or main content platform (broadcast, newspaper, etc). Others are creating innovating original content that suppliments other works. Neither is right or wrong but both need to happen to be effective.

In the early 2000’s, it was said that we were in a culture of two screens. We watched TV and surfed the net simultaneously. For a rather recent term, we are already beyond that. We are now in the era of three screens. The smartphone has joined the family.

Its the State of the Union. I watch the president speak live from my television. I read live commentaries from political analysts on news sites. I tweet followers and read tweets by the public. I am monitoring and dialoguing on multiple platforms to get a deeper understanding.

Depth. That is what is being desired with digital content. Audiences may see traditional journalism platforms as too 2-dimensional. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans were getting news from computers with 54% saying they received it from mobile devices in 2013. Digital content allows more immediate and deeper coverage of stories. Check cnn.com. Articles often feature a video below the header, story highlights on the side, and additional hyperlinked content throughout the piece. This gives a consumer to gain a deeper understanding than a newscast would allow. Even twitter’s limited 140 characters allows video, photos, and links to be incorporated. Audiences want depth and digital content does that.

News organizations and Digital Media companies already recognize this. The Pew Research Center indicates a significant hiring boom with many Digital News organizations like Vice, Mashable, and the Huffington Post. Even traditional news outlets are training and hiring journalists who can produce and post digital content. These media companies understand that surviving means being more digital.

Creating exclusive content is one of the strongest ways of being more digital. Utilizing social media for promotions and engaging the audience is good but what is most attractive is adding depth. OETA started several digital programs like the “Idea Channel,” and “The Okie Nerd Geekcast.” I’ve seen some local stations post content during the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” that swept the nation. News organizations post exclusive reporter packages, full-length interviews, behind-the-scenes segments, and other content on digital platforms.

As the faculty advisor for a student-run TV station, I reflect on digital strategy I could employ. News 30 is the weekly cable access news program, run by students at Oklahoma Baptist University, for the city of Shawnee. With only one newscast per week, I see great applications of the challenge to be more digital. I envision daily 3-5 minute newscasts, exclusive reporter packages, spotlights on local residents and organizations. I believe that embracing digital content allows for hyper-local journalism that a community will gather around. I look forward to its implementation at OBU.

I do not ring the death bell for traditional journalism venues. Research, actually, shows their growth. I do recognize that new platforms are available and these platforms have an audience. For journalists to continue to engage the public with news, we need to get online. We need to #bemoredigital.