JMC undergoes changes in course names, curriculum

Alexis Wohler

The curriculum in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) is changing this semester to keep up with a changing media world.

These changes focus generally on a more digital approach to storytelling and reporting in order to improve the skill sets of the students.

Thor Wasbotten, director of the school, said he is passionate about making sure the freshmen in the FYE class he teaches every semester do well in college. He said has also met with faculty to encourage them to embrace the changes.

Wasbotten said the enrollment in JMC has gone up in the last few years, and the changes in JMC have affected the professors, classes, as well as the students within different sections of JMC.

Areas such as broadcast, print journalism, public relations, marketing and many other sections of JMC have experienced changes within their courses and curriculum.

The name changes are to encourage students to take the courses, Wasbotten said. For example, “Multimedia Storytelling” is now called “Storytelling Across Platforms.”

“We want to make sure the names of our courses accurately reflect content and the names are appealing to students,” Wasbotten said.

Any student who chooses a JMC major throughout the course of the year has the option to continue or start in the current catalog or to switch to the new catalog that was introduced this fall.

Jacqueline Marino, associate journalism professor, said she is excited about offering new courses for spring of 2016.

“We decided we would eliminate the traditional tracks we had before in the JMC major, such as Multimedia News, Broadcast and Photojournalism, and instead make one big major of journalism that allows students to mix and match different courses,” Marino said. 

Marino is teaching “Advanced Magazine Writing”, the most advanced writing course offered in the JMC program. The course will be offered only next spring.

Another new course that will be offered in the spring semester is “Storytelling with Sound.” The course focuses on teaching students the fundamentals of telling stories through audio tracks.

Marino said JMC offers more courses that allow students to get specific skill training in particular areas that will help them reach the goals that they have set for themselves.

Tim Roberts, the undergraduate studies coordinator, said the curriculum has been changed in the last two years to incorporate more social and digital components.

Before fall 2015, students could be majored in Journalism, such as multimedia journalism, broadcast journalism, magazine journalism, or photojournalism and students could get four different degrees. Now the majors are all specialized as one major of journalism. Students have opportunities to learn the basics of all types of journalism in any course they may take.

“If students want to do magazine and photojournalism, its easier for them to do that now,” Roberts said. “The changes in the journalism sequence help students become better converged journalists with an approved multi-platform skill set.”

The students have to decide where they’d like to specialize in their journalism career.

Roberts said students who have a better understanding of all types of journalism, will get better jobs in their fields because employers want employees with multiple skill sets.

“Online social and digital media are growth areas,” Roberts said. “That’s where the new audience turns for news and information. That’s where our students have to be proficient in communicating information in those fields.”

Roberts also said names of courses were changed to better fit the content taught.

“The names were changed to better reflect the course content and focus on online and social digital media. Traditional media is still important, and we still teach the fundamentals,” Roberts said. “It’s difficult and you have to be creative in how to cover all the bases, because students need writing foundations. “

Roberts said new students who come into the JMC major in spring of 2016 are going to get more of an online social and digital media foundation in their classes, than what previous students did in the JMC program.

“They have to be able to write in different platforms, but you also want them to get the strategic part of, when is it better to use social or digital media,” Roberts said.  “Also, students learn how to measure success in those areas.”

Roberts also said the new students in JMC may not have to take the class that used to be a requirement for journalism students: Print Beat Reporting, which is now called Reporting.

Students were required to take “Reporting” before fall of 2015, but now there is a choice of nine different credit hours besides “Reporting”. The choices include: “Photography”, “Photo Journalism 2”, and “Storytelling with Sound”.

“What the journalism curriculum change did, is give the students more options and allow them to be more proficient in a variety of platforms,” said Roberts. 

Lecturer for JMC Wendy Wardell teaches “Advertising Strategy”, “Principles of Advertising”, as well as “Advertising Copy Editing” and she will be teaching the “Industry Tools” course in the spring.

“We changed several of the course names in Advertising and there was a tweak in the content on strategy,” Wardell said. “The changes went into effect this fall. It’s more of a focus on strategy and a strategy-centered curriculum. “

Wardell said students have to understand where the advertising they see actually comes from. Skills such as understanding sales trends and analytics, as well as noticing the work that is going on behind the scenes, to make any ad they see, are important.

“Advertising is not about right or wrong answers, and I think that makes many students uncomfortable,” said Wardell. “They should be prepared with the fact of not always having the information that they want or need. They need to broaden their view of what the industry is.”

Marino said the course will aid students in their experience in JMC.

“We have more courses now, that will help students reach their goals in their fields,” Marino said. “We are always changing course content to match the needs of the industry and match what students need to know right now to fit into the industry.”

Correction (Wednesday, Oct. 21): The course replacing Multimedia Storytelling is Storytelling Across Platforms, not Multimedia Across Platforms.

Alexis Wohler is the CCI reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].