Tips from the AEJMC Teaching Committee

Incorporating Websites and Blogs into Your Curriculum

Chris RoushBy Chris Roush
AEJMC Standing Committee on Teaching
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
croush@email.unc.edu

(Article courtesy of AEJMC News, January 2013 issue)

If you enjoy teaching—and I have to believe that many of you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this racket—then you’re constantly tinkering with what you do every semester.

For me, it started with changing assignments and exams every semester. But with the rapidly changing world of journalism and mass communication, I soon realized that wasn’t enough.

So, in 2005, I began experimenting with using blogs and websites in my teaching strategies. In the past seven years, I have found that they can be effective ways to disseminate information to my students. And I’ve also found that students enjoy reading them and learning from them.

This is not teaching online. And this is not teaching students how to blog or build their own websites. This is using online technology to further the learning experience that you’re trying to achieve in the classroom.

Here are three examples of how I’m using blogging and websites to communicate information to my students:

(1) In the fall of 2005, I started a blog called Talking Biz News. Originally, it was for members of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. I began posting news and other information about business journalism that I thought would be interesting to business journalists.

But the blog soon morphed into something else when I began requiring my Business Reporting students to read Talking Biz News on a regular basis. The postings became topics of discussion for class, as well as a way for students to keep up-to-date on what was going on in this special area of journalism that they were studying.

I used an old-school teaching method—pop quizzes on blog material—to ensure that students were actually reading. The Talking Biz News experience convinced me that I was on to something.

(2) So the next year, I took material from a book I was writing and hired an undergraduate student to help build a website on the history of business journalism. That website, bizjournalismhistory.org, is now a critical part of how I teach another class, called Business and the Media.

On this website, I’ve posted interviews I’ve conducted with famous business journalists of the past 50 years. Before a class lecture, I’ll ask my students to read these interviews and be prepared to discuss how the journalists answered specific questions or handled specific topics. It leads to a broader understanding of the concepts that we’re discussing in class.

Sure, I could also use Skype to bring these people into the classroom for an interactive discussion, but with the interview online, it eliminates the hassle of lining up a convenient time to do the call. And the information is always available for students to go back and review when exam time comes around.

(3) I’m now tinkering with a third website, www.collegebizjournalism.org, that I’m using to help my business journalism students—as well as others on other campuses—find internships and jobs. I’ve yet to figure out how to connect it to a class, but I send out announcements of new items on that site to my students so that they know to go there for information on internships. That way, they’re all not bombarding me with how and where to apply.

I’m sure these are not the only ways to use the Internet to expand the classroom learning experience. If you’ve got others that you’ve tried and want to share, send me an email at croush@email.unc.edu; I’ll write about them in a future column.

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