Journalism courses going digital: Can journalism schools really do the same?

By Anna Burkart
Maybe classrooms will be more empty due to online courses
gain popularity, but j-school newsrooms probably won't
be empty anytime soon.

The classrooms are empty with no students to be seen. Everyone is turning in their reporting assignments online and professors are judging students’ reporting abilities without ever meeting them. Could this be journalism schools of the future? The empty classroom image is certainly making its way around sites like Nieman Journalism Lab and PBS Media Shift in the discussion about free online journalism courses.

This past December, the University of Texas’ Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas held it’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). It attracted more than 2,000 students from around the world looking for a free “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization” course. With online courses growing in popularity, the question becomes: Will online journalism degrees be the norm someday soon?

Universities across the nation have been offering online education, whether it be courses or full degrees, for years and the trend is only gaining momentum. California recently announced its plan to increase online instruction. The University of Missouri has invested $2.5 million in expanding its online education program this year.

When it comes to j-schools, universities have made online courses and master’s degree available for some time. Just to name a few universities that offer only master’s degrees in journalism: University of South Florida, University of North Carolina, and Missouri School of JournalismAmerican University offers a digital media skills certificate onlineHarvard offers some of its graduate-level journalism courses online.

Ashford University and an online-based university, Full Sail University, are among the few universities offering online bachelor degrees in journalism.

Most of the graduate programs online require real-world journalism (or other related-field) experience. This is indicative that journalism students need time in the field reporting and working in newsrooms and one-on-one with experienced editors. For journalism students, their classrooms are the newsrooms and broadcast stations. This is where so much of our learning takes place.

Most newsrooms are not made up solely of free-lancers communicating to editors solely via laptop. They still have physical newsrooms that reporters, editors and producers have to show up to everyday. The newsrooms are not empty. Maybe in the future there will be less journalism classrooms but the j-school newsrooms aren’t going anywhere. Those reporting-based classes where students learn the essence of journalism simply cannot simply be translated to online learning.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jayKayEss

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