Melbourne Uni’s free online journalism course attracts more than 10,000 students

Aug 25, 2015 by

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In a radical move, the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism has embraced the changing publishing landscape and is offering a free online course to “citizen journalists”.

Kate Nancarrow –

Citizens arise: more than 10,000 students from 164 countries have enrolled in a free online journalism course offered by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism.

The eight-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is designed to give “citizen journalists” some of the skills and knowledge that professional journalists generally receive in their (much longer) training.

Entitled “Journalism Skills for Engaged Citizens”, the course is a recognition of the growth of citizen journalism and is a radical shift in the teaching of journalism in Australia which has, as a profession and an academic discipline, resisted the influx and rise of the DIY journalist.

Journalism in Victoria is almost exclusively taught as a fee-paying three-year degree or a one-year post-graduate course, often with high ATAR scores required for entry. This traditional and long-established model of teaching and training has continued at the larger journalism schools, such as  RMIT, Swinburne, Deakin and La Trobe universities, despite both the rise of citizen journalism and the decline of employment opportunities in mainstream traditional media.

The University of Melbourne’s game-changing course follows similar online offerings taught by the University of StrathclydeCardiff University and the University of California which have focused on providing basic skills training or social change journalism.

The CAJ’s MOOC will be taught by its director Dr Margaret Simons and by senior lecturer Dr Denis Muller and each has about 35 years experience in journalism. Dr Simons says the centre’s aim, and reason for being, is to advance journalism and the MOOC was “taking journalism forward”.

She says it is clear more people are writing and self-publishing and there is now significant connection and overlap between mainstream media and citizens producing and publishing their own commentary.

More people are also entering journalism by “the back door” after working for non-government organisations or putting out newsletters and they were keen to develop their skills, Dr Simons says.

“It seemed to us the lessons we have learned in a combined 70 years in journalism would be valuable in teaching about law, ethics, verification.”

The course will include modules on news writing, interviewing skills, investigations, access to documents and information – with three written assignments during the eight-week course.  Marking 10,000 students’ papers is complex and will involve a mix of automated assessment, student peer review and staff appraisal of a representative sample.

Only 4 per cent of the course’s enrolments are from Australia, with 34 per cent from North America, 31 per cent from Europe and 22 per cent from Asia. Students have enrolled from Libya, Monaco, Rwanda, Uzbekistan – and everywhere in between.

Early analysis of the students’ backgrounds shows “huge diversity” but Dr Simons says most seem well educated, with the majority in their mid-20s, and many have come to  the course “via social activism”.

The CAJ may run similar courses again but will decide after the completion of this one – and after student feedback.

Enrolments are still open, with the first assessment task due at the end of this week.

Source: Melbourne Uni’s free online journalism course attracts more than 10,000 students

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