Course Descriptions

Writing for Digital Media - MEJO 711

Instructor: Andy Bechtel

Digital media combine and converge skill sets, tools and technologies. They also converge or blur the traditional roles of producer and consumer, publisher and reader, message sender and message receiver. These evolutionary convergences and the new demands they place on writers and content developers are the focus of this course. Of special concern are the changes these media force in terms of learning how to effectively communicate in and with them. Beyond exploring these convergences, this course also asks students to put that learning into practice and, in fact, to learn by doing.

Understanding our increasingly fragmented audiences and exploring how different media behave – their unique limits and possibilities – will help students better develop content for digital formats and environments. Students will analyze the technical and rhetorical possibilities of online environments, including interactivity, hyperlinking, spatial orientation and non-linear storytelling. Students will also learn practical skills to help them succeed in writing for specifically online environments.

Fundamentally, this course is about writing – clearly, precisely, accurately, with energy and voice, and for specific audiences. Fortunately, good writing is still valued online, and it is still rare, as well. The course is about writing in and for digital environments and about communicating effectively in those online environments, which often are populated with graphical content, multimedia and hypertextual, interactive elements. Learning how to achieve balance and a careful, deliberate blend of these elements is a primary goal, and accomplishing it will require new skills, intuitions and sensitivities.

Course Objectives
  • Further develop students’ abilities to write clearly, precisely, accurately, with energy and voice, and for specific online audiences.
  • Teach journalism and communication students practical skills for writing and developing content for digital publishing and delivery.
  • Teach how to purposefully blend text, graphical content, multimedia and hypertextual, interactive elements. explore how trends in personal publishing and social networking are forcing change in journalism and other information industries.
  • Give students a comprehensive resource for online journalism, one that deals with digital media as their own distinct forms of communication rather than merely adjuncts to print or broadcast.

New Media and Society - MEJO 715

Instructor: Rhonda Gibson

This course will focus on the broad question of what communication professionals should understand about the ways that digital media are reshaping society. We will take a step back to examine how rapidly evolving media technologies affect us as individuals and groups in both our private and public lives.

MEJO 715 will introduce students to research and thinking about the latest advancements in communication and information technologies. This course will examine both the theoretical frameworks that are relevant in digital environments in addition to the practical applications and implications of new media. Through a combination of lectures, readings, assignments and projects, students will become familiar with the research surrounding a variety of exciting new media topics such as human-computer interaction, social networks, virtual reality, e-commerce, cyberpsychology, and digital social movements. This course is largely structured into two areas: new wine, new bottles (the examination of concepts, frameworks, and issues unique to digital media) and old wine, new bottles (the influence of new media pertaining to concepts, frameworks and issues in more traditional domains).

Course Objectives
  • To review the relevant literature in several areas of study relating to digital media and society
  • To master the relevant literature in one or two key areas of study relating to digital media and society that are most relevant to your professional duties and goals
  • To obtain an understanding of—and appreciation for—how digital media research is conducted
  • To translate conceptual implications of digital media into practical applications
  • To develop the skills needed to critique claims, both scholarly and applied, about the role of digital media in society.

Research Methods and Applications - MEJO 716

Instructor: Anne Johnston

Knowledge of the logic, conduct and ethics of research is essential and empowering. Communication professionals have more research tools at their disposal than ever before, and they are under more pressure to measure and evaluate the impact of communication products and services.

This course is designed to help communication professionals to make better and more informed decisions about why, how, when, and where to use research and what methods of research are appropriate given the compelling research challenge and resource opportunities and constraints (time and money). Students will explore the premises, values, and limitations of research and the scientific method, survey qualitative and quantitative methods, including rationales and applications, and introduce ways to understand and critically interpret research results. Using current case studies and examples to elaborate research concepts and tools, the emerging issues and opportunities of the digital world contextualize and enrich the course. Students will be assigned research critique/assessment and research design challenges that include data collection, analysis and interpretation.

Course Objectives
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to research
  • Evaluate discipline-relevant research studies
  • Articulate a research problem and questions.
  • Explain why particular research methods would answer the questions posed.
  • Write a research proposal

Information Visualization - MEJO 717

Instructor: Lisa Villamil

This course explores the overlap among several disciplines: cognitive science, graphic design, information visualization/architecture, and journalism. Based on readings from some of the main authors of each field, discussions of real world examples, and the design of several projects, the goal of the class is to provide students with the tools to succeed in this critical area of communication. Content covered includes visual communication; information design and visualization; rules of graphic design; cartographical and statistical representation; diagrams as journalistic tools; and ethics of visual communication.

The way journalism is done worldwide has changed as a consequence of the spread of new ways of gathering, organizing, and delivering information. Languages that were considered “complementary” in the past, such as information graphics (the visual display of data), are now used broadly, and found everywhere.

In this course you will learn the basic rules of graphic design and information visualization. Both involve a good understanding of related disciplines such as cartography and statistical representation. Our goal is not that you become a graphic designer, but that you learn to visually organize information to improve understanding.

Course Objectives
  • Understand and be able to explain visual communication theory and techniques.
  • Develop an understanding of how design elements can impact the communication process.
  • Discuss, analyze and critique design effectiveness.
  • Develop an understanding of website design and organization, including information architecture and usability.
  • Create a set of information architecture deliverables.

Media Law for the Digital Age - MEJO 718

Instructor: Cathy Packer

Just as the Internet has jolted the communication business, it has sent a shockwave through the field of communication law. Professional communicators and legal scholars are struggling to understand how “old” law applies to “new” technology, and to figure out what, if any, new law is needed. This is the subject of this course: traditional media law and its application to new communication technology.

There are many questions to be answered. Who controls the Internet? Can a European country force an American company to remove material from the Internet? Should your broadband provider be allowed to act as an Internet censor? In the United States, should the Internet be regulated like newspapers and magazines or like broadcast or cable television? Do privacy and libel law, which were developed to apply to traditional media, need to be changed for the Internet Age? If so, how? Are Internet filters the best way to control objectionable content on the Internet? Was Congress correct when it enacted legislation to protect website operators from liability for material posted on their sites by third parties? What happens when the Internet is used to threaten or intimidate?

In this course, you will explore the delicate balance that traditionally has existed between freedom and control of the communication media and how that balance has been shaken by the Internet. You will study both the old and the new law because both are relevant today. You also will study both theoretical aspects of the law and how the law applies to your professional work. Knowing the theory will enhance your understanding of the law and enable you to participate in the on-going national debate over how the Internet should – or should not – be regulated.

Because the courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, are ultimately responsible for interpreting the First Amendment and maintaining the balance between freedom and control, your study will focus on judicial decisions and reasoning. The bulk of the readings and online class discussions will be aimed at analyzing and understanding court opinions affecting the media. It is important to recognize, however, that other very significant sources of media law exist. Therefore, you also will study statutory and administrative law.

Course Objectives
  • Familiarize you with the U.S. system of freedom of expression, including its historical and philosophical bases.
  • Develop an understanding of the judicial system and process.
  • Provide you with a working knowledge of media law so that, when working as a professional communicator, you can assert your legal rights and avoid needless infractions of the law. By the end of the semester, you should be able to use the law you have learned to answer legal questions in the workplace. For example, you will be able to figure out whether you have a legal right to use a particular photograph on your company’s website and to reliably predict whether you can be successfully sued over the content others post on your website.
  • Learn to read critically and to analyze and synthesize what you read.
  • Introduce you to legal-research skills so you can research legal issues and keep abreast of changes in the law in the future.
  • Teach you to appreciate freedom of expression!

Leadership in Digital Media Economics - MEJO 719

Instructor: Mark Briggs

We are living through a period of immense economic disruption in the media industry. The creation of the Internet and all that it has wrought – interconnectivity, immediacy – set in motion the destruction of the business models that have supported traditional news organizations such as newspapers, broadcast television and radio for decades. By taking this course, students will learn how to evaluate the strengths and weakness of media and technology companies and analyze their potential for growth or decline.

We will examine in depth the critical strategic choices facing executives in both start-ups and established companies, and students will put together a practical and informed online business strategy plan for their own company or division. In addition, students will be introduced to applied concepts in organizational behavior. In short, students will be taught how to think financially, strategically and organizationally when leading digital media companies through a turbulent age of change.

This course begins by examining the broad economic issues facing the media industry – including the changing dynamics of consumer behavior, pricing, market segmentation, economic cycles and global competition. In the second half, we will focus more specifically on the challenges and opportunities for specific industry segments, including newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and online. While the primary focus of this class will be on the changing economics affecting 21st century news organizations, we will also study the economic drivers of other content providers – such as music companies, movies, online aggregators and commerce sites – for lessons that can be applied across industry segments.

Course Objectives
  • Develop a framework for better assessing future opportunities and risks of business enterprises and innovations they will encounter or are contemplating.
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of the critical decision-making skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century.

Strategic Communication - MEJO 720

Instructor: Kimberly Moore

Students will explore the world of strategic communication and how it is being transformed by digital technology. While organizations have always engaged in strategic communication to inform and influence stakeholders, the rich and exponentially cluttered information environment presents vast opportunities and mind-boggling challenges. From the global transnational media firm, to the state-wide environmental activist organization, to the local public school, today’s organizations are grappling to create and sustain stakeholder relationships through strategic, targeted, and integrated communication that supports organizational goals.

Underpinned by appropriate theory, best practice models, and ethical frameworks of practice, this course challenges students to consider the evolving roles and definitions of marketing, advertising, and public relations in a digital age. The analysis of case studies and current situations is integrated throughout the course to stimulate critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. The course provides students with opportunities to apply their analytical skills to a variety of communication problems across multiple industries and to develop capabilities with respect to detection of marketplace problems and opportunities; development and assessment of alternative communication strategies; and evaluation of communication ideas used to build brands and solve problems to advance the interests of organizations.
Course Objectives
  • Understand and apply appropriate theories, models and other tools to make better strategic communication decisions.
  • Understand how communications can support business goals.
  • Understand and identify the differences between programs directed at various audiences, including customers, investors, employees, and the community.
  • Distinguish and select from competing and complementary communication tools.
  • Understand the role of the Internet and related digital technologies to better communicate and interact with stakeholders.
  • Use analysis, research, and critical thinking to arrive at communication strategies.
  • Identify and recommend a position based on considered research and creative insight.

Usability and Multimedia Design - MEJO 721

Instructor: Laura Ruel

This course will introduce students to five basic areas of excellent multimedia design and help students develop expertise in their application. This class is not about learning software. Some advanced design techniques will be covered, but a working knowledge of a graphic design, layout or animation program such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign or Flash is necessary. (A selection of these programs will be introduced in MEJO 717: Information Visualization, a pre-requisite for MEJO 721.)

By reading, viewing and discussing the writings and works of journalists, artists, Web developers, photographers, usability experts, graphic designers, educators and researchers, students will deepen their appreciation for each distinct media form. By examining the latest eye-tracking research and usability testing, students will assess the practical application of many concepts. Through critiques and original storyboards, students will work to expertly integrate all this knowledge into well-designed packages.
Course Objectives
  • Understand and employ usable design and user-centered design.
  • Incorporate and evaluate appropriate elements of multimedia storytelling, including layout, organization and visual resources.
  • Assess effectiveness of information delivery through usability testing.

Non-Traditional Thesis - MEJO 992

The non-traditional thesis project will emphasize both scholarly and practical application and will provide an opportunity to apply concepts and theories taught in the MATC curriculum. The project will be conducted with the full supervision and guidance of the student’s faculty adviser. Students will produce a detailed written report and will present findings to their committees and to a panel.

Student work in the MATC program culminates in a four-part final project that includes:
  1. a written proposal for the final project.
  2. a written comprehensive examination in which each member of the student’s committee provides a question relevant to the student’s area of study.
  3. a written document that summarizes the project.
  4. a formal presentation and oral examination in which the student presents the completed work to his or her committee and a panel of industry practitioners selected for their relevant expertise.

The final project involves designing and executing a study that addresses an issue or challenge facing an organization or business with a digital media focus. It emphasizes both scholarly and practical application in line with the professional orientation of the MATC. The subject of the project may be the student’s employer or may be selected based on the scope of the study. Students complete the final project under the direction of a fulltime School of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty member who serves as chairperson of the student’s final project committee. Two additional faculty members and/or industry professionals join the chairperson on the committee.

Course Objectives
  • To synthesize concepts and skills covered in the program.
  • To demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.
  • To apply knowledge to industry problems and concerns.
  • To receive substantive feedback on methodology and findings.

Digital Data and Analytics - MEJO 713

Instructor: Joe Bob Hester

This course explores the fundamental concepts and principles that underlie techniques for extracting useful information and knowledge from digital data. The primary goal of the course is to help students view problems from a data perspective and understand how to systematically analyze such problems. This data-analytic thinking can then be applied in a variety of ways, from data journalism to customer relationship management to data-driven decision-making.

This course takes a very hands-on approach. Using a variety of open-source and commercial tools, students will develop the skills necessary to access and analyze the wide variety of digital data, structured or unstructured, available in the real world. Students will learn to “scrape” data from Web sites, to interact with the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) used by social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and to represent text for data mining using the Python programming language (no prior programming experience is necessary). Students will learn to access and manipulate databases using relational algebra, as well as learn to use tools such as Google Analytics to track and analyze visitor traffic across ads, videos, websites, social media, tablets, and smartphones.
Course Objectives
  • Understand the types of questions that data can and cannot answer
  • Learn the basics of the Python programming language
  • Learn how to access and interact with data in a wide variety of formats
  • Learn how to transform data, particularly unstructured data, into an analysis-ready format
  • Learn the basics of data analysis from basic statistical models to machine learning to natural language processing
  • Learn how to best communicate and present the results of analysis