* After a year of professional development in e-learning, I recently submitted my final project, a 5,000-word thesis on blended learning for the delivery of journalism ethics.
Here’s an extract from my paper. Please add your comments or ideas below. This project has been provisionally marked as a first – do you agree?
“No printed word, nor spoken plea can teach young minds what they should be. Not all the books on all the shelves – but what the teachers are themselves.” – Rudyard Kipling
THE BIG CONCEPT
To conceptualise a blended-learning module to deliver deep learning for a new course in journalism ethics, incorporating ideas of immersive technology.
The use of real-life scenarios aims to challenge cub reporters intellectually, encouraging them to start thinking and acting as ethical journalists.
This independent project sets out to explore the options for a new way to teach journalism ethics in response to the ongoing change within the media industry. This move is in response to changes to press regulation and the way the journalism profession is responding to them.
During this project, I will set out my professional context, assess lessons from previous e-learning trials, reflect on the challenges I face in this task, the alternative solutions and the resources I can call upon to construct an outline for a new module.
Furthermore, I will recommend my preferred means of delivery for this course, while considering how I may need support to deliver the course.
This remains a course outline, not a complete module handbook, and assumes changes and refinements prior to implementation given feedback from my colleagues and learners.
It is, essentially, a proof concept, an overview and not yet complete, yet designed to reflect the potential of new ideas concept to deliver learning of an evolving subject.
It is based on the concept of e-learning as defined by Kirschner and Paas (2001) as “… learning (and thus the creation of learning and learning arrangements) where the Internet plays an important role in the delivery, support, administration and assessment of learning.”
SECTION ONE: WHY
Lord Justice Leveson filed his report into journalism ethics in November 2012.
As the Guardian (2012) reported, “Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press heard from 184 witnesses and accepted 42 written submissions in more than six months of hearings.”
It was, at times, quite bewildering.
In response, the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ, 2103) introduced a series of changes to the national Reporting Exam in September 2013. This also reflects the movement within the media industry to give greater importance to ethics in journalism and forms a crucial part of learning for young student journalists.
The introduction, however, has not gone smoothly and learners have found this new element of the course confusing.
The key challenge, therefore, remains to find a way to deliver this new course material in a format that makes a somewhat amorphous and rather dry topic more accessible to learners. After all, while the PCC Editors’ Code of Practice (PCC, 2014) is a worthy read, it hardly makes for a thrilling page-turner.
But what if we could test the theories via case studies and watch the consequences unfold in live scenarios, albeit ones in a safe environment with controlled conditions?
Within this context, my ideas for this course also reflect a wider move to embrace new, technology-led ways of delivery learning and promote greater collaborations between the skill sets of different departments.
Furthermore, it reflects a wider trend in the higher education sector overall to integrate more technology-based learning techniques into the classroom environment. It is widely suggested that such e-learning techniques, while relatively new, offer tangible benefits for educators.
As Garrison and Anderson (2003) note: “Education is about ideas not facts. The current passive-information-transfer approaches of higher education are contrasted with the interactive and constructive potential of e-learning.”
Overall, this project may appear to be an ambitious idea, a bold approach to learning.
But, in many ways, I am not calling for an educational revolution to storm the barricades – far from it.
I see this project as a natural progression and reflection of the times, taking new ideas and incorporating them into an existing classroom-based module to simply update the course for changing times.
It does, however, set out to ride the crest of the new wave of e-learning as the sector matures.
“The belief that online education will replace on-campus studies is a long standing and unrealised prediction,” writes Cochrane (2014).
“But in the last 24 months there has been a new wave of debate and speculation … a third phase revival. The difference is marked by the expectation that being at university will be engaging, personally challenging, and transformative of careers and lives.”
Crucially, while I propose to embed both e-learning and immersive technology into my modules in the future, I am consciously not talking myself out of a job.
My role may evolve, my input may be refined and my interaction with learners may change – but I expect to remain a very big part of the process.
As Garrison & Anderson (2003) note: “There is always a need for a teacher to structure, shape and assess the learning experience if it is to be more than fortuitous learning.”
In terms of good practice in this respect, it remains often schools, rather than universities, that are making the best of the running.
The BBC Education website recently highlighted a case study with the Stephen Perse Foundation School in Cambridge, whereby teachers are making their own online library of interactive resources for GCSE, A-levels and International Baccalaureates.
But the school’s approach is not simplistic plug-and-play education. Tricia Kelleher, Stephen Perse Foundation principal, emphasises that such online courses depend on the quality and the skill of the teacher.
“The credibility of online learning depends on the teachers who have made the materials,” she says.
“Education should be a mixed economy, there should be technology, but it is only there to support what a living, breathing teacher is doing.”
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