Survey: Only a few colleges see the need for all communication students to take digital skill courses

While many journalism/communication programs are still wrestling with how to incorporate digital skills into the journalism (and only journalism) curriculum, University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication requires all majors (advertising, communication studies, journalism, PR) to take a set of three digital skill courses. This is what I found in a survey of 13 colleges/schools of journalism/communication in U.S.

Survey method and findings

There are 51 “fully integrated” programs in the database of 109 digital journalism degree programs in U.S.; among these 51 programs, I further filtered out 13 programs that have a college or school status, i.e., college/school of communication/journalism, to decide if digital journalism skills are part of the college/school common core.

The 13 colleges/schools I surveyed include:

  • Arizona State University | School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Butler University | College of Communication
  • DePaul University | College of Communication
  • Northwestern University | School of Journalism
  • San Diego State University | College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts | School of Journalism and Media Studies
  • Temple University | School of Media and Communication
  • University of Florida | College of Journalism and Communications
  • University of Iowa | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • University of Oregon | School of Journalism and Communication
  • University of Texas at Austin | College of Communication
  • University of Wisconsin Madison | College of Letters and Science | School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Washington State University | College of Communication
  • Western Michigan University | College of Arts and Sciences | School of Communication

Other than Northwestern University, Washington State University and Western Michigan University, I was able to locate and examine degree requirements or curriculum information on the websites of these colleges and schools.

Some findings that are of interest:

  • Other than Arizona State University and University of Iowa, all other colleges/schools have separate sequences/majors such as journalism, advertising, public relations, etc.
  • Other than Arizona State University and University or Oregon, no other colleges/schools designate digital skills as required course for all majors.
  • University of Iowa: There’s a separate Communication Studies department which doesn’t require students take multimedia courses.
  • University of Florida: Multimedia Reporting (1 credit) is required for Journalism and PR, but not for Advertising and Telecommunication.
  • Northwestern University: Multimedia Reporting is required for journalism majors, but not for Integrated Marketing Communication majors.

University of Oregon’s required-for-all storytelling skills courses

Per the degree requirements, the School of Journalism and Communication requires all four majors (advertising, communication studies, journalism, public relations) to take three Gateway to Media courses. For a better idea of what these courses teach, here’s the course description of Gateway to Media III:

Gateway 3 picks up on the combined experience of Gateway 1 and 2 and focuses on specific storytelling and critical thinking skills with particular emphasis on understanding audience. We’ll continue our practice of multimedia storytelling and aggregating media content around a specific interest area and add sophistication to presentation. Professional practitioners will discuss how they do their work and offer specific take-away skills for students enrolled in the course. Students will be required to work in groups to develop a multimedia project for a web microsite. This is not a course taught from a particular media context (magazine or broadcast or public relations or advertising or newspaper). Instead it is intended to build the fundamental skills of a media professional.

In an email conversation with me, Tim Gleason, dean of School of Journalism and Communication, explains his rationale for designating these courses as school common core courses:

… we believe the storytelling concepts and skills taught in Gateway are foundational to all the communication disciplines. While the skill set for each discipline is specific to the discipline, the foundational storytelling concepts are universal and the technology skill set is applicable across the disciplines. We are finding that the foundation work in Gateway is preparing students for advanced work in all of the majors.

In an email to me, Mark Blaine, coordinator for Gateway to Media series, vividly describes the impact of these courses over the past years:

… our checkout room has gone from one part-time employee, a few student workers and a three-ring binder about six years ago to two overworked full-timers, a team of student workers and a sophisticated digital checkout system. Before Gateway, that checkout room served, probably, fewer than 100 students. Now, we have closer to 2,000 who feel confident enough to use the gear. We see the results in more sophisticated advertising project work, nimble social media strategies in PR that incorporate visual and audio, and a redefinition what the core applications of long-form and iterative storytelling in journalism are.

UPDATE (04/26/13): I shared this post to the LinkedIn AEJMC group, and saw some interesting comments that I want to share back to this post. Here’s a screenshot of the comments; I’ll update as I see more comments.


Related posts:

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
This entry was posted in Digital journalism education. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Survey: Only a few colleges see the need for all communication students to take digital skill courses

  1. Chris Harper says:

    If you only look at one-third of the programs, you get an inadequate view. We have had this for eight years at Temple University. Take a look at Thanks.

    • mulinblog says:

      True; the sample is small – I was using it as a convenience sample. I think the sample is able to get the point across, though, that only a few schools, including Temple, are requiring digital courses for all communication students. But you are right, to get a more accurate idea, I need to increase the sample size – a possible summer project for me.

    • mulinblog says:

      I took a closer look at the core courses for School of Media and Communication at Temple and see that the journalism department has multiple digital journalism courses required for journalism majors; however, the same digital courses are not part of the school common core, i.e., they are not required for other majors such as advertising, strategic communication, communication studies, etc. And that’s the point I’m trying to make in this post – digital skill courses should be required for all communication majors, not just journalism majors.

Leave a Reply