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Progress in Online Course Development

This week I’m focusing on my Digital Journalism course.  It has to be ready for a tip-to-toe review on August 11, the same day meetings start at Durham Academy.  Technical challenges continue to crop up, but I’m solving them one at a time.  They all relate to how to make everything work in the digital sphere.  Here’s an example from the introductory unit:

I want students to annotate a news article of their choice.  So they have to get their chosen article in a form they can work with–not the BBC or New York Times online; probably print or PDF.  Then they have to mark it up, which is easy with print but needs a tool such as Goodreader or Skitch for PDF (and maybe a tablet computer).  Then they have to upload their product for teacher and classmates to see it and respond.  I explored a bunch of tools before settling on something simple: print the article, mark it with a pen, take a picture, and upload to a discussion forum in Canvas (our Learning Management System).  Any student who has the tools or skills to do it a different way is welcome to use them, but this way I don’t have to teach a bunch of tech tools in the first unit.

Yesterday I got away from such minutia to look at the big picture of the course.  I pulled together all the half-baked units and scraps of ideas that have been building for 6 months and wrote a full year syllabus for Digital Journalism.  “About time!” you say?  I have to agree, but still, it feels good.  I shared the draft with Susan Fine, my Instructional Designer at Global Online Academy, and had feedback waiting for me when I logged in this morning.  (She’s on the west coast, so our schedules are offset).

I’ve never worked with an Instructional Designer or had anyone looking so closely at my work before.  Face-to-face schools rarely afford that kind of instructional support.  In this new medium, and with the added stress of new subject matter, I really appreciate it.  I suppose control issues could come into play for some people, and I know colleagues, especially in public schools, who aren’t fond of administrative oversight.  This feels like meaningful support, though.   It will continue next year, but on more of an as-needed basis.   I really like this model.

Here’s the first part of the syllabus.  You’re invited to see the whole thing–and even add comments–here.

Digital Journalism

Global Online Academy 2014-15


Christine Bessias
Durham Academy, Durham, NC

Course Goals:

  • participate in a key element of democracy
  • explore your local context
  • discover similarities and differences with the contexts of classmates around the world
  • participate in a semi-professional environment: meeting deadlines and fulfilling particular roles in the production of a news blog
  • develop skills for research, interviewing, photography, videography, and layout
  • develop journalistic writing and editing skills
  • critically observe and engage with the work of professional journalists
  • explore issues of personal interest
  • develop interpersonal and technical skills for learning in an online environment

Semester 1

Introduction to Journalism and The Atlas

Sept 4-Oct 10

Course foundations, history of journalism, ethics and essentials of journalistic writing. The Atlas, volume 1, ideas for volume 2.



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