Professionalisation and practice-based learning

Barbara Henderson

Degree Programme Director, MA Media and Journalism

School of Arts and Cultures

What did you do?

We introduced initiatives focused on professionalisation and practice-based learning for our postgraduate students.

The ethos of the postgraduate courses is very much focussed on multimedia. We cover video, audio as well as writing for online and print. This reflects how industry has developed and when students begin their careers, they will be expected to have skills in all of these areas.

Who is involved?

  • MA Media and Journalism students
  • MA International Multimedia Journalism students
  • Barbara Henderson, DPD, MA Media and Journalism students
  • Hannah McMahon, DPD for MA International Multimedia Journalism
  • Bethany Usher, previous DPD for both programmes who initiated the whole ethos of the courses
  • Travis Roush, Culture Lab and the Culture Lab Tech Team

How did you do it?

Multimedia first

International Multimedia Journalism was the first programme in the institution to have a full taught semester online in summer 2020. Colleagues came together quickly to redesign from 3 x 20 credit FT modules during which students worked in the newsroom for around 30 hours a week to a distance taught final project with intensive learning.

The use of well-designed interactive digital learning materials became key pedagogical practice, informed by the teams own multimedia journalism practice and scholarship and using primarily Microsoft Sway. This proved popular with students and was supported by focused community spaces where students and staff could come together both synchronously (online sessions) and asynchronously (chats and sharing of materials) as part of the learning journey. This meant both the Media and Journalism and International Multimedia Journalism programmes were well placed for the entire online delivery of 2020-21 and for the blended learning model of 21-22.

This allowed our “multimedia first” practice model to become also a model for learning and teaching and has now supported subject-wide steps towards meaningful blended learning. In compulsory modules and many options, digital interactive lecture materials act as a base-line supplemented by in person lectures and seminars. This also builds resilience into the programmes should there be a move to off-campus teaching.

There was a significant re-development of the practical strand of learning across the MA Journalism programmes (International Multimedia Journalism and Media and Journalism) which culminates in a 60credit practical final project module for students studying MA International Multimedia Journalism. This replaces the traditional dissertation and MA IMMJ was the first programme in the institution to do this. The practical final project supports students to develop their professional skills and graduate with a portfolio of practical work to show to employers. This is already proving effective in promoting employability.

Mobile first approach to journalism

We provided all students with a Rode Vlogger kit to enhance their mobile so they could shoot and edit footage using just their mobile phone. This is in line with how industry works, focussing on a mobile first approach to journalism.

The kit included a clip-on microphone to enhance sound quality and a tripod for handheld or static use. For students who weren’t able to attend campus last year, we provided vouchers so they could buy equivalent kit themselves.

As well as supplying the kit, we made sure that students had the skills to use this. We used LinkedIn learning videos to help develop those skills as well as getting the wonderful tech team at Culture Lab involved. They run regular sessions for students who need some extra tech help and during lockdown they ran triaged drop-in every weekday.

We also ran sessions to cover techniques that were particularly relevant last year; concentrating on how to frame a Zoom shot, how to direct an interviewee remotely and approaches to picking up extra shots when students couldn’t get out to film this footage.

Bringing Industry to our students

The Civic Journalism Lab is a forum for journalists to meet and collaborate and our students have the valuable opportunity to get involved in this through events, masterclasses, and Q and As with prestigious speakers and industry leaders. It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to learn and network in their field.

Over the last year these events have covered a diverse set of topical areas including:

  • Creating a home studio for smartphone journalism
  • Reporting race and racism: What does doing better actually mean?
  • TikTok for journalism

We also have a Civic Journalism Lab YouTube channel and podcast.

Why did you do it?

The main reason for moving towards a mobile first approach is because that is what is happening in industry and we want students to have these skills ready for when they begin their careers.

There were also practical benefits as students didn’t have to hire cameras that they had never used before. Instead, they were able to use their mobile phones, a device they were already familiar with, to produce broadcast quality footage.

We want students to get involved in the Civic Journalism lab to develop connections across the industry and to benefit from the expertise of leaders in this field.

Does it work?

The quality of the outputs from students shows that our mobile first approach really works, and students enjoy being able to work with a device they are already familiar with.

We also have good engagement with the Civic Journalism lab events and are exploring other opportunities to work with industry. Currently we are working with the Careers Service to develop an employability event where we engage with national and local employers, allowing students to meet them in a speed dating style event to present their CV. We hope that this will raise the aspirations of students to apply to top quality employers when they graduate.

PGT Media, Journalism and Communications had the most positive quartile outcomes receiving results with seven sections in the 1st quartile and three sections in the 2nd quartile. Media, Journalism and Communications had the most positive results at Newcastle relative to the Russell Group benchmarking. Within this subject, Newcastle had an aggregate score 9% higher than the Russell Group benchmark.

Graduate Framework

This approach develops the following attributes:

  • Future-focused
  • Confident
  • Digitally Capable
  • Curious
  • Collaborative
  • Engaged

Find out more about the Graduate Framework.

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