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Capture Course Improvements in Annual Reviews

May 13, 2016

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology


Today I am working on a report about course enhancements at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, documenting that our 900-student program continues to focus on digital innovation and professional collaboration, both of which play a role in the near 100% placement of our graduates.

Latest metrics show two record years of curricula innovation, with the past calendar year setting a record 108 individual course improvements for a 10% increase over the previous year, as evidenced by perceptions of students, feedback from professionals, and documentation of AEJMC-specific values and competencies. (See graph below.)



The value of a degree from a state university involves assessment, or continuous improvement, a core principle in the Iowa Board of Regents’ strategic plan and a requirement for accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

You can read about the Greenlee School’s commitment to continuous improvement in this Des Moines Register article.

In the best departments, instructors typically enhance curricula and collaborate with researchers and professionals. The problem is those units lack mechanisms to capture those improvements.

The Greenlee School was among the first in the nation to require all instructors to document their assessment efforts in annual reviews, with those efforts rewarded as a component of effective teaching.

Here is a sample of improvements by Greenlee instructors in Advertising, Journalism and Public Relations, in undergraduate and graduate classes:

Updated content in JL MC 242 (Visual Principles) to encompass virtual reality and augmented reality in response to industry usage. Revamped material to adapt to changes in digital publishing practices and standards in JL MC 317 (Publishing for Mobile Devices).

Established a business environment within the classroom that linked curriculum back to real-life clients, case studies, exercises or assignments. Consistently discussed “how” curriculum would help students in their internships or first jobs following graduation. Feedback from the students cited that this approach was deeply valued.

Feedback from advertising agencies and digital agencies pointed to a new opportunity for creative students: digitally-oriented creative (sometimes called “technologists”) were begin invited to join creative teams. …The (Computational Communication) course was monitored and students coached a member of Google’s Creative Collaborations team. Outcomes included projects for Clear Channel Outdoors, the State Department’s Agency for International Development, and our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Hosted data journalism expert Brant Houston in JL MC 598P (Big Data and Society). Houston is the Knight Professor in Investigative and Enterprise Journalism at the University of Illinois. Hosted Ethan Klapper (via Skype) in JL MC 474 (Communication, Technology and Social Change). Klapper is the Global Social Media Editor for the Huffington Post.

Expanded immersion reporting assignment to serve as capstone assignment for the course, which allowed students to spend significantly more time reporting and writing; added student editing exercises to published magazine articles; incorporated new course unit on fact checking in JL MC 344 (Feature Writing).

Introduced “learning by doing” as an effective approach into research methods class at graduate level. Students’ research ability was improved and their research skills were honed through preparing course assignments as a step-by-step development of their master theses or creative components.

In addition to efforts at continuous improvement, the Greenlee School believes in transparency as a fundamental tenet of an accredited state institution, especially one like Iowa State, a land-grant university.

You can access the School’s “Outcomes Assessment” website from the Greenlee website and view comprehensive data from calendar years 2012-15.

For academic units interested in Greenlee’s assessment techniques, you can download a PowerPoint from the site by clicking here.

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