As the world prepares to return to the “new normal” following months of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, journalism schools on the continent and the rest of the world will need to adjust their curriculums and teaching tools for journalism training going forward.

What are some of the ways journalisms schools can continue teaching to their students? Dr Nancy Booker, Director of Academic Affairs at the Graduate School of Media and Communication’s Aga Khan University in Kenya says a lot has changed in the country and lecturers have had the need to be more adaptable in their teaching and compassionate in approach. She says they’ve had to recalibrate their lectures from face-to-face classes to running them remotely via online platforms such as WhatsApp, and Zoom, quickly developing the way they run their classes to take advantage of these online tools and ensure students continue to learn and develop their skills.

“We record our classes and we make ourselves available for a one-on-one tutorials. We have also shortened our classes to 1–1.5 hours instead of 3 hours,” says Booker. She added that students have had to learn to rely on each other to provide context and substance to their reporting. To shape peer learning, the school created syndicate groups among the students to allow them to meet and learn from each other.

Dinesh Balliah, career-entry programme co-ordinator at Journalism Department at Wits University, says they’ve had to contend with understanding and dealing with student’s access to internet, equipment and other resources. The programme that Balliah coordinates teaches journalism through an online news publication geared towards the university’s and its surrounding community.

Balliah says they’ve had to ensure all voices are heard in their reporting during the lockdown. Students were expected to file stories from their communities as they worked remotely and continued to regularly update the online publication. She says the elimination of the newsroom created implication for teaching journalism and the style of teaching had to adapt quickly.

“We’ve had to incorporate low-cost alternatives such as texts and phone calls to cater to lower-income communities.”

Further afield, Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism Innovation at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York in America, Jeff Jarvis, says the real opportunity is reconsidering journalism using all of these new tools and how they can reach people. He added that another opportunity is understanding how students can put together socially generated content.

Christina Leonard, executive editor of Arizona State University’s Cronkite News in America, shares how a team of 130 students and 16-plus lecturers are working remotely and continue to contribute and update their news website which serves over two million homes.

In Latin America, journalism schools in Chile, Colombia and Brazil had to quickly adapt to ways of teaching as the first case of Covid-19 coincided with the start of the academic year. Colombian Professor María Isabel Magaña at the School of Journalism at La Sabana took advantage of several online resources for her data journalism class, such as talks given by outlets such as the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).”


Top skills journalism students will need in future

As the world begins to open up and revenues for news organisations are slowly returning to “normality”, newsrooms will expect journalists to have key skills going forward. What are these key skills journalism students will need in future?

Booker says journalism students will need to have adaptive skills, interviewing skills and mobile journalism skills. Additional to this list, Balliah says students will also need to work on their fact-checking skills, improve on their critical reading skills as well as numeracy and data skills. Jarvis added listening skills, understanding science and business skills to the list.


Other resources

Poynter shared several journalism resources for professors and students during the Covid-19 pandemic. The regularly updated resources are designed to assist educators with online teaching and help student journalists and student media organisations with resources during national shutdowns in their respective countries.

The Public Media Alliance put together a regularly updated page with more information and resources for journalists and media workers, useful sources for the general public, children’s content and funding opportunities.

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