From Hong Kong to Chicago via Skype Journalism students at HKSYU and Northwestern hold exchange


Students at HKSYU hold discussions with students from the Northwestern University through Skype.

Taking classes with students from across the ocean is no longer a fantasy. The mobile journalism (MOJO) class at Shue Yan University experienced this firsthand during this past spring semester.

The class utilized Skype to hold classes with students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago as part of a joint partnership project.

The idea started in August 2012 when Amy Wu, lecturer for the MOJO class, met Ava Greenwell, Associate Professor of broadcast journalism at Medill, at the UNITY Journalists for Diversity convention in Las Vegas. The two struck up a conversation about ways they could use technology to foster a cultural and knowledge exchange.

“She told me what she taught. I told her what I taught. We recognized the similarities and thought that with Skype we could make it work,” said Greenwell.

This is a first time for both universities held classes using Skype. In order to make the exchange work across time zones, the students at Medill stayed an hour later than their usual class time of 8pm. All three classes were held in the broadcast studio.

The students participating in the partnership were 3rd year students in the MOJO class at Shue Yan and 3rd year broadcast journalism students at Medill.

As part of the exchange both classes examined diversity issues within the newsroom and news coverage, and gave them a broader understanding of what diversity means outside of their own countries.

“The fact that technology allows them to talk to a group of students on another continent and from a different culture allows them to see differences and similarities between the two groups,” Greenwell said.

Wu said that she hoped the exchange would be a multifaceted educational experience.

“I hope that this experience gives students the opportunity to get a feel of what education and journalism is like beyond their own borders,” said Wu.

Students said that the exchange was eye-opening in a variety of ways.

“Hong Kong is not a place that emphasizes on diversity although there are many different people living in the city.  I would like to see media groups covering these topics more as they seldom do now,” said Michelle Wu a Year 3 MOJO student.

The classes also allowed students from both universities to review each other’s projects and to critique them.

“Reviewing each other’s work was helpful,” said David Wong a Year 3 MOJO student.

Greenwell said that the interaction between students was an important part of the class.

“Students know someone else other than their professor will be critiquing their work and asking questions.  I think that makes them want to work harder,” Greenwell said.

The class format was mostly open discussions between the students with Greenwell and Wu moderating.

“This is a totally different teaching and learning style,” said Wu. “The atmosphere is mostly run by students. They ask the questions and they determine the class direction and where it is heading.”

This collaboration also allowed students at Medill to gain a different perspective about Mainland China and press freedom in Hong Kong, Greenwell added.

“I learnt more about Hong Kong itself. It was a discussion beyond journalism,” said Julianna Nunez, a junior and broadcast major at Medill.

Students’ feedbacks about the class were mostly positive. However, some said the technical difficulties and call dropping from Skype were problematic in the written feedbacks. Also they hope this partnership could last longer as the semester is coming to an end when they just started to get familiar with each other.

Wu thinks journalism schools should integrate similar partnerships with other schools.

“It exposes students to different culture and an eye opening experience for students. It opens up a lot of opportunities and possibilities for networking,” she said.

Source: March Issue 2013

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