Sandra Crucianelli

December 13, 2013

Knight Center’s Distance Learning program offers 120 online courses in ten years

Two online learning programs offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas concluded successfully last week. Journalists from 18 countries in Latin America learned how to use digital tools to improve their work in a course in Spanish, and 44 Brazilian reporters and editors participated in a course in Portuguese on data journalism.

The two courses are part of the pioneering Distance Learning program that the Knight Center launched in 2003 and continues to offer training to limited groups of journalists. The program operates in conjunction with the Knight Center’s Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) initiative, which began a year ago.

In its first ten years, the Knight Center’s Distance Learning program has offered 120 online courses and trained 7,327 journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A study commissioned by the Knight Foundation in 2012 interviewed several alumni from the Knight Center’s online courses and confirmed their effectiveness. According to the report, 97 percent of the interviewees said they have used the skills they learned on their jobs. Ninety percent of them said that the Knight Center’s training program is as good or better than traditional in-person courses.

On Nov. 24, the five-week course in Spanish “Digital Tools for Journalists: from web to mobile,” taught by instructor Sandra Crucianelli, came to an end. The class attracted 98 students from 18 countries.

And on Dec. 2, the four-week course in Portuguese “Introduction to Data Journalism,” taught by Brazilian journalist José Roberto de Toledo and developed by Brazil’s National Association of Journalists (ANJ in Portuguese) as part of its first training collaboration with the Knight Center.

Sandra Crucianelli

“Digital Tools” focused on teaching students about the new resources that have emerged in the last two years to help journalists improve their work and keep safe online.

Sandra Crucianelli is an award-winning investigative journalist and popular instructor that has taught several courses through the Knight Center’s Distance Learning program since 2004. Her previous course with the Knight Center was the successful MOOC in Spanish “Introduction to Data Journalism,” which came to an end in June 2013 and attracted almost 4,000 students in 60 countries.

Toledo’s “Introduction to Data Journalism” covered the basic concepts of Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR), the differences between CAR and data journalism, the basic concepts of infographics, data scraping, some practical data journalism tools and interactive maps.

José Roberto de Toledo

Instructor José Roberto de Toledo is one of Brazil’s CAR pioneers and has trained thousands of journalists through courses and programs organized by the Knight Center, the Getúlio Foundation and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (Abraji). He taught the course with the aid of Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo’s data journalism team, Estadão Dados, which Toledo currently leads.

Both courses received high marks from students.

“I have already used several of these tools,” said Ecuadorian journalist and radio producer Carlos E. Flores, who took Crucianelli’s course. “However, (the class) has helped me understand others I hadn’t used yet. I like very much the level of demand and follow-up work of this online format. It’s not distant or automated. I met Sandra at a gathering and I think she is a professional of the highest level that, along with the Knight Center, helps us to continue educate ourselves.”

Gabriela da Silva, a reporter with Brazilian newspaper ABC Domingo who took Toledo’s data journalism course, said she’s already applying what learned on her job.

“I’ve already had some stories based on data I got from spreadsheets and I’ve also produced a map to illustrate a story. I was chosen by the newspaper to participate in the course so that we can start here a data journalism desk. It’s the first step of a huge change we’ll have here in our newsroom,” she said.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Alves, who holds the Knight Chair in Journalism and the UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. Launched with major, multi-year grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Center also has received grants from Open Society Foundations and other donors. The Knight Center also has been sustained with support from the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Communication, modest foundation grants and the public.