UNESCO and Knight Center wrap up pilot training program for African journalism professors - Journalism Courses by Knight Center

November 19, 2010

UNESCO and Knight Center wrap up pilot training program for African journalism professors

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The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has concluded an online course as part of an agreement with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to help journalism professors in Africa with training on digital media.

The course “Teaching Online Journalism” was taught, entirely on the Internet, by Prof. Mindy McAdams, the Knight Chair in Journalism Technologies and the Democratic Process at the University of Florida and an internationally recognized leading expert in digital journalism.

All the 23 professors enrolled in this online course are from schools included in UNESCO’s list of potential Centers of Excellence in Journalism Education in Africa. The professors were from nine countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

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“The Knight Center has a very specific mandate to help journalists and journalism educators in Latin America and the Caribbean, but this was an exceptional case,” said professor Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas based at the University of Texas at Austin. “We were delighted to cooperate with UNESCO in this pilot project in Africa, as a contribution to our colleagues there.”

“Besides the opportunity to have Prof. McAdams, one of the best experts in online journalism training, to teach our African colleagues, we thought this was an opportunity to show a cost-effective model developed by the Knight Center to train journalists and journalism educators via the Internet,” Alves added.

The training was part of UNESCO’s long-standing commitment to uplifting the standards of journalism education in Africa, by developing global educational partnerships in support of the 20 centers of excellence in journalism education spread across the African continent.

“We were delighted that the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas agreed to provide the training requested for by the centers themselves, as part of their institutional capacity-strengthening efforts,” says Jayaweera Wijayananda, director of UNESCO’s Division for Communication Development. “We will continue to explore more training opportunities for the centers, bearing in mind that new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are reshaping the way journalism education is delivered. We need a new skills set that responds to the changing technological context in Africa.”

Prof. McAdams said the “course ran smoothly.”

“Teaching journalism educators about online journalism is not very different from teaching journalists about it,” she said. “The difference in emphasis, I felt, was that I needed to persuade them that their students need to know about these techniques and skills now, today.”

Prof. Nancy A. Booker, from Kenya, was excited to be involved in her first online learning experience

“The most interesting thing that I learned in the course is how one can use Moodle (the course management system used by the Knight Center in its online courses) without necessarily being in the class room physically. I think that was really fascinating and I hope that I can suggest to the Department of Communication where I teach this approach since it can save us huge costs instead of running satellite campuses the way that we do.”

Prof. Booker, who teaches broadcast writing, has also already applied what she learned through the UNESCO course in her classroom.

“For example, just last week I showed my media writing class how to create blogs and they were able to post at least two of their assignments onto their blogs.”

The course “Teaching Online Journalism” has inspired Prof. Gideon Tehwui Lambiv to help fellow Cameroonian journalists create original content for online news outlets.

“I shall be proposing to UNESCO-Cameroon Regional Office to organize or sponsor a seminar/workshop in online journalism where media professionals and the media can get some training in online journalism,” he said. “This could be an opportunity for me to share the knowledge I have acquired from the course beyond the university and the classroom.

Since 2003, the Knight Center has been training journalists with a pioneering and innovative platform based on Moodle, an open-source course management system. More than 4,400 journalists have participated in the Knight Center’s online training programs in a variety of topics.

“I think this successful course taught in collaboration with UNESCO shows that a similar program can be established in Africa and help the current efforts to improve journalism education in many countries on that continent,” said Alves. “There are many things that we, who are involved in journalism training in the Americas can learn from our colleagues and Africa, and vice-versa. We should have more of this kind of inter-regional collaborations.”