Updating Mass Communication Curriculum To Meet The Needs Of Digital Age
There is no denying the fact that not few youths of today are fascinated with mass communication as a course of study; either in the monotechnics, polytechnics or universities. Given the fondness for the course among the youths, it is expedient to ask in this context, “What is mass communication?” and “Where can you work with a diploma or degree in Mass Communication?
The answers to the first question cannot be farfetched as Mass communication (or communications) is the process of creating, sending, receiving, and analyzing messages to large audiences through verbal and written media. It is an expansive field that considers not only how and why a message is created, but the medium through which it is sent. These mediums are wide-ranging, and include print, digital media and the internet, social media, radio, and television. Mass communication is multi-disciplinary in nature, incorporating elements of related fields such as strategic communication, health communication, political communication, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC), journalism, and more.
However, the answer to the second question is difficult and complex as the extant curriculum been used to teach mass communication undergraduates today arguably lacks the content that would convince anyone with a discerning mindset that communication undergraduates are been prepared to thrive in today’s changing employment landscape. For instance, a student that begins primary school today will graduate from university in the mid-2030s and his career will last through 2060 or beyond. While it is difficult to predict exactly what future workforce’s needs will be for those that chose to become Journalists in the middle of the century, it is very obvious that what they need are changing, and will continue to change as long as technology continue to advance.
A peep into mass communication curriculum of today will reveal that major courses such as Magazine Article Writing, Broadcast Programming, Newspaper Production, Magazine Production, Introduction to Mass Communication Research, Advertising and Public Relations Research, Mass Communication Law and Ethics, Media Management, International Communication and General Studies among several theoretical courses are not taught by lecturers with the fast evolvement of digital journalism to the detriment of analogue journalism in mind.
Without any iota of exaggeration, it is about time tertiary institutions that offer mass communication began to teach the curriculum of the future that meet the needs of digital age, and not that of the past analogue age. Why this view? Robots, artificial intelligence, automation among other products of technological advancement are no longer the exclusive preserve of science fiction movies. Overwhelming evidence shows the shift in what the workforce needs today is already underway and that it will continue to grow much larger in the future. All around the world, leaders from government and industry debate the future of work and the changes brought by technology and automation. Despite this, the world is not reacting fast enough to update our system of education.
Against the foregoing backdrop, there is no denying the fact that technology has in the last few years changed the way journalism is practiced. While the elements that constitute news have not changed, the reception and delivery of news has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. It’s difficult to think that, in 1999, there were no mobile phones and no blogs. Within the past 10 years alone, media has changed more rapidly than any large-scale global industry. The area most affected by technology has been news gathering and reporting, as well as collaboration. If journalists reading this piece are old enough, they might remember using manual typewriters, newspaper clippings, messages at hotels reception desks, and snail mail for gathering and disseminating audio, visual and textual news, plus, their news, and the ability to have breaking news was coveted and protected at all costs. Now, with digital technology, wireless connectivity, and smart phones, the reporter can capture news as it happens and transmit same to the public within minutes, barely beating out the general public at reporting the same issue. With how technology has at a very fast spate changed the landscape of journalism as almost every tool needed to ply the trade has gone virtual, it will not be out of place to ask in this context how the somewhat obsolete mass communication curriculum or courses will make future journalists relevant.
As recently gathered from a Journalism institute that is based in the UK, Mass Communication or Journalism curriculum are made of courses that cut across introduction to web writing, online journalism, Writing for the web, Readers and markets, Directing your writing, Freelancing on the web, Journalists and the law, Citizen journalism, blogs, vlogs and podcasts, Google and social media, Online editing, Online layout and design, successful web packages and entrepreneurial study with particular emphasis to the media. Does this curriculum that is designed and structured in faraway UK not relevant to this digital age and quite different from the earlier curriculum talked about in one of the preceding paragraphs of this piece?
Against the foregoing backdrop, there is no denying the fact that any graduate that offered, at least, 60% of the courses offered in the tertiary institutions based in the UK as exemplified above, will create job for himself and employ others in this digital age considering the fact that he was equally taught how to become an entrepreneur.
Be that as it may, our tertiary institutions that offer mass communication as course of study should begin to teach the curriculum of the future, not just the curriculum of the past. Already, many countries have begun to embrace digital journalism as part of their national curriculum.
You may have asked: “Why is this writing advocating for the update of mass communication curriculum across tertiary institutions in the country? The answer to the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as the journalistic sphere has in the past 25 years gone through radical changes and transformations, progressively adapting to the contemporary global trends in news‐making. Traditional understanding of journalism as a profession has changed significantly, mostly due to the fact that digital media environment has brought new opportunities but also challenges related to the journalistic practice.
To this end, higher institutions of learning offering mass communication as a course should endeavor to aim at offering a theoretical reflection on the issue of online journalism to their students. They should understand the fact that the future of work for today’s Journalists may be uncertain but there is one thing that is absolutely clear: digital or online journalism will be in greater demand than ever before and every undergraduate offering mass communication in any tertiary institution located in the country, should have an opportunity to learn it as part of the curriculum.
Without belaboring this topic, it suffices to say in this context that mass communication and journalism curriculum should be updated in such a way that Communication and Journalism students or graduates become relevant in the Modern Job Market.