The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Aug 09, 2012

New report shows demand for training in digital tools and techniques

Posted by Eric Newton



Digital Training Comes of Age (PDF) by Eric Newton and Michele McLellan

Can journalism schools expand their impact and reach by offering more distance e-learning? That was the question posed today to a gathering of Knight Chairs in journalism in Chicago at the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication convention.

The question was prompted by the release of “Digital Training Comes of Age,” a new Knight Foundation report showing soaring demand for training in digital tools and techniques. Increasingly, journalists are willing to get the training for those and other skills online.

The Knight Chairs noted that some journalism schools do offer master’s degrees and other on-line courses. They said schools should do more e-learning, but that universities are not doing enough to define best e-learning practices. Many educators have an old idea of e-learning, they said, thinking it is nothing more than lecturing on-line. Howard Finberg of the Poynter Institute had a good idea: Create e-learning modules for teachers and trainers who want to learn how to create good e-learning.

Knight Chair in International Journalism Rosental Alves pioneered e-learning at Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, which has trained more than 6,000 journalists in Spanish and Portuguese. He said e-learning has two great advantages: it’s low cost and self-directed courses can be taken at any time.

Digital Training Comes of Age” was a survey of 660 journalists trained in Knight-supported training programs. The survey showed that online classes are gaining popularity as a cost-effective way to reach more trainees. A third of U.S. journalists and eight in 10 international journalists say the online classes they took were as good as, or better than, conventional training in the classroom.

Demand for training has grown and journalists want more training in digital tools such as multimedia, data analysis and technology. Most give their news organizations low marks for providing training opportunities.

The report also includes case studies showing the impact of training. Training participants reported that professional development helped them learn multimedia skills in order to create new, engaging story forms; provided the entrepreneurial skills needed to start new local news ventures; taught university professors the digital fluency needed to teach the latest best practices; and helped journalists investigate wrongdoing and prompt policy change.

Knight Foundation has invested more than $150 million in journalism education and training projects during in the past 10 years. Knight grantees, including two dozen Knight Chairs at leading universities, each year teach and train thousands of journalists of all ages.

The report concludes that the digital age represents a “do-over moment” for the news industry, which has historically lagged in providing professional development to its employees. In the past, the cost of quality training represented an obstacle that news executives did not overcome. Now, many types of training can be provided online at a lower cost and at more convenience to employees.

 “The good news is that the reset button has never been easier to hit, nor has it ever been more powerful. The digital age has made it simpler than ever for modern day journalists to teach their peers. By putting the sum total of human knowledge at the tips of our fingers, the Internet has opened up better ways of sharing and using that knowledge. There’s more to learn, but teaching is easier,” the report says.

Another recent survey from the Pew Research Center reinforces the idea that academia is the next frontier for e-learning. The survey of technology stakeholders predicted that by 2020 opportunity, economic concerns and student and parent demands would cause university-level education would adopt new methods of distance teaching and certification, driven by opportunity, economic concerns and student and parent demands.

Previous Knight reports are: Newsroom Training: Where’s the Investment?

News, Improved: How America’s Newsroom Are Learning to Change

News Improved: NPR’s Transition from Public Radio to Public Media

By Eric Newton, senior adviser to the President at Knight Foundation

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