The process for revising the curriculum for the MA—Journalism degree

We worked for five months.

Of course, whenever someone makes a statement, especially a statement that contains numbers, one needs a basis for comparison in order to interpret the statement. So, is five months a long time or a short time? I say it is a remarkable brief amount of time because it has taken the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina 3 years to revise its undergraduate curriculum.

The faculty collectively made the decisions.

This means that we didn’t break into committees in order to be more efficient. In general meetings, each person presented her views (I was the only male). Oftentimes we presented our views passionately. At times I was tooooooo “passionate,” and I apologize for raising my voice. But we cared. This also means that the administration, i.e. the dean, Baadur Koplatadze, did not intervene. Again, to understand such statements one needs some context. I would say that it is quite remarkable that faculty governance ruled supreme, and that signs of authoritarianism were absent.

We learned some lessons.

Of course we would do some things differently next time. Who are satisfied with their first efforts? Next time, I would begin by learning the requirements of the country’s Ministry or other administrative unit governing education. I would make sure that I completely understood every single requirement, and I would not trust the government’s websites; instead I would interview an official at the beginning of the process of revising the curriculum. Thanks to Tamuna Gabisonia, we did check with the Ministry of Education, but, through no fault of Tamuna’s, not right at the beginning. Next time, I would strongly impress upon the faculty the need to follow the sample syllabus precisely. Tamuna Gabisona (thanks, again) had provided a sample syllabus to all of the faculty, but, unfortunately, the faculty had to revise their syllabuses multiple times in order to meet the Ministry’s requirements.

We did at least two things right.

I share the following in the interest of helping others rather than bragging about our success. We balanced the interests of our (current) faculty, with the (past) identity of our school, with our current (and future) students’ needs, and with the (idealistic) expectations of the Ministry of Education. What does that mean? In brief, it means that we struck a balance between skills-oriented practical training in journalism and a more research-oriented master’s degree program. We also began the curriculum review process by revising the program’s mission statement; then we created program-level learning outcomes; then we created courses; and finally we created course-level learning outcomes. In fact, there were 20 steps in our action plan (one more time, thank you Tamuna Gabisonia), which I wrote about in an earlier blog.

Good luck to all schools of journalism and mass communication as they revise their curriculums to meet the future needs of students entering a rapidly changing media market!

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Process of revising CSJMM’s curriculum

The faculty’s major task from January to April—in addition to teaching—is revising the curriculum. With the help of Tamuna Gabisonia, journalism education officer for IREX and Tamuna Kakulia, project manager for IREX, we created a 20-step action plan for accomplishing our goals. We’ve completed or almost completed these steps:

• Assess the need for a revised curriculum. We conducted several focus groups of CSJMM students and alumni, and we interviewed media managers in Tbilisi.

• Analyze this data and review program goals and objectives. We analyzed tis data and we rewrote the mission statement for the MA-Journalism program.

• Prepare questions for the Accreditation Department. After learning as much as we could from studying the website for the Ministry of Education, and after discussing the revision process, we created a list of questions.

• Meet with a representative from the Accreditation Department. We met with Giorgi Tskhvediani, head of Georgia’s Accreditation Department, and I wrote about our useful meeting in an earlier blog post.

• Using the Ministry of Education’s Qualifications Framework to develop program-level learning outcomes. We need to do this to ensure that our mission statement matches our program learning outcomes. We should vote to approve this document on March 12.

• Develop a marketing report on the need for our type of MA-Journalism program. Jaba Bokuchava, CSJMM’s marketing manager, is working on this report.

• Develop a list of courses, their prerequisites, the number of credit hours for each course, and a schedule of when these courses will be taught. We are completing this process. In spring we should be able to publish a 2-year calendar of courses on CSJMM’s website. We’re very excited about some of the new courses we are creating.

• Map the program-level learning outcomes onto the list of courses. We need to do this to ensure that our program-level learning outcomes are met in one or more courses.

We still need to work on following steps:

• Define rules for awarding alternative credits.

• Develop brief course descriptions.

• Develop a grading system (we do not need to change GIPA’s existing grading system).

• Develop a structure and guidelines for final projects. In the new curriculum, all students will complete two different types of final projects—a research project and a practical project.

• Develop syllabuses for each course. Each syllabus will include learning outcomes policies, readings, schedule of class activities, teaching methods, and assessment tools.

• Review and possibly revise program-level learning outcomes given the new courses and syllabuses.

• Define career opportunities for graduates from the MA-Journalism program.

• Define future academic opportunities for graduates from the MA-Journalism program.

• Define admission requirements.

• Define scholarship requirements.

• Describe teaching methods used in the MA-Journalism program.

• Describe resources available for implementing the MA-Journalism program. This report includes human resources, library and journal resources, equipment and software, and so on.

And then we’ll rest.

Revising the Journalism (and Media Management) MA program

Giorgi Tskhvediani, head of Georgia's Accreditation Department

CSJMM’s faculty members, with the help of Tamuna Gabisonia from IREX, and me, have been working for more than two months on revising the curriculum for the Journalism and Media Management MA program. Early in the process we realized that we should talk with someone from the Ministry of Education, but it took a while to collect our questions and get an appointment. On Feb 13, we met with Giorgi Tskhvediani, the head of the Accreditation Department. I was surprised. This atypical Georgian “bureaucrat” has long hair and looks as if he is in his 20s. More important, Giorgi was extremely well informed; he patiently answered all of our questions; and his answers were clear and concise. Even better, all of his answers made sense to me; they all reflected a consistent philosophy about graduate education. People working in higher education in the United States would feel completely at home in Georgia’s system.

Here are some of the meeting’s highlights.

We must change the name of our MA program; it can become a Journalism MA, Mass Media MA, or Social Science MA. The Ministry of Education considers Journalism to be a social science, and Management is not a social science; management belongs in a business school.

We can have up to three different minors, and one will probably be media management. Giorgi said we can have a certificate in media management and/or a minor, but we cannot have the word “management” on our diploma.

Of the 120 hours required for all Georgian MA programs, 60 ETSC would be devoted to our major (probably journalism); 20 ETSC would be in practical training, which could be an internship or a project; 15 hours in research; and 25 hours in a minor. These numbers: 60–20–15–25 can be somewhat adjusted; for example, we could have more hours in the major and fewer in the minor, but no category can be eliminated.

Giorgi said that “research” does not mean mean student should learn how to collect and analyze data–this is the responsibility of a doctoral program. Instead, students should be able to conduct a literature review of previously published research and to analyze this literature. I asked if students could analyze a set of news media-produced documents, and Giorgi said no because this type of work should be in a major course, not a research course.

All of our courses must be (at least) 6 ETSC, which means that each course should require 150 hours of work. Giorgi suggested that approximately 38 hours would take place during class and 112 hours would be out-of-class independent work.

We should define the dates of our academic year. The year may begin in any month and then run for approximately 45 weeks. We may not offer more than 75 ETSC per academic year.