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College of Information and Communications

Curriculum of Change

A curriculum of change

Posted July 21, 2014
By Eli Windham, advertising major. Published in Spring 2014 InterCom.

The University of South Carolina's campus seems to be ever-changing. New buildings are being constructed, age-old dormitories renovated, and even some long-standing potholes are finally being filled. But not all the changes are strictly aesthetic. In the fall of 2014, the School of Journalism and Mass Communications will implement a much-needed change to its curriculum.

Why change the curriculum? What's wrong with what is currently in place? The changes aren't due to problems with the current curriculum; it's more about adaptation and flexibility. Technology and education are constantly evolving, and the university as well as SJMC must evolve, too.

Associate Professor Van Kornegay, who is the chairman of the school's curriculum committee, said that the changes are coming for three main reasons: "consistency, choice and flexibility."

The curriculum was overdue for a tune-up, and although SJMC has experimented with some changes the past few semesters, this fall, those changes will go into full effect. Current students will still be able to complete their original requirements for their degrees, but all new students will follow the new curriculum.

The biggest change involves standardizing the general education requirements for all journalism majors. Currently, students in different sequences have different general education requirements, making the switch from one major to another within the J-school difficult.

SJMC also reassigned several course numbers to, according to Kornegay, "follow a more logical numerical advance." Classes had been numbered based on whichever number was available when the course was implemented, he said. Introduction to Mass Communications will switch from 201 to 101, and will get a new name, Media and Society. Many other courses will also follow suit to avoid confusion. Now students will start off with more 100-level introductory classes, and then gradually move their way into the 300- and 400-level major-specific courses. Several journalism courses are now also offered online, such as the new Media and Society and Principles of Advertising. Delivered online, these courses allow students more flexibility with their time and schedules, which Kornegay said is one of the main reasons for the change.

Many current and former students have already experienced some of SJMC's online courses, and the feedback from those students has been very positive. Melle Morgan, a 2013 visual communications graduate, was among the first students to take the online section of Principles of Advertising. "Even though the class was online, my professor was readily available and always answered any questions I had about the course or procedures very promptly," Morgan said.

"I actually feel like I learned the material better, since I was forced to read the material more outside of class on my own than normal. I really enjoyed being able to do everything on my own time in the comfort of my own home."

Another change to the SJMC curriculum includes the option of a cognate instead of a mandatory minor. Now a student can choose a cognate, which is only 12 hours versus 18 for a minor, and can customize it to his or her own specific interests. The pre-designated minor of six courses did not allow any customization options.

Although some may see the changes as a challenge for students, others see this as a great opportunity. The renumbering and restructuring will make it easier for students to follow their academic progress, and the online courses could prove to be the future of journalism education.

Change can be a difficult thing, especially for current students, but these changes are expected to be beneficial for all involved, including current students, future students and advisers.