College of Media establishes new minors and adds new courses

The College of Media is pleased to announce a number of new and innovative curricular opportunities, including a new interdisciplinary minor in media, a minor in critical film production within the Department of Media & Cinema Studies, and new courses across all three departments that address emerging trends in the media industry. 

MEDIA MINOR

The media minor, established this fall, is available to students outside of the College of Media, and offers a variety of courses from the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising, Department of Journalism, and Department of Media & Cinema Studies. Suggested courses for the minor are grouped in themes of diversity, social media, sports, content creation, history, and more. 

“We’re so excited to be able to offer a media minor,” said Katie Clark, senior assistant dean for student services. “So many of our courses are of interest to students across campus and this minor gives them an opportunity to take these courses in a meaningful, guided way. We know how beneficial it will be to prepare students for the job market by teaching them media-specific skills, which they can apply to any field of interest.”

For example, Media courses could help an engineering student learn what is needed to patent an invention, understand the target audience, and communicate the idea. A social work student might be interested in the power of film to bring attention to a particular social problem. A biology or chemistry student might want to pursue science communication and also understand social media strategy. 

“What we teach here in the College of Media complements well the educational and career goals of many students across campus,” said Dean Tracy Sulkin. 

To complete the minor, students must take an introductory course in each of the college’s three departments, and then choose three advanced courses from at least two different departments in the college. 

CRITICAL FILM PRODUCTION MINOR 

The new critical film production minor is an expansion of the existing media production certificate, which provides students with media-making skills. 

“The critical film production minor is not ‘film school’ in the traditional technically-focused sense,” said Derek Long, assistant professor of media and cinema studies. “Making thoughtful media in the 21st century requires so much more than just knowing how to use the camera on your smartphone.” 

While the minor’s curriculum trains students in advanced technical skills for creating moving images and sound, it also emphasizes that students should create media with the same critical eye that they use to read, write, and conduct research.

That’s an important step, Long said, toward building a more inclusive and reflective culture in the media industries, and it requires knowledge of film and media history, theory, and criticism. The critical film production minor’s core courses and electives combine those technical aspects of mediamaking with critical studies.  

According to Long, all of the minor’s core courses involve video production and editing projects. MACS 150: Intro to Digital Media Production introduces students to other forms of mediamaking, such as photography, digital image manipulation, web design, and podcast production. In the critical studies electives, students can conduct research using old film magazines and pressbooks from the late Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and journalism alumnus Roger Ebert. The elective courses offer a variety of assignments, from organizing a film festival to participating in a fantasy box office competition.  

“Illinois alum Roger Ebert called cinema an ‘empathy machine,’ and this notion is central to the main goal of the minor: to enable students to be empathetic leaders in the world of cinema and media at the same time that they share their ideas with a digitized world,” Long said.

The minor is a great choice for students interested in careers such as film production and distribution, as well as advertising and public relations. “Students interested in the critical study or production of any kind of art—be it visual, musical, or something else—will also find the minor attractive,” Long added. 

The most useful training that the minor will provide students is learning how to work as part of an inclusive team, Long said. Effective media producers know that while technologies become outdated every year, interpersonal skills never stop being useful. 

NEW COURSES IN DATA STORYTELLING AND NEW MEDIA

The Department of Journalism has added two new courses where students can gain experience with data science applications and new media technologies.

JOUR 460: Data Storytelling

JOUR 460: Data Storytelling teaches students the power of data, which can help them to tell a better story. 

“Data alone can tell them who to interview,” said Margaret Ng, assistant professor of journalism. “Data can be a driving point for them to really find out where the story is so that they can approach their interviewee or sources more appropriately.”

The class focuses on four objectives: how to obtain the data, clean the data, analyze the data, and present the data. 

The new course has attracted students from the journalism department and other disciplines within the College of Media, as well as graphic design, statistics, and computer science majors. 

In a newsroom, there are more than journalism majors, Ng pointed out, citing frequent collaborations between data scientists, graphic designers, and journalists. While computer scientists may already have substantial software or coding skills, they may not have experience with putting data into real practice and solving newsworthy questions. 

Students will also gain experience with how to properly file Freedom of Information Act requests to government agencies and how to make an appeal if they receive a rejection.

Ng hopes all students, no matter what their major is, learn how to gather and communicate data ethically so they can present their findings in a much more engaging way to their audience.

JOUR 199: New Media, Society, & You

When designing JOUR 199: New Media, Society, & You, Christopher Ball, assistant professor of journalism, selected critical topics that are currently being shaped by new media use, as well as articles that discussed the pros and cons of new media technologies. 

The goal, Ball said, was to create a course that surveyed the ways that new technology is integrating into our lives, while also seeking a more balanced understanding of their role in modern society.

An essential part of this course is using new media technologies in creative ways, including the creation of a personal blog that they will use to showcase a variety of new media projects. Students will also create timeline infographics, diagram their information diets, analyze social media profile pictures, and create short YouTube videos.  

“In our excitement (or apprehension), we often say that these new media technologies are ‘changing our world/lives,’” he said. “However, I hope that students leave my class with the knowledge that these technologies are not changing our lives directly. Instead, it is how we choose to use these technologies, both collectively and individually, that is changing our lives. So, let’s figure out how to use them best.”

Many of the projects in this course will involve using new media in novel ways. For instance, students will learn a new skill while only using YouTube videos and web forums. 

“The goal is that students will not just learn about new media; they will use it while reflecting on some of the ways to leverage them in their career or personal life,” he said.  

Ball looks forward to hearing his students' perspectives and thoughts on emerging technologies, since most are already “expert users.” 

“I hope that students enjoy the course and that it helps them to see the interactive technologies surrounding them a bit differently,” he said. “I also hope that my class empowers my students to use these technologies to improve their lives and, ultimately, the world around them. There is no better time to learn about new media technologies than right now.”

NEW COMPUTATIONAL ADVERTISING COURSE 

In the new ADV 461: Computational Advertising course, students will learn technologies including “web-search, auctions, behavioral targeting, and mechanisms for viral marketing that underpin the display of advertisements on a variety of locations.” One section of the course is designed for advertising majors, taught by Ewa Maslowska, and the other section, for computer science (CS) + advertising majors, emphasizes programming and computer science.

“Computational advertising relies more and more heavily on behavioral data, which often are digital by nature. In this class, we discuss what insights advertisers can gain from the traces left by consumers in the digital space,” said Maslowska, assistant professor of advertising.

Computational advertising represents a paradigm shift driven by technological developments, including the digitization of brand-consumer interactions, the availability of big data, and the development of new artificial intelligence algorithms. 

Her section of the course uses case studies to explore how different theories, methods, and evidence can shape advertising strategies and their effects. Students will gain basic analytical skills that can be applied to understanding and solving business problems.

“We explore different ways for abstraction and modeling that can be applied to advertising,” Maslowska said. 

Students will design and run an A/B test on a website, compare different tools for personality profiling, and analyze various digital data. These assignments help students to better understand the workings and limitations of the different tools that use consumer data.  

“I hope that upon completion of this course, the students will be able to understand the computational advertising ecosystem, analyze and evaluate different advertising strategies, make actionable recommendations, and reflect on the ethical and normative aspects of computational advertising, including the responsibilities of both advertisers and academics,” she said. 

The CS + advertising section of the class will be available in Spring 2021 and will focus on Internet privacy and the security of individuals as they navigate the web. Students will analyze an actual firm engaged in computational advertising. Working with massive data sets, they will learn algorithms and how companies use personalization in ads.

—Kimberly Belser, Communications and Marketing Intern