Digital Media in Higher Education investigated the role of direct engagement with digital technology in content production for increasing students’ media literacy skills as well as interest in, understanding, and recall of educational subject matter. The project was funded by Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and was coordinated by Prof. Paolo Paolini.
The research involved university graduate and undergraduate students who followed communication sciences courses in which a digital media creation component was introduced. The research used course data from 2007 to 2009 (3 years) for Bachelor and Master , and was complemented by interviews and focus groups held in the academic year 2009/2010 with undergraduate and graduate students (n=70).
The assignment involved group work for multimedia production. In a first phase, students were introduced to a design methodology created by TEC-Lab (USI) and HOC-Lab (Politecnico of Milan), and in a second phase were asked to create content on specific themes and structure it according to the design format. Two kinds of design formats were used: narrative and informative, supported by three toolkits: Interactive Dialogue Model (IDM), a design technique for creating multichannel multimedia applications; 1001stories, an authoring tool for creating multichannel multimedia narratives; and MEDINA, a web authoring and management system using a pre-defined design format.
The learning benefits were assessed based on teachers’ evaluations as well as students’ self-perceived benefits, and were organised in four categories.
(1) Confidence in using digital technology: this was generally reported to have raised from the levels met before the course, especially with respect to mastery of specific technologies such as audio-editing software.
(2) Communication skills: one of the aims was to teach students to plan and develop an integrated communication plan for the web based on a unique communication purpose. One of the aspects most students indicated was that they learned to create content in a consistent style for purposefully communicating to a specific audience.
“I have learnt that first one needs to state an objective and only then one can start building the website. Prior to this course, we tended to do the opposite.
(3) Content development skills: students reported to have enhanced skills in particular with respect to argumentation, writing, visual literacy and content organisation skills.
(4) Team work capabilities. Students were free to use their own strategy for working in groups. The anaylsis revealed several patterns of collaboration ibn groups, some expected (e.g. tasks distribution based on prior interests and skills), and some unexpected (e.g. doubling content creation before choosing best version). Students reported team-wok to have been both a challenge and a source of satisfaction, and saw their team-work skills develop throughout the exercise.
“When we met without having previously split the tasks, we lost our time. Therefore we decided to meet only when each one of us had already done her part. We were much more productive then.”
For more information about the results of this project see the publication:
Di Blas, N., Paolini, P., Rubegni, E., & Sabiescu, A. (2010) Equipping Higher Education Students with Media Literacy Skills. Proceedings of the Professional Communication Conference (IPCC). The Netherlands, 7-9 July 2010. IEEE International, 30-37.