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Interactive Media Students 'Fly-In' to Foreign Countries to Help Organizations in Need

Students in Elon's Interactive Media master's program will soon be flashing their passports and traveling to foreign countries as part of their Winter Term fly-in experience. The entire inaugural class has been broken up into four groups, each of which will be led by a faculty member in the School of Communications.

The students are headed to Costa Rica, Panama or London, where they will complete comprehensive Web-based products that will feature a variety multimedia content, including video, photography, Flash and writing. They will be away from campus for about two weeks before returning to finalize the projects.

“The Winter Term fly-in is an opportunity for iMedia students to work in teams on real-world projects where they can use interactivity to make a difference in different places around the globe,” said David Copeland, the director of the iMedia program and a professor in the School of Communications.

Assistant professor Phillip Motley will be leading one group of students to Costa Rica, where they’ll work with the La Flor campus of Earth University, an international school that is focused on community initiatives, such as socially responsible entrepreneurship, technical innovation and environmental sustainability.

Motley said students will generate stories and content based on the tenets of Earth University and how it operates within the community.

“This is going to give students a chance to put into action what they’ve learned so far and what they know from prior experiences in their undergraduate work,” Motley said. “Sometimes the projects we give them in class are compartmentalized. The way the real world works in production is that you’re doing everything and it’s all coming together in one package. This experience, more than any other to this date, will mimic the real world.”

Another group of 10 students will be hopping a plane for London with assistant professor Ray Johnson. There, they will work with Barrow Hill Junior School (the equivalent of an elementary school in the United States) to create a “virtual perspectus” about the school, Johnson said.

Johnson added that the site students produce won’t be the school’s main Web presence, but rather an ancillary product that will feature some of its impressive programs and that will be used as a promotional tool.

“It’s going to be a real client, and we’re going to create something that I think will demonstrate what they’re learning and hopefully help (the students) get a job,” Johnson said.

A final two eight-student groups are flying to Panama with lecturer Randy Piland and assistant professor Sang Nam. Nam and his students will be working with a group that helps children with disabilities. Piland’s students will support a non-governmental organization that brings awareness to Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare bone disease that weakens individuals’ bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures.

Piland said the goal of the trip is to provide the NGO with an interactive Web site to help raise awareness of OI. He said the disease isn’t any more prevalent in Panama than elsewhere in the world, but it also isn’t an affliction that receives a lot of attention in the country—something the students hope to change.

“We hope it will trigger some emotion to cause people to want to help the foundation in their funding and volunteerism,” Piland said. “The students seem motivated to do this project and we’ve got a good group of students that have a great skill base that will only enhance their portfolios and will also provide a service to a need identified in Panama.”

Piland said the site will be produced in both English and Spanish, and that students will talk to families suffering from OI and to medical professionals who have worked with people who have the disease.

Regardless of where students are headed, the Winter Term fly-in experience gives them an opportunity to showcase the skills they’ve gained through one semester, to work collaboratively as a part of a larger group and to produce an interactive project for an organization of need.

“The fly-in could easily be one of the highlights of the Interactive Media program for its students,” Copeland said. “They will be on location, working together with people to solve problems and presenting ways to solve them by working with all the tools they’ve learned so far.”

Colin Donohue,
1/11/2010 4:03 PM