Copeland, Makemson Participate in AJHA Conference

Two Elon School of Communications professors showcased their innovative teaching techniques at a national academic conference on Oct. 12.

David Copeland, A.J. Fletcher Professor of Journalism in the School of Communications, and Harlen Makemson, assistant professor in the School of Communications, were featured in the panel "Putting the 'Multi' into Media History" at the American Journalism Historians Association conference in Richmond, Va. The refereed panel demonstrated how blogs, videotaped oral histories and archival mass media footage could be used to enhance students' understanding of the past, and how the traditional research project could be delivered in multiple formats.

Copeland explained how oral history interviews conducted by students could be combined with primary documents from print, broadcast or cinema to create research projects that allow students to use the professional skills taught in schools of communications.  Students produce documentaries, news packages, Web pages, magazines and newspapers, Copeland explained, that allow them the opportunity to conduct traditional research and then present it via the medium in which they hope to work after graduation.

"When students become as invested in their work as much as they have with this project, the learning curve rises rapidly," Copeland said. "They find amazing people to interview. They've interviewed people who remember War of the Worlds in 1938; lived through Nazi concentration camps; experienced firsthand the tragedies of the 1964 Alaska earthquake, the 1970 Marshall University plane crash and the 1970 shootings at Kent State. They've also explored the pop-culture side of media, one group interviewing someone who managed to get on stage with the Beatles in 1965. In that project the entire class re-lived the experience, which interlaced media images of the Fab Four with an entertaining story of the way the group affected the 1960s."

Makemson discussed the opportunities and challenges in teaching a media history course online, which he has done for the last four summers in conjunction with Elon's Instructional Design and Development. Students in the online course collaborate via an electronic discussion board, analyze early television campaign advertisements through streaming video, and listen to old radio programs in .mp3 format. Makemson also shared how elements of the online course have been incorporated when he teaches the class in a traditional face-to-face classroom during Spring and Fall semesters.

"The online course has forced me to rethink how students interact and how to better focus that interaction toward the course objectives," said Makemson, who also organized and moderated the panel. "Each summer, I find something new in the online course that I just have to add for the on-campus sections. It helps keep things fresh for both me and the students."

AJHA was founded in 1981 and serves to foster teaching and research of journalism history. Copeland is past president of the organization.


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