Electronic Media Curricula of Colleges and Universities in Twelve Countries: Transition, Integration, and Convergence of Media Instruction in the Digital Era

Article excerpt

Throughout the world, colleges and universities in the mass communication discipline are experiencing transition, integration, and convergence. Such change not only stems from transitions in higher education per se [1, 2], but also from the interplay among political, social, cultural, and economic factors within and outside a particular country" [3]. This study examines the electronic media curricula including digital media of colleges and universities in the U.S., Britain, Korea, South Africa, Argentina, the Netherlands, Singapore, Japan, Greece, Egypt, Canada, and China in order to discover how these curricula are configured in response to digital media environments.

This study's perspective on broadcast higher education could be called global, even though the number and choice of nations sampled is small regarding number, and nonrandom and convenient regarding choice. Even so, we call for inquiry into other countries' higher education resources in electronic media so that media educators and industry representatives can, if they see fit, design model electronic media curricula. We will recommend a core of courses that this research leads us to think could, and arguably should, be required of all broadcast majors in the 12 countries studied in the digital age.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Electronic media educators remain divided over whether media curricula should be more theoretical or more skills oriented. The types are: Liberal, Practical, and Liberal-Professional [4]. "Liberal" curricula focus on theoretical, historical, and/or ethical approaches to radio and television phenomena. "Practical" curricula stress instruction in broadcast production skills. "Liberal-professional" curricula provide students with both skills- and theory courses.

Debate over which curricula are best persists. For one thing not all skills courses are aptly described as "professional." A Web design course, for instance, may focus wholly on skills instruction and development yet offer no promise, either directly or implied, that mastery of course content will enhance students' opportunities to become "professional" Web designers. Similarly, not all theory courses are aptly categorized as liberal arts course offerings. A course in mass communication law can be taught in a manner that stresses profession-specific skills.

Our decision is hardly idiosyncratic: In his comprehensive study of mass media education, Dickson [2] presents "visions of mass media education" from more than 15 "media educators, media practitioners, and friends of media education." His very first "vision" (p. 182), penned by former AEJMC President Maurine Beasley, dichotomizes the mass communication curriculum into the same "skills" and "theory" categories (p. 183). Niven [4] and others, such as Marsh [5] and French and Richards [6] have found this useful. Vision statements in Dickson [2] by Kopenhaver and Weaver employ the same categories.

More than a generation after Niven [4], McCall's [7] argument for the long-term practicality of a "liberal arts focus" in media education reproduced Niven's [4] categories. A liberal arts emphasis, wrote McCall [7, p. 19] gives students seeking broadcast or other media careers invaluable "concepts, critical insight, and discussion and analysis of issues," the "why," in a word, instead of only the "how to." Contrarily, however, Renz [8] insisted that "communication skills, [such as announcing], are an integral part of the art and industry of broadcasting; the general practice of teaching these skills should be retained as an integral part of the broadcast education program" (p. 22), An expression of the "liberal-professional" preference calls for an integration of theory and skills even as early in the curriculum as the "basic" mass communication course [9].

A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF BROADCAST EDUCATION IN TWELVE NATIONS

The dramatic growth, coupled with external changes in electronic media markets triggered by satellite- and cable technologies, prompted reassessments of U. …