In late January, when most people around the world viewed the coronavirus as a remote medical crisis afflicting residents of China, I knew better. As a veteran journalist now teaching at China’s top university, I could see that the epidemic was likely, slowly but surely, to become a global pandemic. With no cure, rapid spread in new “hot zones,” and limited information available to the public, I realized that my professional and personal life was going to be changed significantly.
As co-director of Global Business Journalism, a master’s degree program created by the International Center for Journalists and Tsinghua University in Beijing, I knew that we would need to plan to conduct our spring semester “virtually” through an online platform rather than in the classroom in China. Like almost all of our international students, I was outside of China and unable to return to the locked-down campus.
For my program, this crisis became an opportunity, and Global Business Journalism began its spring semester on schedule and with all students in attendance via the Zoom online platform. Now that the coronavirus is understood to be a global threat, more than 100 American universities and hundreds of others around the world switched from in-person to online classes in the first two weeks of March alone.
This unanticipated disruption need not be a burden, if you are adaptable and innovative. “Online education is an opportunity to make coursework more customized and flexible,” writes journalist and educator Lisa Waananen Jones.
Here are 10 tips to make an online learning experience more rewarding:
- Pick the right learning platform
Your online learning site must be able to handle the number of people in your classes or meetings. You need to consider whether your budget can afford a “premium” plan or whether you are willing to accept the limitations of free sites (usually capping the number or participants or limiting the time of your sessions). Different sites offer various features, including images of each participant, chat capabilities (for the full group or individual members), and group meetings taking place at the same time inside of the class session. In addition to Zoom, other platforms recommended by techradar.com include Docebo, Udemy, Skillshare, WizIQ, Adobe Captivate Prime and SAP Litmos. Other choices with free options include Moodle, ezTalks Webinar, Fastmeeting and Articulate Storyline. Some platforms are offering discounts to schools and nonprofit organizations.
- Beta test your platform
As I was working with my Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication colleagues to set up our virtual classrooms, the Iowa Democratic caucuses demonstrated to the world the risks of adopting new technologies without sufficient beta testing. The failure of the Iowa vote-counting app, which was not rigorously tested, was a massive embarrassment. I realized that failure was not an option for me. We moved quickly with small-scale beta testing of several platforms and chose Zoom. We followed up with a beta test of five staff members and then our first-year graduate students. Each was successful. We were ready for our official launch – all within a week.
- Focus on your community
If you don’t already have a social media chat group for your class, create one. (My Tsinghua class uses WeChat, but WhatsApp, Facebook and other platforms can work for you.) I interact with my students far more often than when we were on campus together, answering quick questions and offering tips and suggestions. As you focus on your community, it also is important to tailor your lecture content the new communication medium you are using. Don’t just transfer your lecture notes or PowerPoint presentations to an online format. You need to communicate differently than in class. There is no natural interaction of professors and students. Students online don’t raise their hands or give you a non-verbal clue that they’d like to participate in a discussion. You will need to invite people into the classroom give-and-take and make them feel welcome. You can build student feedback into your lectures through simultaneous social media chats or online surveys.
- Think visually
Yes, I advise journalists to “think visually” in my new Multimedia Reporting textbook (Springer, 2019). But it is important to think visually as an online professor, too. The most boring way to teach is to be a talking head. I started with my virtual classroom set. As the son of a scenic designer for Broadway and opera, I created a backdrop for my lectures. A pair of life-sized terra-cotta warriors that I shipped home from Xi’an frames the shot of me in my makeshift home studio. On a more substantive note, I try to vary the images on the screen at any one time, whether still shots or videos. I have scrolled through best-practices examples on my screen and even conducted live searches of online databases to illustrate points I am trying to make. Of course, there’s always a risk that one of your visual exercises could go awry, but that’s part of the excitement of live TV.
- Lower expectations
Inevitably, something will go wrong in real time: The streaming video, someone’s audio, someone’s internet connection, the live chats, the advanced functions on your platform. Patience is important. As long as your students understand that this virtual classroom might not be perfect, everyone will be a bit less anxious if they experience an “oops” moment.
- Get plenty of rest
Teaching online takes more energy than teaching in the classroom. It’s like being on live television. Try to get a good night’s sleep before each performance. (And always have a cup of water, tea or coffee nearby.)
- Be forgiving of your students’ complications
My remote-teaching experience is unusual. My students span 22 time zones. My class begins at 9 a.m. on the east coast of the United States. For my students, that means 10 p.m. in Japan and Korea, 9 p.m. in China, 5 p.m. in Oman, 3 p.m. in South Africa, 2 p.m. in Europe, and 6 a.m. in Vancouver and Los Angeles. Some students, cloistered in their parents’ homes, have to whisper so they don’t awaken slumbering relatives. I have allowed some students to present “oral” reports through the group chat function. Remember: It’s not the students’ fault that our spring semester has become so complicated.
- Give your students individual attention
It’s important to build or maintain relationships with everyone in your class. That becomes particularly important when you cannot engage in the basic social interactions of a classroom setting. Instead of having my regular weekly office hours, I feature “virtual office hours” at times arranged with each student. Because some students are shy, I have reached out to schedule meetings in advance of major assignments. I leave a few minutes after every lecture for students who want to hang around in the virtual classroom and ask me any questions on their minds. I also respond to social media messages or email from my students within the day (or sooner, if practical). I believe it’s important to show students that you care about their learning experience and their progress.
- Remain physically active
Over the first few weeks of my online teaching experience, I found that I sometimes felt lonely or irritable. I was accustomed to the give-and-take with students, and the social camaraderie of my office. To overcome a sense of isolation, I make sure to exercise regularly. My colleagues and students in China have developed much more creative coping mechanisms during their weeks in quarantine. Those of us free to move around in our hometowns must act responsibly, but we don’t want to cloister ourselves and live in a world of irrational fear.
- Rely on your teaching assistant or office staff
Teaching remotely requires more work than teaching in the classroom. It requires more coordination, communication and logistical planning than normal courses. It is vital that you empower your teaching assistant or office staff to remind students of upcoming assignments, guest lectures and schedule changes. And remember to say “thank you” to the staff that helps you.
“It will be hard to give up, even temporarily, the close colloquy and individual attention that defines Amherst College,” she wrote, “but our faculty and staff will make this change rewarding in its own way, and we will have acted in one another’s best interests.”
This article was written for cross-posting on the International Journalists’ Network (IJNet).
The coronavirus can’t stop the Global Business Journalism program from its mission to train reporters worldwidePosted: February 26, 2020
I was at home during Tsinghua University’s winter break when news of the coronavirus outbreak made its way into Chinese and international media in January.
As soon as I read about the deadly epidemic, I knew that my life, and my students’ lives, would be significantly disrupted. Little did I know that it also would turn into an opportunity for me and my Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication colleagues to experiment with innovative distance-learning tools, offering our students the chance to continue their education in new and exciting ways.
Despite some initial optimism in Chinese media, it was clear that the epidemic that started in Wuhan was out of control. With 35 years of experience as a journalist in the United States, I had experience in separating facts from rumors, and calmly carrying on in times of upheaval and panic. As international co-director of the Global Business Journalism program, a prestigious English language masters program at Tsinghua University, I immediately focused on my students.
Half of our Global Business Journalism students are Chinese, and they were home with their families. Our international students live in more than 20 countries around the world. Our office found out where they were and how they were doing. (They were all healthy and surprisingly calm.) Most were home with their families overseas, though a few students remained in China during the winter break, either on campus or with relatives in China.
My next priority was to prevent panic while honestly sharing the facts available to GBJ’s leaders. I realized it was important for our program’s global website, GlobalBusinessJournalism.com, to provide reliable, timely, accurate information about the coronavirus and its impact on Tsinghua students.
Early optimism, fueled by upbeat coverage in some Chinese media, led some people in our GBJ community to believe that spring semester classes would resume on campus with minor delays. As someone who has coped with emergencies as a reporter and manager, I strongly believed that there was more than a 90 percent likelihood that we would not be able to return to Beijing any time soon.
Well, unfortunately, I was right. Chinese government officials instituted quarantines around the country, and intercity travel was severely restricted. Almost every other country canceled all flights to and from China. Our students, even if they wanted to, could not return to Beijing.
Out of necessity came opportunity. Through conversations on Skype and WeChat, my colleagues and I discussed ways to create virtual classes so we could resume classes as scheduled on Feb. 17 and give students a valuable educational experience. The university’s visionary leadership had the same idea, and aggressively pursued solutions.
Tsinghua tried to create a proprietary online learning platform, but the beta tests showed that it wasn’t ready for widespread use. We needed to find a stable, reliable platform for online classes.
We also had a logistical problem. Global Business Journalism students are spread out over 22 time zones. It was almost impossible to find a time that would work for everyone. For my advanced news writing class, we settled on 8 a.m. in Washington, which is 2 p.m. for my students in France and Spain, 3 p.m. in South Africa, 5 p.m. in Oman, 9 p.m. in China, and 10 p.m. in Japan and Korea. Thank goodness Global Business Journalism students are flexible and adventurous.
Then came the Iowa caucuses in the United States on Feb. 3. As odd as it sounds, the massive technology failure in Iowa played a key role in our Chinese academic experience. The Iowa Democratic Party didn’t properly beta test its new app, and the result was disaster. It was a PR disaster, but, more importantly, it was a failure that did not serve their customers: Iowa voters, the media and the American public.
I realized it was vitally important to carefully test platforms in advance so we could provide a positive experience for the students. Our international journalism staffer, Li Chengzhang, and my teaching assistant, Wan Zhixin, tried a few and concluded that a conference app called “Zoom” was our best prospect. The university and Zoom’s Chinese subsidiary reached an agreement to let students use the platform for free until June. We beta tested the app repeatedly: once with just four of us, then a “dry run” with the entire first-year Global Business Journalism class. Then we were ready for classes, or so we thought.
Of course, there were a few glitches caused mostly by the varying qualities of internet connections around the world. But our class was an educational triumph. Students could see me, hear me, see my PowerPoint presentations, and see articles that I had called up on my computer screen for analysis. All of the other Global Business Journalism program’s classes proceeded without incident, and the student reaction was overwhelmingly favorable.
“Even though the virus has resulted in the [journalism] school having to use a virtual classroom, it’s still brought so many good stories to the front page,” said Hai Lin (Helen) Wang, a GBJ master’s student from Canada who has been staying with her grandparents in Tianjin. “I hope we can all take advantage of this time.”
I conducted the first class from my dining room table in Arlington, Virginia. For the second class, I created a China-themed classroom in my basement, with two life-sized terracotta warriors from Xi’an in the background.
I feel heartened by the outpouring of support from around the world. A typical message came from said Ralph Martin, an emeritus professor of computer science at Cardiff University in Wales and a former guest professor at Tsinghua. “I hope your online courses go well and things will soon be back to normal,” he wrote in a note shared on university social media accounts.
I’m taking this one week at a time. We could have a technological meltdown any week. But I am cautiously optimistic. And I am looking for the silver linings in this dark cloud. For one thing, I can now ask prominent journalists, academics or policymakers in Washington, Europe or Africa to join our class in real time.
I have great sympathy for everyone who has gotten sick, and mourn those who have died in the coronavirus epidemic. I feel a sense of empathy for the billion-plus people whose lives have been upended. While my academic routine has changed significantly, I can’t say that I have suffered, like so many of my friends and students in China. I think of them (and talk to them) every day.
In good times and in these challenging times, Tsinghua University has inspired me to become a better person and a better teacher. As a professor who loves teaching the brightest aspiring journalists from around the world, I owe it to my students to give them an educational experience that they will always remember … in a good way.
The world gave us lemons, and we are trying to make something sweet out of it. As one of my Texas friends said to me: “Lemonade, Rick. Lemonade.”
>>> Are you interested in applying to join Global Business Journalism or do you know a college senior or young journalist who would be interested in pursuing a master’s degree in the program? Here’s a link for admissions information.
7 reasons why you should apply to join the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua UniversityPosted: January 10, 2020
Guest Blog by TARIF HASNAIN
Admission season is underway, and college seniors and young professionals across the world are looking for the best graduate school opportunities. The Global Business Journalism master’s program at Tsinghua University offers challenging, practical courses taught by veteran international journalists and journalism educators on one of the world’s most beautiful campuses.
Here are seven reasons why you should consider this internationally renowned English language journalism program based at China’s top university:
1. Advanced Journalism Learning
GBJ offers technologically advanced, timely and practical journalism training to the students. It’s an ideal mix for people who envision themselves becoming successful journalists in the next few years. Global Business Journalism alumni have landed jobs at international news outlets including Bloomberg News, CGTN, CNBC and more. GBJ students have interned at publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Agence France-Presse. The program is supported by two respected global news organizations: Bloomberg News and the International Center for Journalists.
2. A Distinguished Faculty
Few journalism schools in Asia have as many international professors, and none boast this kind of high-level journalism experience. In Global Business Journalism you’ll be blessed by the presence and support of three American professors each semester who give individual attention to each GBJ student. They are joined by a cadre of distinguished Chinese professors with strong academic qualifications and experience. This multicultural learning environment is certain to broaden your horizons.
3. A Wide Variety of Courses
In Global Business Journalism, you will learn about business news reporting, multimedia storytelling, advanced news writing, data analysis, basic economics and accounting, contemporary society in China, Chinese language skills, and even film and television production. All these courses make this program challenging, fascinating and exceptional. Global Business Journalism offers practical experience in an inspiring academic environment.
4. A Diverse Group of Students
GBJ has hosted students from more than 65 countries. This diversity makes the program unique and rewarding. You can also be one of the 20 international students, who get admitted to the program every year.
5. Professors Who Care About Each Student
One thing that amazes everyone is the learning partnerships that develop between the teachers and students in our program. The professors go out of their way to help the students learn and blossom as journalists. Professors give students quality time, not just regular office hours. There are regular informal lunches for students and professors. It creates a family atmosphere.
6. Access to Bloomberg Terminals and Other Advanced Learning Tools
The GBJ students are among the luckiest groups of journalism (or business) students in the world, because Bloomberg News has donated 10 Bloomberg terminals to the program. They are available, free of charge, to any Global Business Journalism student at any time. It is the largest such collection of all-donated terminals at any university in the world. GBJ students also have access to the Tsinghua “Future Media Lab,” a state-of-the-art multimedia learning facility. The Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication also has television studios and equipment that can be reserved by our students.
7. All These Benefits – and You Might Get it for FREE!!!
You can be a part of a remarkable family, you can learn to be a better journalist, and you might be able to get your graduate education for free. No promises, of course. But Tsinghua University and the Chinese government offer significant scholarships to exceptional students and young media professionals. Apply early to secure the best chance for scholarship aid.
So don’t think twice. Know your worth, show your potential, apply for the program, and become a global member of Global Business Journalism family. We welcome you.
For the latest updates from GBJ, check out our news feed: https://www.globalbusinessjournalism.com/blog-1
Check out the website created by GBJ faculty and students: https://www.globalbusinessjournalism.com/
View the Tsinghua GBJ website: http://gbj.tsjc.tsinghua.edu.cn/
Application instructions: https://www.globalbusinessjournalism.com/apply
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Journalism coverage of issues related to climate change can educate the public and shed light on one of the most important global policy issues of the 21st century, a group of international journalists and educators said during a workshop hosted by the Global Business Journalism Program.
The workshop, called “Taking the Heat – Using Journalism for Educational Engagement on China,” was organized by the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis, the Pulitzer Center and the Global Business Journalism Program.
The event took place Oct. 14 as part of the 7th International McDonnell Symposium. The symposium, which examined “Global Challenges for Today’s Research Universities,” was held for the first time in China. It was the first workshop held at the new Tsinghua Future Media Lab, which will be used by GBJ for New Media classes.
A recently released United Nations report cautioned that world leaders had just 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate change. Rather than debating the problem, the time has come to discuss solutions, Doug Harbrecht, a visiting professor at Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication, told the audience of global scholars.
Professor Harbrecht described a trend toward “solutions journalism,” where media outlets around the world not only educate the public about the problems related to climate change but offer constructive solutions.
“They want to know how we can fix it,” he said. “They focus on what works, and why. It’s excellent journalism.”
Professor Rick Dunham, co-director of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua, highlighted international best practices in climate coverage. He cited extensive reporting in the South China Morning Post, The New York Times and the British Broadcasting Corporation. All of these news organizations used multimedia storytelling to explain the depth of the climate change crisis and focused public attention on innovative attempts to reverse its damaging effects.
Professor Dunham also looked at diverse coverage of the issue on the Chinese mainland. These included an in-depth series of reports in People’s Daily focusing on the government response and a series of documentary videos produced by Shanghai-based The Paper illustrating the effects of climate change in different countries including Mongolia, Madagascar and Morocco and explaining how each nation is adapting to the changing environment. He also highlighted how China’s meteorological administration has produced a series of multimedia reports on climate change in 11 areas of China and has discussed possible solutions.
Speakers at the workshop focused on the need for creative storytelling to make stories of climate change compelling to news consumers. Sean Gallagher, a Beijing-based photographer and filmmaker affiliated with the Pulitzer Center and National Geographic, said that focusing on individuals helps to tell broader stories about climate change.
“Most people do not connect to a story unless you show the people affected by the issue,” he said. “The best way to do it is put a face to that issue.”
Anthony Kuhn, a reporter for U.S. National Public Radio, reported extensively on deforestation in the Asia Pacific region. Deforestation is the second-leading cause of global warming after the burning of fossil fuels, he noted. In his presentation, Kuhn recommended that journalists and educators “go to the scene and explain” what is going on and its impact on society. He explained how he had reported from Indonesia, explaining that the deforested trees eventually were used in everyday consumer products from cookies to lipstick.
“One of my jobs is to connect this to people’s lives,” he said.
Professor Hang Min, TSJC Associate Dean for International Affairs, welcomed the participants and underscored Tsinghua’s role as a global leader in education and journalism innovation.
Bloomberg Editor John Liu tells GBJ commencement that quality journalism, technological advances offer optimism to battered media industryPosted: July 9, 2018
Rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence technology give journalists “great reason to be optimistic about the future” of an industry that has struggled with declining audiences and revenues for the past decade, John Liu, Bloomberg News Executive Editor for Greater China, told 2018 Global Business Journalism Program graduates at the annual commencement ceremony on June 5.
Innovative media outlets such as Bloomberg News and The New York Times have harnessed the power of AI to improve the quality of their data analysis and to increase audience engagement by offering digital news stories of particular interest to each news consumer.
“Things are starting to get better know, because people are discovering that consumers are willing to pay for good content,” Liu said in an address at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. “The next big step, we believe, is AI telling you what you want to read, what you want to watch, before you know it’s there, even translating it into the language you want to read,” he said.
Sixteen international students were awarded master’s degrees in Global Business Journalism in a 90-minute ceremony, while 19 Chinese students received master’s certificates in addition to their master’s degrees from the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication.
Students from 65 nations and regions have participated in the Global Business Journalism Program since its creation in 2007. This year, Icigumije Brice became the first GBJ graduate from the African nation of Burundi.
Dr. Hang Min, GBJ Co-Director and TSJC Associate Dean for International Affairs, said that at a time of “dramatic change in China and beyond” that it is important for young journalists to have “multiple perspectives” and to offer “constructive solutions and not just destructive criticisms.”
“Stay open,” she urged the graduates. “Never close any window of opportunity and never say no to something because it’s not your planned path.”
GBJ Co-Director Rick Dunham told the students and their families that the media industry needs to do more to boost the careers of women.
“In the GBJ program, about three-fourths of our students are women, and with rare exceptions, women are the top performers in our program. Yet many of these high achievers may face obstacles in the job market. Women suffer discrimination, overt and hidden, in hiring, promotion and pay,” he said. “We must overcome these insidious forms of male discrimination. In the words of the American civil rights anthem of the 1960s, ‘we shall overcome, some day.’”
Professor Dunham noted that TSJC “is leading the way in empowering women,” and Liu noted that five of the six GBJ grads hired by Bloomberg have been women.
“Not only is advancing women in the workplace the right thing to do, it is also good business,” he said.
Top GBJ students also offered their perspectives on the program. Speaking for the Chinese graduates, Zhu Yuxuan, hailed GBJ as “a great program for us to develop a global vision … while we are gaining professional knowledge.” International student Zhu Yuxuan, of Japan said GBJ “has allowed me to broaden my horizons and meet friends from all over the world.”
“Every day, we met talented and outstanding students from all over the world, and had the chance to interact with local Chinese students,” she said. “All of us played together, learned together, and progressed together over these two years, and I’m sure every one of us emerged as a better person than we were two years ago.”
Sarah Talaat of the United States, chosen as the GBJ speaker at the TSJC ceremony later in the day, said GBJ students were not only taught practical journalism skills, but also “how to pursue a career grounded in truth and patience, brought about by hard work and dedication, and held to the highest standards of our chosen fields.” She predicted that the program’s sponsors “will see a return on your investments in the shape of better journalism and communication for the benefit of the world.”
Speaking for GBJ graduates was Grace Shao of Canada from the Class of 2015, who worked at CGTN for two years and is returning to academia this fall to study data journalism at Columbia University in New York. Shao, who covered top global economic issues and developments in Korea during her time at CGTN, urged graduates to “undersell yourself” and take care of their health.
“This industry isn’t for the meek,” she said. We have to be on our toes at all times; you have to have writing skills, multimedia skills, analytical skills, people skills, presentation skills, and so on, I can’t think of a job that demands a more well-rounded candidate. Believe in your talents and all that you’ve learned here from your Tsinghua professors!”
Top TSJC officials taking part in the ceremony included Executive Dean Chen Changfeng, Administrative Dean Hu Yu and Administrative Dean of Research Shi Anbin. Professor Zeng Fanxu was honored as top academic supervisor. Graduating students Li Chengzhang, Shi Lin, Quan Yue, Yuki Nakajima and Linda Lew received special awards for their contribution to the GBJ program.
Come join us! Global Business Journalism students offer tips on navigating the Tsinghua application processPosted: January 10, 2018
Come join us!
Global Business Journalism Program student journalist Botlhe Dikobe of Botswana produced this engaging video to celebrate the completion of her first semester in the Global Business Journalism Program. It has tips from current students on how to apply for our English-language master’s program at Tsinghua University, and what’s in store for you if you’re accepted.
Remember, our program is a partnership between the International Center for Journalists, the pre-eminent journalism training organization in the world, Bloomberg News, the most respected source of business news and data, and Tsinghua University, China’s top university.
Please share this with your family and friends as we build our community and seek more great applicants for the 2018-19 academic year. The deadline for early admission applications is January 15. The final deadline is March 1. An earlier application improves your chances of receiving a scholarship.
For more information on the program: https://rickdunhamblog.com/2017/11/20/apply-now-for-the-global-business-journalism-program-tsinghua-university/
Video: Why the GBJ program is a great choice for a master’s program: https://rickdunhamblog.com/2017/01/18/video-why-the-global-business-journalism-program-at-tsinghua-is-a-great-choice-for-graduate-school/comment-page-1/#comment-2301
Apply here: http://gradadmission.tsinghua.edu.cn