Recreating news anchoring experiences at home
28 Sep 2020
When all classes went online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Bonnie Chiu quickly redesigned her news anchoring course to offer students novel ways to acquire hands-on experience in the absence of in-person practice at the news studio on campus. The Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of the undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Stream in the Department of Journalism is one of the teaching staff at HKBU who have reimagined their courses during the necessary shift to a virtual format. While the use of technology made the transition easier, online education has also inspired new insights into teaching and learning.
Leveraging technology to teach and learn online
One of the core subjects for students studying Broadcast Journalism is news anchoring. The course typically features classroom-based lectures and hands-on sessions in the news studio, where students can practise with the use of professional cameras, teleprompters and a live set. But how can this practical component be completed if students cannot access the studio?
"We had to adapt and transform the course so that students could have the best possible learning experience," Ms Chiu says. "We tried to help students recreate the feel of news anchoring while they were studying at home." To that end, she and her colleagues swiftly sourced several mobile apps that offer teleprompter and autocue services. Students were encouraged to use these resources and were given weekly assignments that involved them recording videos of themselves presenting the news.
Some students promptly embraced using technology as part of the learning process. "I used different apps and devices to practise news presenting and reading from scripts at home," says Rachel So, a third-year student of the news anchoring course. When recording the assignments, she often imagined herself on a live set and refrained from doing retakes. "I would send the recorded work to our lecturer for comments. This enabled me to evaluate my performance and identify the areas for improvement."
A new way of assessing learning outcomes
Ms Chiu and her colleagues also devised new ways to conduct assessments online by using the screen-sharing function on the video communication platform Zoom. Students were shown the assessment content, such as scripts of news stories, financial news data and sound bites, and they needed to absorb the information quickly before conveying it smoothly and accurately to the camera, just as they would during a live newscast. This gave students valuable experience of news presenting, as well as other presenting skills such as wrapping up and ad-libbing in real-time during broadcasts.
Ida Tsui, a third-year student, says the course gave her a taste of what it is like to be a news anchor. "This course allowed us to understand the profession thoroughly and gain experience and skills in news anchoring," she says. "Although we were unable to go back to the campus for a period of time, I still received support and guidance from my lecturer like I usually do." She believes that the training she received during the course has helped her land a position as a part-time anchor at a local broadcasting station, despite having no prior experience of physically working at a news studio.
Keeping students motivated
Apart from providing academic support, Ms Chiu remarks that it is important for educators to address students' emotional needs. With in-person experience at the news studio an integral part of the course, students might feel disappointed upon learning that the facilities will remain closed for the semester. To keep the students motivated, Ms Chiu informed her class that they would be able to reserve the news studio and professional equipment for hands-on practice in the next semester or when the situation allows.
She hopes that students can see education as a long-term journey that lasts beyond the span of one semester, just as she does. "We'd like students to understand that the hands-on portions of the course are being postponed, not removed, so the impact on their learning process can be minimised as much as possible," she says.
Persisting with learning
While technological tools and excellent teamwork have helped faculty staff ensure the quality of online education, Ms Chiu believes that students' initiative to learn is a crucial factor in achieving the best learning outcomes.
"The pandemic has brought many challenges for students, in the sense that they have to make a greater effort and seize every opportunity to learn," she says. Developing the persistence to pursue knowledge is critical for journalism students, as it is a quality shared by professional journalists, who often have to work under difficult conditions or overcome adversity during the process of gathering information and presenting the news. Ms Chiu says, "Working as a journalist is never easy, but you have to keep at it and believe that no technical difficulties are too challenging for us."