Media Literacy Collaboration Transcends Borders

ST. LOUIS (MAY 13, 2016) – School of Communications professor Kit Jenkins spent a portion of the spring 2016 semester teaching at Webster University’s Vienna campus. One of the courses she taught while there was MEDC 1630 Media Literacy. At the Webster Groves campus, Professor Jessica Z. Brown was teaching the same course. Aided by technology, they collaborated to teach their courses together for two months.

Jenkins and Brown chose the television series, “Frontline for Hope,” as a case study for media literacy analysis. The series follows patients, their families and medical teams at St. Louis Children’s Hospital on their remarkable and thought-provoking medical journeys. The series is produced by Coolfire Studios and airs on News Channel 5 KSDK. Two seasons are available for viewing online.

The two-month teaching collaboration culminated with a live video feed between the two sites. It featured Tim Breitbach, Coolfire’s vice president of story development and current series, in an interactive session. He answered questions posed by students of both the Webster Groves and Vienna classes.

Brown started the session by asking Breitbach to describe “Frontline for Hope” with the simple question, “What is it?” He responded, “It’s public relations; it’s a documentary; it’s reality television; it’s journalism; it’s advertising; it’s marketing, it’s fundraising.”

Students had come up with very similar answers to the question first posed on a private Facebook page created for the combined classes.

Breitbach’s answers and students' subsequent curiosity about "Frontline" created a rich exchange that extended into discussions of ethics, morality and culture–all media literacy-related topics–in the context of content production and storytelling. Moreover, students were interested in Breitbach’s extensive production background and expertise, inquiring about such things as what it takes to get into media production.

Marlene Pruschak, a student from Austria, remarked, “I personally found the experience very special as I have never talked to a producer of a series before. l liked the way he appreciated our questions and answered them in detail. He made it possible for us to gain more insight into the show and, especially, its production; I am very thankful for this experience.
                                                                    
Natasa Skrbic, a classmate of Pruschak’s from Serbia, commented, “(The) video conference was undoubtedly a great experience. Being involved in discussion about different perspectives of the show, such as actual production, moral issues, content decisions, and effects, gave us all a broader image and understanding on how media production actually works.”

Webster Groves student Dexter Woltman said, "It was an amazing experience. Only at Webster University have I had the chance to meet such a spectacular professional as Tim Breitbach, and the satisfaction of being in sync with the world is one that never fails."

Of his experience during Kit Jenkins’ and Jessica Z. Brown’s cross-site course collaboration, Tim Breitbach commented “I have to say, I was incredibly impressed with the students and your approach to the class.”

About the School of Communications
The School of Communications at Webster University prepares students to excel as skilled professionals in the global field of communications. We provide theory and practice in media courses framed within a liberal arts-based curriculum, augmented by personalized mentorship, and professional development opportunities. Fifteen distinct majors are available at the undergraduate level and master’s degrees in six diverse fields of communications. We offer BA and MA programs on the Webster campuses in Geneva, Vienna, London, Leiden, Thailand, and Ghana, as well as in Saint Louis and online.

About Webster University
With its home campus in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Webster University (www.webster.edu) comprises an action-oriented global network of faculty, staff, students and alumni who forge powerful bonds with each other and with their communities around the globe. Founded in 1915, Webster is a private non-profit university with more than 17,000 students studying at campus locations in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa and in a robust learning environment online. The university is committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.                                                                     

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