Six students from the mobile journalism MOOC win scholarship to attend conferences at the University of Texas

Journalistic flair, creativity, and a smartphone. These were the tools used by the winners of a competition that will bring six students from the Mobile Journalism massive online open course (MOOC) to take part in the International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) at the University of Texas at Austin next April.

With more than 3,400 people enrolled, the “Introduction to Mobile Journalism” MOOC was offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the National Association of Newspapers of Brazil (ANJ) with support from Google during November and December of 2014.

The MOOC, which presented and discussed global tendencies in mobile journalism, was conducted by the American specialist Will Sullivan, Mobile Products Manager at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and by Lorena Tárcia, researcher and coordinator at the Convergent Media Laboratory at the Centro Universitário in Belo Horizonte.

This was the third online training program offered by the Knight Center at the University of Texas in partnership with ANJ. The first was an online course on data journalism administered by Professor José Roberto de Toledo and the Estadão Dados team, and the second was “Introduction to Data Visualization,” which included the participation of Alberto Cairo and support from Google.

The final projects from the mobile journalism MOOC that were selected for travel grants to participate in the 16th International Symposium on Online Journalism and the Eighth Iberoamerican Colloquium of Digital Journalism were made using nothing more than mobile journalism tools.

The projects highlighted local stories and covered topics such as the use of community healthcare in Minas Gerais, the forced removal of families from a community in Belo Horizonte, the irregular use of exclusive bus corridors and lanes in São Paulo, the Our Lady of Conceição festival in Recife, cultural attractions in Goiânia, and the imprisonment of a priest accused of pedophilia in Rio Grande do Sul.

“The course helped me position myself in time and space as a journalist today. It demonstrated that the real time of ongoing, instant news and the positioning of facts are imperatives of journalism that should be worked into mobile devices,” says Rodrigo Ortega, newsroom journalist at G1 of São Paulo and grant winner. “These devices help so much in the gathering, editing and presentation of news. I think I was able to work with these aspects in my project.”

Nearly 60 MOOC participants entered the grant competition, which offered awards to the best mobile reports made using techniques that were learned during a free course offered by the Knight Center and ANJ with the support of Google. Of the chosen winners, four are journalists, three work in newsrooms, and one in a news portal. In addition to these, one student and a journalism professor round out the invited team. They are:

As part of the selection process, the candidates that were chosen met all course requirements, demonstrated that the MOOC helped the development of their mobile reporting, and had the highest quality project according to originality, demonstration of skills, and journalistic value. Among the more than 3,000 course participants, there were participants representing every Brazilian region. While only Brazilians were able to apply for the travel grant, there were also members from other countries.

“The best part of the course was the people. Professionals and students creating a diverse background greatly enriched the initial proposal,” said the instructor Lorena Tárcia.  “Some were so involved they became a part of the contract itself. The original formation left the Moodle and expanded to other platforms such as Whatsapp and Google Plus, using in practice what we had seen in content throughout the four weeks. It was a pleasure and a lesson even for me.”

“The results of this MOOC went above our expectations, both in the number of people enrolled and the quality of the papers presented by the students,” said Professor Rosental Alves, Founder and Director of the Knight Center. “It was also the first time that we tried to create a course with an American professor in partnership with a Brazilian professor, presenting all the material in Portuguese. The partnership worked really well.”

Thanks to the support of Google, ANJ, and the Knight Center, six grants to bring students from the MOOC with the best final projects to the 16th International Symposium on Online Journalism and the Eighth Iberoamerican Colloquium of Digital Journalism were offered. These two conferences, organized by the Knight Center, will take place April 17-19, 2015 at the University of Texas at Austin. The grant includes airfare to Austin, and a stipend that covers three days of hotel accommodations and a food stipend.

This was the 13th MOOC offered by the Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin since the 2012 pioneer program, which offered a massive online course specialized in journalism. The initiative has already benefited close to 50,000 people in 160 countries.

The four week MOOC showed how mobile platforms affect journalism, presented the cutting edge practices of mobile journalism including design, product development, audience research, tendencies, and the future of mobile technologies and wearables. At the same time, those who did not previously have experience were able to conceive of and produce journalism via smartphones.

“Even though I witnessed some initiatives and saw the discussion about the inclusion of mobile platforms in newsrooms, I had not inserted myself in this process in an organized way,” said Emídia Ferreira, journalist at the Jornal do Commercio in Recife and one of the students selected to travel to Austin. “The new information gained from the course opened my mind. I could learn about various techniques, see more experiences from the country and the world, and it immersed me in information that will help me offer a better product to my audience.”

The National Association of Newspapers brings together the principal newspapers of Brazil. The ANJ was created in 1979 to defend freedom of expression, thought and propaganda and the functioning without restrictions of the press, fighting for the defense of human rights, and the values of a representative democracy and the free enterprise.

Google is a global business leader in technology that has dedicated itself to the betterment of the ways in which people connect with information. Google’s innovations in web searching and publicity make it one of the principal internet products and its brand one of the most well known world wide.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, Knight Chair in Journalism and UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. In the past, the Center has received contributions from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and other donors such as Open Society Foundations. Currently, the Center operates thanks to the support of the School of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and public donors.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.