M.A. Program Strategic Plan

Digital Journalism and Design Master’s Program Strategic Plan

In the fall of 2022, the master’s degree in Digital Design and Design celebrated the 10th anniversary of its founding. Significant changes have occurred since that time, including the administrative consolidation of campuses under One USF, the phasing out of our original master’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies, and the placement of the entire USF journalism program within the Department of Journalism and Digital Communication on the St. Petersburg campus. While we continue to implement the details of these changes, we have gained a secure enough footing at present to critically examine where the Department is and where we think it should go. While it would be premature to lay out an ambitious blueprint for additional major changes in the immediate wake of all those that have just occurred, we have created this working strategic plan to help us better refine our thinking on both fronts. 

The long-­range strategic thinking for our professional master's programs centers on four goals:

  1. Continue to engage with the rapidly changing mediascape to reflect the evolving needs of students and industry.
  2. Build on the Department's unique strengths while complementing the University's strategic goals.
  3. Increase enrollment of the graduate program both regionally and nationally through dedicated marketing and outreach.
  4. Continuously improve the quality of our online courses to enrich the student experience.

In the sections that follow, we elaborate on each goal and identify action steps.

Goal 1

We view the rapid flux and disruptions of present-day journalism not as stumbling blocks but as opportunities for us to help improve the profession while becoming a better journalism school. Communicators and media professionals in the 21st century must master core skills such as writing, editing, reporting, critical thinking and rigorous decision making. But journalists also need new skills in visual communication and web design, multimedia reporting, social media, computational journalism and entrepreneurship.

Faced with the rapidly evolving landscape of journalism and communication technology, our program emphasizes that students need more than the skills to operate as a journalist today. They need to learn how to independently acquire new skills so they can be successful journalists tomorrow. This frontier will include the expansion and power of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and synthetic media, all of which present both opportunities and perils for journalism.    

We continue to experiment with, promote and adapt to changing media technology within the more fixed constellation of traditional journalistic values such as accuracy, fairness, transparency and free speech, with special attention to areas where the emerging and the traditional worlds of journalism sometimes clash, such as media law and ethics. Because faculty built the DJD curriculum from the ground-up rather than by retrofitting existing syllabi with new titles and objectives, all of our courses are deeply infused with a digital ethos and an eye toward the future. We emphasize the principles and best practices of effective visual design, video production, photojournalism, audio production and data visualization, while offering a varied collection of professional, self-guiding tutorials (such as LinkedIn Learning) and other online resources where students choose and learn their preferred platforms and software applications. We take this approach because software quickly changes, while the principles do not. This approach also sets the expectation that to keep up with the rapid changes in journalism, students must become motivated, independent learners. 

Our goal is to lay the groundwork not only for students who wish to become tech-savvy journalists but also for those who aspire to become media scholars. Toward this end, students can elect to write a formal thesis or undertake an applied research project (ARP). Coursework prior to either type of culminating project is a blend of the practical and the theoretical. We will continue to improve the framework and resources to improve and expand on these culminating projects. 

Action Steps:

  1. Improve technological capacity of DJD studio through equipment upgrades (2023)
  2. Improve the technological capacity of students through improved equipment (achieved 2022)
  3. Launch weekly webcast hosted by students (in progress)

Goal 2

The Department of Journalism and Digital Communication is uniquely positioned to occupy an unusually rich and forward-looking niche within journalism education. Like many schools, we are helping to create a generation of journalists who operate effectively in today’s media environment. But just as important, our program is dedicated to training risk-taking pioneers on the digital frontier. Specifically, we are building on the following strengths of our program:

  • Our Department’s modest size, independence and digital media lab permit us to develop, experiment with, and readily adapt to the new and emerging trends of digital journalism.
  • Our Department operates within the 11th largest media market in the U.S. and is an integral part of the extensive media ecosystem of the Tampa Bay region. This includes long-standing relationships with the Tampa Bay Times and other regional newspapers; Poynter; Bay News 9 and other stations; the regional affiliate of National Public Radio (WUSF); and other media outlets. Many of our alumni are employed by and many of our students intern for these organizations. Some of our most experienced full-time and part-time faculty have been drawn from them.
  • Our Department is ground zero for some of the most critical environmental problems of our era, including global climate change and its associated sea-level rise and extreme weather. We also operate within the largest concentration of oceanographic institutes in the southeastern U.S., including NOAA, USGS, Florida Oceanographic Institute, and USF college of marine science—all of them on or adjacent to the USF St. Petersburg campus. We will strengthen and expand our partnerships to offer students unprecedented opportunities to learn science journalism.

Action Steps:

  1. Expand Departmental connections and internships with media outlets throughout Tampa Bay.
  2. Capitalize on the expertise of new faculty to expand research and experimental activities of VideoWorks, including data visualization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
  3. Expand collaboration with College of Marine Science to increase opportunities for students and faculty for interdisciplinary activities related to science communication.
  4. Study how the Food Writing and Photography graduate certificate program might be reconceived as part of a science communication initiative, with a focus on sustainability and health.

Goal 3

Because the online M.A. in Digital Journalism and Design offers our Department our greatest potential for immediate growth, we have begun working with the Marketing and Communication Office to create and launch an advertising campaign to increase enrollment, especially with out-of-state students. We plan to launch this campaign in the spring of 2023. The campaign will feature videos that highlight the unique strengths of our program, as described in item 2 of this document. 

Action Steps:

  1. Work with USF St. Petersburg’s  Marketing and Communication Office to launch web campaign
  2. Enlist DJD faculty to do high school outreach in the Tampa Bay area.

Goal 4

Prior to consolidation, USF St. Petersburg based its online course improvement process on Quality Matters, a national, faculty-centered independent organization based in Annapolis, Maryland. Since consolidation, all USF campuses have shifted toward internal reviews of online courses. This is administered through the Academic Planning and Online Initiatives within the College of Arts and Sciences in consultation with Innovative Education, an academic support unit that partners with USF’s colleges “to produce innovative, high-quality, non-traditional for-credit and non-credit programs designed to meet the needs of today’s learners.”

The Florida Board of Governor’s has stated that online courses within the State University System should be reviewed and meet quality standards by 2025. We have taken this a step further and asked the Academic Planning and Online Initiatives staff and Innovative Education to review our entire program, along with improving our orientation for new students. This has set the stage for the following goals:

Action Steps:

  1. Create a schedule for having our four core courses reviewed and meeting quality standards by 2025.
  2. Create an online on-boarding process for new students by 2024.  

 Adopted November 2022.