Year

2004

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Hons)

Department

Graduate School of Journalism - Faculty of Creative Arts

Abstract

Computer simulations have been commonplace in some industries such as the military, medicine and science and educators are now actively exploring their potential application to a range of disciplines. Educators and trainers have looked to the multi-billion dollar computer and video game industry for inspiration, and Marc Prensky (2001) has used the phrase digital game-based learning to describe this emerging learning and teaching framework. The purpose of this research project is to produce an Internet-delivered newsgathering/newswriting training package that can be used for an expanding, and increasingly visually literate, tertiary journalism eduction field. This thesis comprises two parts: a) the written component which describes the production of the hypertext-based journalism training scenario and, b) a prototype copy of the training scenario on CD-ROM. The Flood scenario depicts the flooding of a fictional city called Lagoon, and is based on real news stories, media releases and audio-visual material gathered during major floods in the Central West of NSW in August 1990. In its present form Flood is designed as a multi-path learning narrative, which participants must pursue and unravel in their search for news stories. My intention has been to develop a more engaging activity than is currently the case for many traditional, paper-based, approaches to journalism training exercises. Flood is also specifically designed for flexible delivery via the Internet or CD-ROM. This approach makes it especially well suited for both on-campus and distance education students. The Flood resource is at this stage a limited prototype designed as a teaching aid. A theoretical framework combining the roles of researchers and producer is discussed in the thesis. An overview of the use of simulations in journalism education contextualises the practical project, and the place of Web-based scenario simulation within an emerging teaching framework digital game-based learning is considered. There is also an examination of historical precedents for the application of technology in Australian journalism classrooms. The Flood prototype has been trailed at Charles Sturt University with on-campus undergraduate students in 2001 and 2002, and with distance education postgraduate students in 2002. Descriptions of these trials, and details of the student feedback, are provided. This project also includes an experimental narrative element, the use of a software artificial intelligence character known as a chatterbox to explore possibilities for providing a more personal and engaging experience. One of the key design intentions of this project has been consideration of ways to allow participants to develop their own lines of questioning, rather than forcing them to simply follow pre-determined paths. The thesis concludes that digital materials such as the Flood package are worthy of future development to complement the face-to-face instruction in reporting tasks, internships and classroom simulations traditionally used in journalism education and training. Computer simulations are a means for providing students with a controlled exposure to the journalistic process. However, simulation and reality are clearly two different experiences, and digital game-based learning in its present form does not provide a complete substitute for journalism as it is practised in the workplace.

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