Virtual reality softwareThe College of Media, Communication and Information is set to build an immersive technology lab, revise curriculum for several courses and increase the amount of technology available to students with support from a $125,000 grant from the Hearst Foundation.

“As demand for this content continues to grow, so does the need for journalists and multimedia storytellers to conceive and create it,” said Dean Lori Bergen. “With a multitude of media outlets generating and sharing immersive content, we want to ensure that our students are able to bring these skills into the professional working environment after graduation.”

The first project to roll out is an immersive technology lab opening this fall that will establish a dedicated space for the CMCI community.

“The lab will be a resource for both formal instruction and a place for faculty and students to experiment with virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video,” said Bergen. “We’ll also have a few mobile units available for check out for projects in the field and outreach efforts.”

An influx of additional technology will support a number of curricular enhancements, including developing a multi-platform news service as a capstone course for all journalism students and breaking the current introductory news writing and multimedia course into two separate courses.

“In their final semester before graduation, all students will come together under the new model of a single capstone course – a blended, fully-functional, multimedia production lab,” said Elizabeth Skewes, chair of the Department of Journalism. “For introduction to reporting, students will take two courses simultaneously with one focusing on the foundations of good journalism, including generating story ideas, interviewing and writing, and the other immersing students in video and audio projects, as well as social media and web design.”

Additional planned technology infrastructure enhancements include lab upgrades to support innovative teaching and the installation of digital monitors to streamline checkout of equipment. Multimedia displays at high-traffic locations throughout the college will recognize student and alumni success, scholarship winners and faculty research, and will acknowledge the support of CMCI donors and foundation partners.

“We’re creating an environment in which students work with state-of-the-art equipment and software from the day they arrive until the day they graduate,” Bergen said. “This is the direction we’ve been moving in and the support from the Hearst Foundation makes it possible to accelerate the pace of these changes.”