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Knight Center and Google’s MOOC concludes with hundreds of journalism projects for the web


On Dec. 19, four days after the conclusion of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas' most recent Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), “Development of Journalistic Projects for the Web," Mexican journalist Luis Cardona launched his site, Diario19.com, an investigative journalism website that seeks to employ journalists who have been displaced by violence in his country.

Cardona was one of the more than 5,000 students who participated in the MOOC, which concluded with the presentation of hundreds of journalism web projects in Spanish, the course's final assignment. Many of these projects, like Cardona's, are already available online; others are still in the planning stage. In all of them, students applied the concepts taught during this free course offered by the Knight Center with Google's support.

Even though Cardona has experience creating journalism projects for print, radio and TV, this is the first time he launches a news site. After taking the course, Cardona has laid out a plan and immediate goals: in two months he wants to reach 1,500 daily visits. He's currently developing a sales strategy and requesting funds from NGOs.

"My experience (as a journalist) is in the practice. Even though I presented a very ambitious project, the course has grounded me and I have started it following all the original precepts, but it's not as open anymore," Cardona said. "I believe without a doubt that (the course) has strengthen me as a person and a communications professional, and I think it has made the project more solid."

Surpassing all expectations, the MOOC in Spanish "Development of Journalistic Projects for the Web" concluded on Dec. 15 after having attracted 5,266 students from 50 countries. It has become the Knight Center's most successful massive course to date.

The five-week course fulfilled its purpose of helping encourage the creation of more quality content in Spanish online. As a result of the class, hundreds of participants developed concrete business plans to create or improve their journalistic projects. More than a hundred of those students have applied to receive the first Google-Knight Center scholarship to attend two digital journalism conferences to be hosted this April in Austin, Texas.

"This massive course exceeded all our expectations, in both the number of registered students and the intense participation in the discussion forums and assignments each week," said Professor Rosental Alves, director and founder of the Knight Center. "We are very thankful with Google Hispanic America for their generous support, which allowed us to bring about this project and benefit thousands of Spanish-speaking journalists."

With websites in Spanish representing only 5 percent of all available content on the Internet, it's important to encourage the production of quality digital content in this language, said Ana Paula Blanco, Google Hispanic America's head of communications.

"It's imperative to train and create incentive models to encourage the production of digital content for the cultural, economic and social development of Hispanic America," Blanco said. "The extraordinary level of participation registered in this course is without a doubt an accurate reflection of this need; that's why Google will continue to support initiatives that contribute to create a web that is increasingly relevant to Spanish speakers."

Of the 5,266 students that registered for the course, 954 came from Mexico, 638 from Colombia, 605 from Spain, 502 from Argentina, 464 from Peru, 332 from Venezuela, 262 from Brazil, 257 from Chile and 230 from Costa Rica.

The MOOC attracted students from almost every country in Latin America, besides Spanish-speaking journalists located in other nations of the world, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, China, France, Italy and Portugal.

It also led to the creation of a new and vibrant learning community on Google Plus that attracted hundreds of participants and will remain active after the conclusion of the course.

Interactive map of the MOOC's participants. Click on the countries to see the number of participants in each.

 

The MOOC's instructor was Janine Warner, a California-based journalist who specializes in digital technologies and has authored 25 books on the topic. She's a well-known instructor with ample international experience who has taught at the University of Miami and the University of Southern California (USC). She was also director of operations at MiamiHerald.com.

Warner said the response to the course was much higher than she had imagined.

“What surprised me most? In a word: diversity. We had so many people sign up for this course, from so many countries, and with such widely varying backgrounds and levels of experience," Warner said. "As I read through the hundreds of introductions posted in the first week, I was amazed to see that they represented nearly every Spanish-speaking country."

Warner said she was impressed with the quality of the projects and added that one of the most successful aspects of the course was the level of participation among students, as well as their willingness to help one another.

"For me, the most satisfying aspect of teaching this MOOC was not just reaching thousands of journalists, but helping them to produce new projects that will potentially bring life-changing information to millions of others," she said.

During the course's five weeks, students worked in a wide diversity of projects. As a side project, Miami-based participant, journalist and attorney Alfredo López made a list of more than 420 notable business plans that were put together during the MOOC and grouped them by categories.

López found 17 projects spearheaded by journalists with more than 20 years of experience; 86 hyperlocal initiatives; 73 focused on politics, economy, medicine, sciences or social issues (like human rights, corruption, gender crimes, environment, etc.); 101 business-related sites; 54 focused on lifestyles or uncontroversial topics (positive news, pets, local culture, sports, tango, etc.); 46 aimed at covering niche topics (music, fashion, movies, educational sites geared toward young audiences, etc.) and 54 personal blogs. 

Luis Cardona, the Mexican journalist who launched Diario 19, has 37 years of experience but said he learned a lot from the MOOC. The most useful parts of the course, he said, were the interviews with experts and the lessons on marketing, strategies to identify niche markets, Search Engine Optimization and the development of a financial project.

Also during the course, Inés García Nieto, a journalist from Veracruz, Mexico, improved her blog Mirada a Distancia, which she described as online forum for women. She took the course seeking ways to expand her site and increase its impact.

Just like Cardona, García Nieto put together a business plan, which helped her define her goals and the audience she wants to reach. Since she began implementing the strategies she learned during the course, she said, her number of users has grown.

"I started my project as a blog last August and had many ideas in my mind (...) but I wanted to know and do everything at the same time. It was the source of a lot of anguish," she said. "I learned a lot with the course, it gave me answers that showed me the way."

"This course helped me assign a value on my products (my information), assign a value on my knowledge and expertise, and to value myself as a professional!"

"Development of Journalistic Projects for the Web" sought to help participants launch or improve sustainable online journalism projects and covered technical and business aspects that have been ignored by most traditional journalism training programs.

And thanks to Google's support, the Knight Center will offer a scholarship that will consist on an all-expenses-paid trip to Austin, Texas to participate in two conferences organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas: the 15th International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) and the Ibero American Colloquium on Digital Journalism. ISOJ will take place on April 4 and 5, and the Colloquium on April 6.

The Google-Knight Center scholarship will be offered to at least six participants of the MOOC that are able to show that they applied what they learned during the course to develop a new journalism project for the web or improved an existing one. The Knight Center has received 114 applications.

The scholarship will be offered only to journalists and journalism students and professors that come from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. The goal is to encourage the creation of more quality digital content in Spanish.

Google is a world-leading technology firm dedicated to improve the ways in which people connect with information. Google's innovations in Internet search and advertising have made its website one of the main products online and its brand one of the most recognizable in the world.  

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is an international leader in online training for journalists. The Center was created in 2002 in the University of Texas at Austin thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. SInce it launched its pioneering Distance Learning program, the Knight Center has trained more than 7,000 journalists across all Spanish-speaking countries and offered more than 100 regular online courses. In 2012 the Center launched the first journalim Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in the world. Since then, the Knight Center's MOOCs have reached more than 27,500 participants in 150 countries.

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