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Favorite assignments

As I'm still in my second year at Texas State University, I'm still developing my courses and assignments. I pursued several avenues of pedagogical development at Saint Louis University, including designing new courses and revising existing courses. My classes are in perpetual beta—they are continual works in progress as communication knowledge and technologies advance. I strive to ensure my courses incorporate fresh ideas, tools and assignments that reflect market demand in communication industries. Below are a few of my favorite assignments!


Social media analytics + infographics

Students in my Multiplatform Journalism course tweet a lot for class assignments and I wanted them to understand basic analytics. A few weeks into class, I show them how to download their Twitter data into an Excel file and identify their top tweets across different forms of engagement. Then they look for the story in their data: What is it telling them and how can they improve their strategy? They write blog posts explaining their findings.

Later in the semester, we do another round of analysis on their tweets and students create infographics based on what they've learned. After we talk about data visualization and dissect examples, students use Canva to create infographics based on one of two options: They can design an infographic that represents what they learned from their own Twitter analytics or they can create one that presents best practices based on their own data and other sources. 

The slideshows here provide basic details about the assignments. I also wrote a blog post for the students with an example infographic I created using my own Twitter analytics.

News + Spotify music

I can't take credit for this assignment idea (kudos to Prof. Jake Batsell at Southern Methodist University) but it's a fun one to get students thinking about different ways to connect with their news audience. It's a great tie-in to News Engagement Day, which is the first Tuesday in October each year.

Working in groups, students curate a Top 10 list of local news stories from the past week. They write summaries of each item and link to the original story. Then they use Spotify to create a playlist of songs relevant for each story. The students publish their curated news summaries and playlists on their blogs. Prof. Batsell and I have had our students judge each other's creations and select the winning group from each class. I've also had local professional journalists act as judges to select the best news and music pairings.


In the video on the right, I talk about the project in a promo produced by SLU. You can check out a blog post that details the assignment, as well as a recent master playlist that I curated based on the best submissions from each group in my class. 

Story idea stampede

We do this assignment in the first couple of weeks of Multiplatform Journalism: Students have the last 40 minutes(ish) of class to go to designated spots on campus and find story ideas. Before they leave class, they form groups of three and draw campus locations out of a hat. They have to go to the first location to find an original story idea, which they tweet to me. Once their idea is fleshed out through the questions I tweet back to them, the group moves on to find a second story idea, tweets it to me and I again provide feedback.

The slideshow to the right provides an overview of the assignment. 

Profile stories

The introductory news writing class can be overwhelming as students are learning to write in journalistic formats and to conduct interviews. For their first story, students are paired with a classmate and they write profile stories about each other. They have to interview their partner and identify what's newsworthy about that person and make it timely—sometimes, it's that the person has studied abroad and the reporter highlights the student's experiences in connection to an upcoming deadline for study abroad applications. One memorable story focused on a student's job at the on-campus Starbucks and the return of a fall favorite: pumpkin spice lattes.


In addition to interviewing a classmate, the students have to talk to another person who can contribute relevant information to the story. We peer-edit the completed stories in class and students revise them before submitting to me. After the stories are graded, students meet with me individually to go over my edits and they have the option to revise their story to earn some points back before the story is posted on their blog.

I really enjoy this assignment because I learn so much about my students that I likely wouldn't otherwise and it helps ease the students into the world of reporting.

The slideshow to the right provides a few of the assignment's guidelines.

Check back later for more updates and additions!


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