European accents to train the future journalists

European accents to train the future journalists

As an Erasmus+ project, KA2 DESTIN changes the system of training specialists for the media environment

Robot journalist, artificial intelligence, ChatGPT, who (or what?) will write a news story in 140 characters instantly? This information line is already commonplace. Times and circumstances have changed journalism. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine influenced the subject and content of the media. News consumers are demanding. Producers of media products compete, fight for readers, listeners, and viewers. Discussions between practitioners and theoreticians of journalism sometimes boil down to whether this profession will remain in demand at all? At the Educational and Scientific Institute of Journalism of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, there is a confidence that there will be journalism, because artificial intelligence will not replace human intelligence. But journalists already now need to learn to quickly master new and new knowledge and skills. To keep up with the emergence of robotics in newsrooms, to skillfully work with large amounts of information, to manage new technical means of distributing journalistic materials. To cope with these challenges and maintain interest in the profession among future professionals, professors themselves need to change. For the professors of the biggest university, such changes come with the creation and mastering of new technologies, formats, and training programmes.

About the technology of training future journalists is in an interview with the director of the Educational and Scientific Institute of Journalism of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Professor Volodymyr Rizun and associate professor, Ph.D. in social communications, associate professor at this university’s social communications department Bogdana Nosova about the technology for training future journalists. For four years, these scholars, together with the university team and partners from seven European countries, led the Erasmus + KA 2 DESTIN project with the support of the European Union. Volodymyr Rizun was the institutional manager, and Bogdana Nosova was the administrative manager. This project initiated significant changes in the system of training professionals for the media environment.

- Professor Rizun, what is the nature of the DESTIN project?

Volodymyr Rizun: DESTIN is “Journalism Education for Democracy in Ukraine: Developing Standards, Integrity and Professionalism”.

The teaching staff and journalists who worked on this project call it by its shorted abbreviation, i.e., by the first letters DESTIN.

This project helped us and other professors from 10 Ukrainian universities to change curricula and programmes in journalism for bachelors and masters. What is it for? First of all, so that our graduates can find a better job after their studies. Now the curricula and programmes have been modernized, that is, we have brought the training technology closer to the standards of the European Union. And this means that there are wider employment opportunities not only in the domestic, local media. The interest of foreign media in Ukrainian news has increased. That is why the international mobility of Ukrainian journalists is becoming more active. This project aims to improve and develop journalism education in Ukraine – updating curricula and study programmes in journalism for bachelors and masters. Its implementation brings the teaching technology closer to the European Union’s standards. And this means that journalism students have broader employment opportunities, and their international mobility is getting more active. Also, the project is interesting for a wide range of stakeholders since DESTIN focuses on providing skills for spreading media literacy in society. The Educational and Scientific Institute of Journalism of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv was the national coordinator of DESTIN from Ukraine.

- How did it all begin, and why exactly did the Institute of Journalism become the national coordinator?

Volodymyr Rizun: The desire to modernize education does not arise spontaneously. It is inspired by changes in the media industry and society. This is not our first project to update journalism education. DESTIN was also based on the resources and knowledge developed in the Tempus ALIGN project, also funded by the European Union. And how it all began and why our Institute became the national coordinator is well known to Professor Bogdana Nosova...

- Professor Nosova, will you combine memories with real results?

Bogdana Nosova: When I stand in front of my students, I remember being a student myself in the classroom. Memory brings the words of the best professors about the journalist’s responsibility in the profession, in public communication. And it is a responsibility that prompts us to generate difficult decisions in journalism education. Our Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and, in particular, our Institute of Journalism collaborated with Bath Spa University from United Kingdom before. During my professional development internships at this university with Professor Paul Hyland and other colleagues, we discussed and developed models and concepts of educational cooperation and internationalization. I wanted to create a worthwhile educational project to draw attention to transformations in the digital and traditional media environments. After the visit of UK colleagues to our university, the creative ideas of professors Paul Hyland and Volodymyr Rizun came together. Professor Hyland and I were able to model multi-component collaborative tasks. And its implementation was possible with the support of the European Union Erasmus+ programme under the KA2 CBHE action (official title), which means Capacity Building in the field of Higher Education. This is how the implementation of the plan – qualitative changes in journalism education – began. Our Institute became the national coordinator because, starting from the idea and writing the application for receiving funds from the European Union, we did a lot of work with Ukrainian universities and employers.

- Whom did the project unite? Who is already improving the training of journalists from many departments and faculties of Ukrainian universities?

Volodymyr Rizun: In the project, we managed to link 20 European institutions, including 10 Ukrainian universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations of Ukraine, as well as universities and non-governmental organizations from Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and thus create a strong sectoral partnership network with good prospects for further collaboration. We were fortunate that the Bath Spa University carried out the overall coordination, moderation and management very clearly and consistently. Professors Paul Hyland, Ian Gadd, Rachael McDonald and Adele Keane have been the best professional and moral support during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine. We adopted their experience and their style and became the national coordinator as the initiators of the idea. Staff at the National Erasmus+ Office in Ukraine provided consulting assistance throughout the entire project implementation.

- What is the purpose of such a union of so many institutions and why is the project taking such a long time?

Bogdana Nosova: You must have noticed how many new opportunities have opened up for Ukrainian journalists who are fluent in foreign languages, know the techniques and technologies of transmitting news and facts for the media of different countries, in particular the EU, UK, and the USA. And this is happening against the background of the narrowing and reduction of the domestic, local media market. Our graduates help colleagues from other countries to get accredited in the press offices of Ukrainian ministries, accompany them on trips with special permits to de-occupied territories and to Ukrainian soldiers. They help colleagues from other countries to understand the historical roots of the centuries-old Ukrainian struggle for independence.

That is why we introduce the competence experience of Western universities in education. Our students are already learning to quickly perceive changes and challenges accompanying not only the media industry, but also Ukrainian society. After all, European standards of integrity and professionalism are present in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). These are the horizons and the goal that we strive to reach with updated curricula and training programmes for bachelors and masters.

To this we add the National Guidelines – a collection of materials that will be helpful to all universities training media professionals in Ukraine. Many of our higher educational institutions train professionals for the media. Therefore, we involved many of them to enable networking and cooperation between universities, national employers and student governments, as well as revitalize student and faculty exchanges with local and foreign universities. The project was planned according to the rules of similar programmes of the European Union for three years, i.e., from 2018 to 2021. But the circumstances affected the course of the project: first, COVID-19, and then the full-scale Russian war in Ukraine. So, the EU, the European Commission’s own European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), has extended the terms of our work on implementing this project.

- At one of the working conferences, Professor Rizun, you mentioned that implementing the DESTIN project opens up the European future for Ukrainian journalism education. What is its mission?

Volodymyr Rizun: Thanks to previous international projects, the mobility of our teaching staff, and creative approaches to writing study programmes, we managed to pass the first stage – the construction of an educational platform on which the educational process takes place. The second stage is partly related to the implementation of DESTIN. Its primary idea is to format the new content of bachelor’s and master’s programmes.

The general phrase – “Learn, you need it as journalists” – remains ill-considered. Students need help comprehending why they have a diverse number of courses. Currently, the Institute has implemented an experimental programme for bachelor training. Professors began to work as part of a single pedagogical team in delivering a complex course according to the designed modules. Each module is formed by a separate professor under the guidance of the person responsible for the sequence of modules in a certain course. For example, students master interviews. Previously, it was part of the study of genres in journalism in general. Now it is a combination with the processes of the development of the genre: interviews in various media, in social media as well, etc. There are also lectures on interviewing technology, writing, filming, fact-checking, and acquiring communication skills. Emphasis on the ability to prepare one’s own intellectual base related to the interview topic is mandatory. This is followed by practical classes. On them, students unite and reproduce the processes of promotion of a media product. They learn how to model interviews for subject matter, relevance, and readability. This is how modular learning technology works.

This is what reveals the European nature of the educational process. But it turned out that such a form of teamwork is beyond the power of individual professors. We needed their retraining. Perhaps to this end, we will design a new international project. In the future, we hope to submit the bachelor’s programme for international accreditation. This is very important for the future professional diploma, for students from other countries. In addition, we are working on the implementation of a new master’s programme. This work requires innovative approaches and a focus on the scientific aspect. We also ensure that the implementation of DESTIN objectives is in harmony with the requirements of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance and in conjunction with European education standards.

- Therefore, after completing the DESTIN project, the achievements include new curricula and completely changed study programmes for bachelors and masters, and what else?

Volodymyr Rizun: The main products include the document, which is the “Collection of National Methodological Guidelines for the Content, Development and Implementation of the Bachelor’s and Master’s Study Programmes in Journalism Developed within Erasmus+ KA2 DESTIN Project” (abbreviated title “National Guidelines”), an official thematic website for communicating the results of the work and for all those interested in the idea of change, a series of online Media Literacy Outreach Courses. The National Guidelines were developed together with journalism teaching staff from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia National University, Mariupol State University, Academician Stepan Demianchuk International University of Economics and Humanities, Bohdan Khmelnytsky National University of Cherkasy, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Sumy State University, Uzhhorod National University, Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University. The creation of National Guidelines was preceded by monitoring and analysis of the curricula of Ukrainian universities, by meetings and trainings, and consultations with our international partners. They are based on Ukrainian educational legislation and data reflected in comparative and analytical reports, improved methodology and advice from Ukrainian professional associations, student associations and employers in journalism. This methodological guide is publicly available on the official website of our project in Ukrainian and English

Bogdana Nosova: Activities within DESTIN helped universities to partially upgrade the equipment for training students – future media workers. But most importantly, it affected the change in understanding the journalists’ role in a multicultural society. Work on the implementation of the project’s objectives contributed to the establishment of stable relations between the journalistic university community and the media industry in Ukraine. We can observe increasing internationalization of study programmes and the emerging professional networks between European journalism schools. Thus, the Faculty of Journalism of Lviv University, which was represented in the project by Natalia Habor, Yuliana Lavrysh, Yuriy Zalizniak and their colleagues, developed and signed an Agreement with the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań on cooperation in the implementation of master’s programmes. Students who study with it will receive diplomas from Ukrainian and Polish universities. And the final meeting of the project was successfully prepared by colleagues at the Adam Mickiewicz University, Bartosz Hordecki, Tomasz Brańka, and Jędrzej Skrzypczak. Due to the all-out Russian war in Ukraine, this conference had to be moved from Lviv to Poznań.

Participants from Ukrainian universities united into the Ukrainian Forum for Educators in Media and Journalism, which opens wider prospects for interaction and cooperation, as well as for domestic and international mobility of students and professors. In addition, we developed new online media literacy courses aimed at high school students, university students and the wider society.

Volodymyr Rizun: After February 24, 2022, we implemented the DESTIN project in the conditions of a large-scale Russian war against Ukraine. Our partner, Mariupol State University, was destroyed and relocated from Mariupol to Kyiv. Russian bombings destroyed the buildings of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Our universities had to reformat the educational and research process quickly. Training in bomb shelters was added to online work.

The campuses of more than 43 universities and academic institutes were damaged or destroyed due to the shelling and bombing of the regions of Ukraine by the Russian invaders. International partners began to provide assistance from the first days of the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. DESTIN showed us how to think about the perspective of the post-war recovery of Ukrainian universities.

The interview was conducted by Yurii Havrylets, journalist, Ph.D. in social communications, Assistant Professor at the Educational and Scientific Institute of Journalism of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

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