Communication Currents

Instructor’s Corner: Final Project Planning for Multimedia Journalism Courses

April 1, 2016
Instructional Communication

Yulia S. Medvedeva has created a single-class activity that enables students to learn the logic of planning a project, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of different media tools in telling a story, and practice critical thinking. She finds the exercise particularly useful for students who are planning final projects because it helps them practice visualizing and articulating the major components of the projects using a table called a morphological matrix.

As an educational tool, morphological analysis is a brainstorming technique that allows students to consider two dimensions of a multimedia project simultaneously: the content of the project and forms of the content. Medvedeva outlines the steps for the activity as follows.  

Draw a table that fills the entire blackboard. Vertically, list the required components of the multimedia project (text, photo gallery, audio slideshow, video, etc.). Leave the horizontal dimensions blank and do not divide the horizontal space with lines—the content will be brainstormed with students, and the number of ideas will affect the number of columns. At the start of the activity, explain to the students that you will practice applying the logic of editorial planning to multimedia projects on the example of a project about a local roller derby team.

Explain to students that they will identify all the possible aspects of one story and find the best way to convey each aspect using the available multimedia tools. Next, ask them to describe the characteristics of each multimedia tool you listed and ask them what kind of information is best communicated via each particular tool. For example, text best explains problems because it can provide context, background, or analysis. Video, on the other hand, conveys action and drama. Ask them to name concepts associated with roller derby. They may name fans, athletes, speed, competitions, etc. Document this list in an available space on the board. Then group the attributes by similarities (e.g., people, events, rules, issues). Write them down as the heading for the columns in the table and draw the vertical lines to complete the morphological matrix.

Let students spend 15 minutes in their final project groups so they can imagine together how they might use multimedia tools to tell the story of a roller-derby team. Ask them to brainstorm the combinations of attributes and multimedia genres that would be most effective for telling different parts of the story. Ask the groups how they filled in the cells of the matrix. Make sure that the students explain the logic behind their decisions.

As a take-home assignment, ask the groups to plan their final projects by filling in a morphological matrix in a similar manner.

By drawing on a concrete story example, this activity helps students engage in discussion, elucidating the ways each multimedia element is effective in telling different parts of a story.

About the author (s)

Yulia S. Medvedeva

University of Missouri

Doctoral Candidate