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Free Content Virtual Student Exchange in journalism: Collaborative reporting through new media and technology

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Over five decades of empirical research have demonstrated the power of study abroad programmes to broaden students’ perspectives by exposing them to other peoples and cultures. In a range of fields, universities offer study abroad to help prepare students for a rapidly globalizing world. In recent years, short-term study abroad programmes have become popular in helping students of journalism prepare for the rigours of international reporting. However, travel to another country can be difficult and expensive, putting strain on education budgets and limiting access to a relatively small pool of students. Travel to the most newsworthy sites is also frequently impossible due to lack of security. On the whole, study abroad can reinforce historical imbalances. Students from high-income nations tend to have multiple opportunities to travel and view the world from another perspective, while students from low-income countries have significantly fewer opportunities to do the same. In this research, we developed and studied a Virtual Student Exchange programme in journalism, a new pedagogical strategy that harnessed technology to connect a group of students from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, with a similarly composed group of students from the University of Peshawar in Peshawar, Pakistan. For modest cost, the programme provided all students with an opportunity to meet one another, learn about each other’s societies, and work collaboratively on newsworthy events in each other’s country. Informed by Contact Theory, the programme also provided students with opportunities to serve as fixers for one another, and thus to view the relationship between international correspondent and local fixer from both perspectives. Open-ended surveys and semi-structured interviews conducted after the experience show how students on both sides gained from the experience, suggesting productive avenues for further research.
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Keywords: Virtual Student Exchange; contact theory; cross-cultural exchange; exchange; journalism; journalism education; online collaborations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Australian Journalism Review publishes articles on a broad range of perspectives relating to journalism research, practice and education. Its emphasis is on original theoretical, empirical and applied research, but it also provides opportunities to canvass perspectives on current debates on research, practice and education through commentary pieces on specific topics.

    This double-blind peer-reviewed journal is published twice annually, with the second edition each year focused primarily on a theme and supplemented by a small selection of broader-ranging papers.

    Prospective guest editor submissions on themes for future editions are always welcome. While many of Australian Journalism Review's submitting authors are based within the Australia-Pacific region, the journal welcomes scholarship from around the world and extending into broader media and communication topics of relevance to journalism.

    The journal incorporates a regular section highlighting the work of early career researchers, particularly current or recent higher degree by research students, as well as book reviews focusing on recent additions to the journalism, media and communications publishing landscape.

    AJR is the journal of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia.

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