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Reframing the Humanities for the Digital Era: Lifelong Learning in a Digital Communication Program

Published onMar 14, 2024
Reframing the Humanities for the Digital Era: Lifelong Learning in a Digital Communication Program
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Changes in the workplace due to the pandemic, the need for digital fluency, a new normal of virtual community and digital citizenship, and demand for skilled communicators drove curriculum development in an online bachelor of science in digital communication . We offer this paper as a case study for creative approaches to rethinking a humanities-based curriculum by revising existing courses, developing new ones adapted to emergent needs in the field, and upskilling current faculty. Careful research and analysis of related programs, employment projections, and developments in the field led us to design a program that reframed a humanities curriculum within a digital framework that integrates theory with practice, while preparing students to remain current in evolving fields and adapt to new careers through a lifelong learning framework. Students in the program cover history, theory, and global communication while learning data management, web design skills, data visualization, and digital storytelling or media criticism, with specific skills and capstones tied to career goals while learning to work as digital journalists or marketers, in the creative arts, or as researchers and critics of digital life. We endeavoured to ensure that students will learn what they need to compete in today’s workplace, while preparing them to be flexible as these workplaces change.

The Environment

SUNY Empire State University (Empire) was established in 1971 by then-Chancellor Ernest L. Boyer as a pioneering distributed State University of New York (SUNY) comprehensive liberal arts and science institution focused on educating students at any stage of life or learning, with faculty mentors working closely with students to design individualized degree programs (SUNY Empire website). Empire has been offering online courses since 1995, is SUNY’s leading online institution, and has long been an international leader in adult-centred open, distance, online, and digital learning. Before the pandemic, students engaged in multiple modes of learning, including in-person classes, online courses, individualized studies, and study groups. Since 2020, students are choosing to take more than 95% of undergraduate courses in an online or virtual format (“Decision Support”).

The college has long applied the philosophical propositions of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and other progressive educational thinkers, with a strong social justice leaning and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.1 We currently serve 18,000+ students spread across four generations of learners—baby boomers, gen x, millennials (or gen y), and gen z, each with different needs and desires (Dimock). Our diverse student body is geographically distributed across New York and worldwide.

Historically, most of our students have been working adults with established careers, many of whom attended previous colleges. Over 50% of our students have children. We are, however, seeing a demographic shift to include more traditional aged students (18–22), and the ages of our current students range from 18–65, with some outliers on both ends. Until recently, students chose from 13 areas of study and followed flexible guidelines to plan individualized degrees. In recent years, we have created several new, more structured degrees in response to changes in the higher education landscape, student demographics, and learning preferences.

As post-traditional learners, many of our students are quite accomplished in their fields and arrive with advanced knowledge acquired outside of formal higher education settings. The college has deep expertise in assessing prior learning, is transfer friendly, and allows students to apply for credit via Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) as a substitute for in-class credits, based on their work and life experiences. In 2019, SUNY Empire awarded 57,000 prior learning credits, and recently the SUNY Chancellor has developed a policy to emphasize PLA across SUNY (“Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation”). Students are evaluated on their college-level learning and knowledge acquired through prior training, education, professional development, work experiences, personal learning, hobbies, and volunteerism. They are required to discuss in detail how they learned what they claim to know, not just what they have done, and demonstrate that the learning equivalency requested is at the college-level and would meet or exceed the outcomes of similar courses. The PLA credits on their transcript provide measurable evidence of their prior Lifelong Learning (LLL), which we intentionally infuse throughout the program in Digital Communication.

Lifelong Learning

According to a 2016 Pew Research survey on lifelong learning and technology, “73% of American adults consider themselves lifelong learners;” 74% “participated in at least one of a number of possible activities over a year to advance their knowledge about something that personally interests them;” and “63% of those who are working (or 36% of all adults) are[…] professional learners—that is, they have taken a course or gotten additional training in the past 12 months to improve their job skills or expertise connected to career advancement” (Horrigan). In their review of literature on Lifelong Learning (LLL), Marjan Laal and Peyman Salamati summarize the definition as follows:

LLL is a continuously supportive process which stimulates and empowers individuals to acquire all the knowledge, values, skills and understanding they will require throughout their lifetimes and to apply them with confidence, creativity and enjoyment in all roles, circumstances and environment [sic] (Bryce, J., Frigo, T., McKenzie, P. & Withers, G., 2000; Longworth, N. and Davies, W. K., 1996). LLL is viewed as involving all strategies that are put in place to create opportunities for people to learn throughout life. It therefore should be a process of conscious continuous learning that goes throughout life and directed towards providing both the individual needs and that of the relevant community, that will not only develop individuals to become responsible to themselves and their communities, but understand and involve actively at all levels of their societies (Abukari, A., 2004). (Laal and Salamat 400; citations formatted as in the original)

Definitions of lifelong learning have changed over the years. The current interpretation combines educating for social awareness, empowerment, and good citizenship with the need for skilled 21st century workers. Ana Ivenicki relates:

As claimed by Slowey and Schuetze (2012), the complexity of the concept of lifelong learning masks a fundamental conflict between, on the one hand, a model of lifelong learning derived from principles of social justice and equity and, on the other, a model geared towards market-oriented concerns and informed by human capital perspective. In a social justice and multicultural perspective, we argue that effective lifelong learning is likely to happen when digital curricular contents have been embedded with inclusionary strategies that foster plural students’ critical thinking and empowerment. (362; citations as formatted in the original)

Additionally, the article “Lifelong Learning from a Social Justice Perspective” states that “four main purposes emerge for LLL: (i) promoting economic development and employment; (ii) social inclusion, cohesion and democratic participation; (iii) personal growth and self-fulfillment; and (iv) cultural development and enrichment” (Vargas 4). Our program aims for all of these with a focus on digital citizenship, ethical and social responsibility, and differentiating truth from fiction and propaganda. Applying the LLL model ensures that students will be able to compete in the constantly changing world of digital communication.

We realize that with the emerging metaverse, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and other contemporary concepts, digital communication may change faster than we can develop or revise courses. Our approach to addressing this issue is to provide a learning infrastructure that supports LLL by encouraging students to think creatively, work together, explore new tools and approaches, learn independently, and be adaptive to change. Poquet and de Laat write in “Developing Capabilities: Lifelong Learning in the Age of AI” that:

The concerns and optimism in the discourse around AI-based applications is motivated by their professed potential to augment worker productivity, transform occupations, and therefore, impact jobs and employment. Against this backdrop, the focus on learning to adapt and develop new skills, identify opportunities for change, and be ready to modify stable trajectories of life and work is as critical as ever. (1696)

The recent discussions and controversy over ChatGPT and other AI tools suggest that our early considerations of these were not misguided. As M.C. Elish and danah boyd explain, “The purportedly neutral collection and analysis of large quantities of data promise to present insights that can transcend human limitations. Yet, Big Data and AI must be understood as socio-technical concepts. That is, the logic, techniques, and uses of these technologies can never be separated from their specific social perceptions and contexts of development and use” (58). Students may find that these tools can make the tedium of some jobs (or cheating on coursework) easier, but should also learn to be wary of trusting either the technologies, which cannot always distinguish fact from fiction, or from humans who might use them to replace human workers, or for more nefarious purposes such as promulgating “fake news.” We designed our program with these ideas in mind, with a focus on educating good digital citizens while preparing them for the workplace and, if this is their goal, for graduate studies.

Theoretical Foundations

We designed the digital communication program to create a learning community using a community of inquiry (COI) framework emphasizing cognitive, teaching, and social presence (“The Community of Inquiry”). Faculty at SUNY Empire, including the authors, were early adopters of the COI framework. At the time the framework was developed, research was conducted on the COI in the SUNY Learning Network, of which SUNY Empire was the leader in online programming (Shea, Li, Swan, and Pickett; Shea, Pickett, and Pell; Shea, Li, and Pickett). With over two decades of implementation, research, and practice, this is a mature model applied across the curriculum.

D. Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson, and Walter Archer state that cognitive presence is “the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication” (89). Teaching presence, they explain, is “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning outcomes” (89). Finally, they describe social presence as “the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as ‘real people’” (89). Each of our online courses includes discussion areas, and our instructors are expected to set the tone for inclusive practices, participate frequently, guide discussion, and respond to questions or issues. Many of the courses include peer review and/or group work. To this, we added an entry “cohort” course and another with required virtual meetings, group activities and projects, and peer review.

We also utilized the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework. TPACK emphasizes the importance of the intersections between technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge. The framework “proposes that effective integration of technology into the curriculum requires a sensitive understanding of the dynamic relationship between all three components” (Bower et al. 1154). Technological knowledge in our case refers to the use of digital tools such as spreadsheets, stylesheets, apps, social media, virtual media tools, and websites, and to digital fluency in the use of online learning environments. Pedagogical knowledge refers to the application of Knowles’s andragogical model, as well as the seminal guidance in “Seven Good Practices in Undergraduate Education”, and effective practices in online teaching and learning (Chickering and Gamson).2 Our pedagogical methods emphasize authentic assessment, active learning, and project-based learning. Content knowledge includes the history, theory, and application of disciplines in the field of communication and media combined with deep expertise in digital media and emerging technologies.

Background

The authors are tenured faculty with doctoral degrees in areas related to media and communication and have deep experience in curating digital curricula in these disciplines. Though our own education was primarily in traditional arts and humanities fields, our engagement in online learning environments, digital media, emerging technologies, and social media for learning evolved organically over the years. For one of the authors, this includes longitudinal research in virtual worlds and immersive learning (since 1999). For the other, it includes experience in advertising and public relations, instructional design of computer-assisted learning since 1992 in corporate and academic environments, and research in media studies and digital humanities. We both have instructional design expertise, and currently serve in administrative roles supervising courses, curriculum development, and teaching faculty.

Questions we asked as we reframed an existing program in communication and media with a digital communication track into a new program in digital communication included: How can we prepare students for a rapidly changing communication environment? How do we provide a framework for students to transfer skills and knowledge to ever-changing new media and technologies? How can we instill critical methods to examine issues such as the proliferation of misinformation, the societal impact of major social media platforms, and the way information and data practices affect society, workplaces, schools, and individual well-being? How will faculty stay current with emergent developments and aligned fields?

We first had to define our terms. The field of “communication” means different things at different institutions of higher education. It may be allied with various academic divisions such as social sciences, English, theatre and speech, marketing and advertising, film and media, and/or with a campus TV or radio station. There is, of course, a history to this. Communication started as rhetoric in ancient Greece. In more recent history, “academic departments like Communication are a relatively recent phenomenon[:] While there is evidence of speech instruction in the U.S. as far back as the colonial period, 100 years ago there were only a few departments of Communication in U.S. colleges and universities (Lumen Learning). From 1890 to 1920, ‘the various aspects of oral communication were drawn together and integrated, under the common rubric of speech’ and generally housed in departments of English (Gray 422)” (Hahn and Paynton). However, in the 1910s, “The art and science of oral communication went in different directions than traditional areas of focus in English, and those with these interests wanted the resources and recognition that accompanied this field of study” (Hahn and Paynton) and oral communication became more separate. Donald Smith explains that by “1944 the United States Office of Education used its own survey of speech departments to assure the educational world that ‘the expressive arts have gained full recognition in college programs of study’” (qtd. In Hahn and Paynton). After this, “new areas of communication research emerged to answer the relevant questions of the day” which included political questions, the influence of mass media, social psychology and more. These days:

The field maintains strong teaching and research interests in areas such as rhetoric, mass communication, instructional communication, interpersonal communication, group communication, organizational communication, intercultural communication, gender communication, health communication, visual communication, communication and sport, Latino/Latina Communication Studies, family communication, and many more. (Hahn and Paynton)

As Sarah Trenholm states, “Throughout the history of communication study, new technologies have continually affected our ideas of what communication is.” She goes on to explain:

In contemporary departments, two approaches to the study of communication are evident. Many scholars continue in the rhetorical tradition. They use the historical and critical methods of the humanities in their studies of the ways in which symbolic activity shapes public response to political and ethical issues[….] A second school of thought takes a more scientific approach to the study of communication. At the turn of the twentieth century, many disciplines were influenced by the scientific method, a belief in controlled laboratory experimentation and careful, objective measurement[.…] Rather than relying on introspection, communication scientists decided to observe and measure communication behaviors either in natural, real-world settings or in laboratories (Kindle location 1270; 1281–1287).

Our program originated in the humanistic tradition, under the umbrella of cultural studies, and has solid foundations in humanities-based research, interpretation, and methods. We adopted a more interdisciplinary approach that includes some social science and science-oriented approaches, while continuing to privilege a humanities framework.

The Data

We started with data from the previous five years from our Office of Decision Support in 2017. SUNY and City University of New York (CUNY) community college enrolment data demonstrated that there was a significant pipeline of students graduating with associate degrees in areas related to communication and media studies, whether in communication studies, communication arts, speech and communication, or journalism. The feeder schools include 21 two-year colleges. Many of these students transfer into our programs. Although also public colleges like our own, their students tend to be more traditional aged, and many of the feeder schools had significantly more “majors” than we have students concentrating in similar fields. There are also 29 SUNY and CUNY schools that are 4-year or comprehensive colleges or universities with communication programs that could be considered our competition, although we both grant many associate degrees, and many students who start at those 4-year colleges are challenged by their traditional expectations and find their way to us for bachelor’s degrees. A few programs had under twenty graduates, but most had between 150 and over 500, with over 1000 from SUNY Buffalo. Although 5-year enrolment trends were trending slightly lower in most programs, there was growth in others. We felt that with an updated curriculum, students might choose our program.

We also paid particular attention to the areas SUNY Empire students were choosing to focus on as they created individualized degrees in cultural studies, which is what our institution calls the area of study comprising literature, writing, communication, humanities, philosophy, religious studies, and world languages. “Decision Support” found 465 students at SUNY Empire with the word “communication” in their degree titles, which could be communication and media (the concentration listed on our website), communication and media arts, communication(s), or any number of more interdisciplinary or creative titles including communication and religion, corporate public relations and communication, creative and professional communications, and studies in environmental communications (“Decision Support”). We already knew from course enrolment data that an increasing number of students were choosing to take courses from our existing digitally focused curriculum rather than more conventional communication courses, including Digital Arts & Design, Digital Marketing or Digital Anthropology. This included several students choosing concentration titles in digital communication (“Decision Support”). We decided to differentiate our degree from others by designing a digital focus, rather than replicate the various approaches to communication and media curricula at our feeder and competing schools.

The program director also spent significant time analyzing occupational outlook dashboards in New York State, and curricula from other colleges’ catalogs, including SUNY and CUNY feeder schools and other schools offering a bachelor’s program, matching their course titles in spreadsheet form to similar courses and to our own under generic categories. She learned that while most had a core that included similar courses to our lower-level offerings, beyond that the choices were broad and differed wildly depending on the focus of the program. There was very little focus on digital communication, although a few programs included a course called Writing for Digital Media and/or a course similar to our Social Media: Communication and Culture. We were therefore free to reimagine how a humanities-based communication program could be reframed for the digital era.

Goals of the Program

We had several goals for this new program:

  1. Build on current courses already offered online, including not only courses within the communication and media studies area, but other areas that provided the requisite skills and knowledge (for example, marketing, housed in the School of Business or web design, housed in the School of Science, Math and Technology).

  2. Build on the communication curricula from SUNY and CUNY community colleges from which many students would transfer.

  3. Keep the required courses relatively limited to allow for transfer credit, PLA, and electives tied to individual student interests.

  4. Have multiple tracks to attract and educate students with a variety of goals. To that end, in addition to the required courses, students choose tracks consisting of two 3000-level courses and a 4000-level capstone. They will be able to choose from digital journalism, digital marketing, media studies, or arts.

  5. Respond to the current political moment by infusing practices of good digital citizenship including the ability to distinguish among facts, propaganda, fake news, and clickbait, citation of others’ materials, and respectful interaction and critique.

  6. Build in the notion that communication careers change constantly, and that understanding the future of each field, learning to network, and experiencing “the hustle”—being adaptive to the gig economy, proactive in their career management, and resilient in handling changing expectations—are key skills that should be started with the student’s first courses, and reiterated throughout the program.

  7. Foster collaboration and provide opportunities for team-based learning.

  8. Encourage students to learn technical skills beyond the curriculum through other venues such as reading, tutorials, technical bootcamps, YouTube videos, or trial and error.

The Curriculum

The curriculum includes a core of basic skills and foundational knowledge for students who enter the program without a completed associate degree. These are standard “core” offerings such as Introduction to Communication, Media Literacy, and Intercultural Communication. We revised an existing course in Media Writing into Writing for Digital Media. We added a foundational course in Digital Communication, Cultures & Careers as well as Digital Communication Strategies I, a hybrid course focused on using virtual tools in small groups. Marketing Principles, Introduction to Data Management Tools, and Web Design round out the introductory level courses.

Students with a completed associate degree will be allowed to move directly to the advanced level offerings, although students with space in their programs will be encouraged to choose electives or take outside tutorials on their own that will prepare them for advanced skills. These courses include an advanced version of Digital Communication, Cultures and Careers, Social Media: Communication & Culture, Digital Communication Strategies II, which focuses on human interaction and larger groups, Media, Ethics & Law, Data Visualization, a choice of Digital Storytelling or Television & Culture (which includes recent developments in digital television and streaming), Global Communication & Media, and History & Theory of New Media. Students then choose two 3000-level electives among courses in visual arts, media and film studies, digital media arts, communication, marketing, museum studies or photography. They may replace one or both with an internship or PLA. Capstone choices include a 21st Century Journalism, Self-Management and Self Marketing, Professional Digital Portfolio, or Women, Girls & The Media.

To infuse lifelong learning from a distance, we provide significant group work. A 2021 report from the Global Learning Council, in collaboration with The New York Times, concludes one of the key recent competencies in digital literacy is virtual collaboration. The authors explain “Virtual collaboration offers numerous opportunities to increase educational access and inclusivity, reduce operational costs, create less hierarchical communication structures, and modernize existing infrastructures and processes. Most importantly, virtual collaboration can foster more meaningful and more sustainable exchanges among both students and academics” (Global Learning Council). Online study can be alienating; it is easy for students to just fade away. We designed the program to create a sense of community from the start, building on our existing COI framework emphasizing cognitive, teaching, and social presence (“The Community of Inquiry”). Helping students acquire distance and remote collaboration skills would be to their advantage in later work or education.

Caroline Haythornthwaite explains that “learning is a social process, enacted through interaction, exchanges, conversations and collaborations (Shum and Ferguson, 2012; Bandura, 2001)” (22; citations in the original). As mentioned above, it is clear that networking is key to landing jobs in digital media, and many students were simply not prepared in our previous advanced Capstone in Communication & Media course when they were asked to find an expert to interview, despite that being a key skill in job hunting, journalism, or many types of freelance social media work, so we wanted to build in the concept of networking from the start.

Digital Communication, Cultures and Careers was designed, therefore, as an entry course in the program, offered at either the 1000 or the 3000 level, depending on the experience of the student. While being introduced to the field and some of its controversies, students write a paper on “The Future of the Field” for which they interview practitioners and conduct research in the field they aspire to enter, or in which they are already employed, (but hope to be promoted or change jobs), to try to predict where that field might be going and what skills or knowledge successful practitioners should cultivate. This should help students determine the most appropriate required electives, and those with space in their programs to plan for PLA, choose related additional electives, or plan for extracurricular learning. Discussion exercises are designed to encourage interaction including an interview exercise and an online debate. Infused throughout courses in the program are opportunities for students to react to current news, such as a “bulletin board” where students and instructors introduce recent related news articles and discuss emerging developments and topics. This also builds the practice of regular environmental scanning and active engagement with ongoing changes in their fields.

Responding to the way the pandemic made virtual meeting tools like Zoom or Teams invaluable, we developed a two-part sequence, Digital Communication Strategies I and II, which focuses on effective communication using these tools and related applications. The first course, at the introductory level, focuses on individual and small group communication and the second, at the advanced level, addresses larger group communication with a “virtual conference” as the final deliverable. As these courses include an actual Teams session every other week, this provides another way to build students’ social networks. In transforming Media Writing into Writing for Digital Media, we included a “pitch” exercise in which students develop a script and pitch an idea to an editor or potential employer via audio or video.

We identified Data Visualization as a critical skill that was not available online at SUNY Empire. This was one of the areas in which faculty needed professional development and upskilling. A small team of faculty with related expertise in digital storytelling, visual and media literacy, visual pedagogies, visual communication, and information design developed the course, which is now part of the teaching rotation.

SUNY rolled out a new set of general education requirements to launch in late 2023 that includes a requirement for students to study diversity, equity and inclusion, and social responsibility, and also a new category, “world history & global awareness,” designed to replace outmoded categories of “western civilization” and “other world civilization.” While courses such as Television and Culture and Women, Girls & The Media already were infused with attention to diversity issues, the Global Communication and Media course was therefore designed to respond to both of these needs. It builds on intercultural communication and emphasizes diversity, equity, inclusion and environmental sustainability. Finally, although we have long offered courses in News and Feature Writing and a course called News Sense: Producing and Consuming we did not have enough offerings for an effective journalism concentration. A course called 21st Century Journalism, to be used as a capstone, builds on these courses and data visualization, and includes networking, interactive data visualization, citizen journalism using cellphones, and the notion of “the hustle” making this focus more viable. Other courses, like Television and Culture, Social Media: Communication and Culture, and Media, Ethics and Law were updated to reflect recent changes in digital media.

Faculty Development

Keeping abreast of the changing nature of the field and related curriculum requires a systematic, sustained approach to faculty development, which is strongly supported in our environment. The college offers a wide range of professional development opportunities for faculty, from required training to optional workshops, college-wide forums on critical topics, individual appointments with educational technologists, and engagement with offerings from the SUNY Center for Professional Development. Required training covers topics such as the digital learning environment (currently D2L Brightspace), developments in cybersecurity, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), accessibility and universal design, inclusive practices, and diversity, equity, and inclusion awareness (GDPR). The SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology provides excellent exposure to innovative developments in teaching and learning, and SUNY sponsors an innovative instructional technology grant for experimentation with new approaches, tools and technologies. Faculty are given LinkedIn Learning subscriptions and have access to three main sources of professional development funding, from the college foundation, from their school and department, and from the faculty union (UUP).

In addition to these opportunities, our digital communication course authors and instructors routinely review emergent literature, resources, tools, technologies, and tutorials to assess what is available and appropriate for the curriculum. This can be a time-consuming endeavour, since creative digital output is released daily, and sorting wheat from the chaff can be a challenge. For example, when looking for YouTube videos on pointers for professional self-presentation during Zoom meetings, most of them included self-promotional statements and branding. When searching for appropriate videos defining intercultural communication, it took some time to find one that set the right tone and modelled the principles they discussed while being about the right length. We found it helpful to have an intern assist with this work on course revisions and were assigned an exceptional student with deep digital expertise from our PRODiG Scholars program, which supports undergraduate and graduate students from historically underrepresented and underserved populations, who are interested in pursuing an academic career (“SUNY Empire PRODiG.”)

Conclusion

We cannot be sure yet whether our program will be a success but believe we have designed a data-driven, theoretically sound program responsive to workforce needs in New York State. Although the program has not officially launched yet, newer students in the communication and media program are already successfully following the course curriculum and appear to be enjoying the courses. Our students are embracing online and virtual learning and have started to analyze social media and digital communication technologies through an increasingly critical lens. Faculty are already discussing ways to design assignments to be AI proof, or ways to incorporate AI into assignments, and require students to critique or respond to its standard templates and potential mistruths.

We plan to collaborate further with colleagues across the university. As with the digital humanities, digital communication crosses disciplines and a program such as this requires the integration of knowledge and skills from areas such as business, computer science, information technology, educational technology, and the arts. In designing this program, we consulted with colleagues in other schools and departments, including the School of Business, where marketing is housed, and the School of Science, Math, and Technology (SMT), who helped with data management selections, discussions of human-computer interaction, and appropriate math choices. SMT faculty are currently working to design a program in data science, which will integrate our data visualization course. They also plan to hire a new faculty member with expertise in data science and data analytics. This will provide further opportunities for collaboration and future conversations about revisions or expansion of our program and offerings as institutional capacity in this area grows.

Future course developments and eventual program development may include Digital Humanities, which relies on data visualization and programming to illustrate humanities problems and issues. This would work best if developed collaboratively, with faculty from literature, communication, historical studies, computer science, information systems, and mathematics. Another area of possible focus with a connection to our program development is in data storytelling. Several of our faculty members, including core members of the program development team, have expertise in digital storytelling and teach a popular digital storytelling course. Various faculty who teach this have different areas of focus, and the course has been featured in international collaborative teaching efforts. A future possibility would be to combine that expertise with data visualization and data analytics. Finally, we hope to collaborate with our colleagues in the graduate college, to provide seamless pathways for students to earn graduate degrees in subjects we offer. Our master of arts in emerging technologies and the master of science in data science seem like promising programs for which we can design combined pathways.

As higher education transforms in response to societal and learner changes in a post-pandemic era, we anticipate that faculty at other institutions will seek to revise their humanities curriculum for the digital age. Steven Mintz explains in “Rethinking the Future of the Humanities” that “the history of the humanities is a history of change. The humanities have shifted, over time, from a process into a body of knowledge and then into a series of techniques and methodologies that emphasize interpretation. The humanities are poised to change yet again.” In sharing our process to reframe the curriculum, we hoped to have modelled the lifelong learning, adaptability and creative thinking the program is designed to foster and provide guideposts for educators with similar goals.

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