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Communication class creates a digital app for students

Communication Class Creates a Digital App for Students
DigiToolSC helps students register for digital-related classes.

Students in an advanced social media class at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism told professor Kathi Inman Berens that they wanted to learn how to develop websites and applications this semester.

One month later, they released a useful app called DigiToolSC (digitoolsc.berens.org/) that serves as a guide for USC students looking to register for digital-related classes. (Find out more in their video at youtube.com/watch?v=UbhBb3HhPl4.)

“The real test of social media is, ‘Does it solve a real-world problem?’ ” Berens said. “Students know that there are lots of great digital classes at USC, but there was no one-stop shop. So we built the one-stop shop.”

Led by coder Liz Krane, an undergraduate communication major, the eight students in Berens’ class worked together to build the site in time for spring 2012 registration.

“USC encourages students to merge breadth with depth in their learning, and the best way to do that is to take classes from multiple USC schools,” Krane said. “Our app showcases classes that will allow students to learn and use new digital tools in everything from engineering to journalism.”

The students built every element of the Web app, including coding, writing, Web design, graphics design, music editing, video production and strategic social media promotions.

“The main learning outcome is about collaboration and what happens when you’re crunching on a real-world deadline,” Berens said. “Our premise was that everybody would do a little bit of everything, but because we were trying to launch in time for registration, we had to blast it out. That meant they brought to the table skills they already possessed.”

Berens said the students are learning that digital tools come and go, but the critical thinking they are learning will stay with them.

“Technology doesn’t always do what you want it to do,” she said. “But if you think hard enough, you can make it do what you need. And that’s a real skill in the workplace.”

That’s something Krane, Cynthia Momdjian and classmates Sean Carpenter, William Ford-Conway, Matthew Gray, Keith Koo, Nikki Yep and Misha Yim are learning firsthand. All students are seniors with the exception of Ford-Conway, who is a sophomore.

“I don’t push students to try new technologies,” Berens said. “They drive that process themselves.”

The students said they are excited about the practical and theoretical skills they are learning.

“I needed digital skills for my job starting from day one,” said Momdjian, who also works for a global entertainment corporation based in Los Angeles. “DigiToolSC will provide students specific information about which tools are used in classes exclusively available at USC.”

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