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USC duo paves the way for new technology at USC

Professor Bill Celis, right, has won the Provost's Prize for Teaching With Technology. (Photo/Philip Channing)

Two faculty members at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism have created a new digital course on iTunes U, an application developed by Apple that allows users around the world to access an online curriculum.

“Urban America: Reporting on its Neighborhood and Schools,” a journalism course that examines current social issues, is expected to be offered next spring. The course was created by Bill Celis, associate director of the School of Journalism, and Wendy Chapman, director of Web and instructional technology services.

Celis said the open courseware will allow faculty at other institutions to share content and ideas. Stanford, Harvard and Yale universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are among other universities that are also beginning to offer courses through iTunes U.

“Schools like USC, Harvard, Stanford, MIT and a long list of others will help each other with best practices, shared content and ideas,” said Celis, a USC Annenberg professor who won the Provost’s Prize for Teaching With Technology in 2011.

The newly updated iTunes U app features learning tools that are similar to the ones a student would find in a brick-and-mortar classroom: a syllabus, handouts, lectures, quizzes and assignments.

“I do think technology changes both teaching and learning,” Celis said. “From my personal experience, it enhances everything that happens in a classroom.”

That coincides with USC’s strategic vision, which states in part: “New technologies demand new literacies and modes of academic inquiry that students must master. This is particularly true of digital and multimedia literacy.”

To uphold this vision, Celis said that collaboration with other faculty and universities is imperative.

“[Collaboration] is the prototypical relationship moving forward among faculty and instructional technologists,” he explained.

“We couldn’t put this course on without each other,” Chapman said. “My team brings the technology, but Bill brings the content expertise.”

Susan Metros, USC associate vice provost and deputy chief information officer for technology-enhanced learning, said the support Chapman provides is invaluable.

“Not many schools have people as talented and skilled as she is,” Metros said. “Bill is the faculty member, the subject matter expert, but she’s the one helping build the actual interactive experiences.

“It really does take a specialist,” she continued. “You can’t expect a faculty member to go in and design an online course without instructional technology support.”

Metros praised Celis and Chapman for not putting technology ahead of teaching and learning.

“They’re smart about how they use the technology,” Metros said. “It’s not about the quantity but the quality of the experience.

“Good teaching is good teaching — whether it is on ground or online,” she added. “They also have continuously used robust analytics to find out what works and doesn’t work for their students.”

Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism, agreed: “Bill and Wendy are embracing new and enriching ways of teaching, and they are figuring out how to serve new audiences. And their method of doing it is the perfect collaborative model between a content person and a tech expert. We need more of this.”

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