New-media education in Azerbaijan needs overhaul

Jun 4, 2012

The Azerbaijan NGO Multimedia Center has presented a series of new-media modules they hope will be implemented in Azerbaijani universities.  The proposed curriculum includes four main modules: Multimedia Journalism, Online Journalism, Social Media and Introduction to New Media.

Multimedia Center, during last 15 years, has been a pioneer in many issues related to Internet infrastructure and social influence in the decision-making process in Azerbaijan’s IT world, and the NGO’s background  is full of good work. But the proposed modules on new-media education have some problems, including not enough input from others.

Having had a chance to look closely at the modules, I am unfortunately reminded of the same problems I saw when I was getting my bachelor’s at university. As a student I didn’t understand why courses with different names and taught by various professors would have the same topics and case studies. Now unfortunately, if these modules are accepted by Ministry of Education, new media courses will give the same feeling to today’s students.

It would take a very long time to change, update, transform, and create a strategy for module introduction, but in the meantime here are a few changes that need to happen to implement a new approach to new-media education in Azerbaijan’s universities:

  • Students need a special project-based course, one which doesn’t include any teaching, but only practical experience to put all knowledge into a single project.
  • Any new-media education strategy should include the theory and book(s) of Marshall McLuhan. It is a pity that his great thoughts are not taught and not included in future modules.
  • Communication is what should be the main focus, not tools. Tools should be taught earlier, such as in high school, but  academic, theoretical and wider information should be the focus in university.  In modules, I have seen too much focus on tools, which tend to disappear by the time students finish their four years of education.
  • One of the most important issues is teaching staff. Unfortunately right now Azerbaijani universities don’t have the capability to teach good new-media courses due to many issues. And if they add more courses, they’d have to add more qualified staff, which is already in short supply. It needs to be decided whether courses should be created based on capabilities of teachers, or rather on the future needs of students. Unfortunately it is totally different approach is used nowadays in Azerbaijan.
  • Communication theories and policy and Internet policy are courses that need to be included.
  • New-media courses could be taught specific to different specializations. From modules I have seen, they don’t have good approach or a strict focus. Modules should be calibrated based on needs. It could be for journalism, marketing, politics, public relations, or diplomacy students.

There are more issues to be touched, regarding future courses. It will take few years until some changes could be applied, so good planning is a very important step.

(Front page image by Cote, Creative Commons licensed)

About the Author

Emin Huseynzade

A leading new media expert Emin Huseynzade has consulted and worked with the OSCE, OSI, Internews, EJC, Oxfam and other international organizations. He is actively involved in projects covering Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Central Asia. Follow him on Twitter: @eminhuseynzade
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