Reviewing an essay on the similarities of online journalism and e-learning by Howard Finberg, creator of Poynter’s News University. Also featuring an amazing Wendy’s training video

Charting the Intersection between E-Learning and Online Journalism

When you think about it, e-learning and journalism are more similar than one might think. Both fields are trying to convey complex concepts through the web to a widely-varied audience. Both industries have to make their content stand out in an environment awash with distractions. And finally, while some journalists may disagree, both at their most basic level are designed to inform opinions and influence behavior.  

Therefore, it seems logical that the two fields have a lot of information to share with one another. It was this thought that drove Poynter News University founder Howard Finberg to pen an essay on What E-Learning Can Teach Us About Journalism

It includes some interesting meditations on the intersections of training and journalism, two fields that have been thrown in the deep end of digital revolution over the past 10 years. (And, in the best tradition of instructional design and e-learning, Finberg's column is formatted as an ordered list.) 

Finberg was unavailable for comment, but I've included my thoughts on his essay below. You can read Finberg's column in its entirety on the Poynter website

"2. Engagement matters. It is very difficult to create online teaching that is engaging. But if you don’t engage your audience, it will disappear."

This is very important to remember. While many of us benefit from the captive audience of a mandatory training course, research shows that engaged learners retain more information than their apathetic counterparts. 

A few months ago, the Wendy's "Grill Skills" training video was passed around the office and we all shared in a good chuckle at the ridiculousness. But you know what? That video stayed with me -- I still remember the four-corner press.  And the singing patties? Amazing. 

 

"3. Clear learning/story objectives are important. Any e-learning project that doesn’t have clear, focused learning objectives isn’t going to succeed. The teaching will be muddled and disconnected. If more journalists took a few minutes in their newsgathering process to clearly outline what they want to communicate, stories would be better and clearer."

Definitely agree. Nothing dooms a course more quickly than nebulous learning objectives. Get them down in writing early and circulate them to all members of the project team. If the learning objectives change -- and they sometimes do -- have a documented process to request and make changes.  

For all eight of Finberg's tips, check out the Poynter article What E-Learning Can Teach Us About Journalism