A hands-on, real world experiment in developing social and digital media strategies for news organizations. Technically separate classes will meet together to work on an interdisciplinary project, conducted in cooperation with professional and campus news organizations, to research, create, implement and refine based on actual practice and on web metrics new social media strategies targeting key campus demographics and seeking to increase audience habituation and engagement.


63888 MDIA 290 SDM 2 to  4:50 p.m. Tuesday 31 Gregory Hall Eric Meyer
63889 JOUR 480 SDM


Because of the experiential and experimental nature of the project, precise timetables and assignments will be subject to considerable variance. However, as individuals or in teams, students will:

  • Research, evaluate and report on industry research regarding best practices for selection and presentation of social media content.
  • Research how to segment the diverse overall campus audience into vertical niches that can be reached by discrete social media persona.
  • Create and aggressively promote other students’ following of these personas, attempting to reach as large a portion of the campus as possible.
  • Take turns being responsible for 24/7 updating of the persona with content they glean from appropriate campus and professional media.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of their postings using web metrics, and refine their persona identities and content and writing strategies accordingly.
  • As time allows, practice specific social and digital media skills to provide greater background about social and digital media production.
  • Produce a report evaluating lessons learned and present these results to media outlets whose work was featured in the effort.


This course will employ portfolio, contract grading. Each student will be responsible for regularly maintaining a portfolio of all work performed for the class, including his or her honest and fact-based evaluation of the value of all work personally performed. Portfolios will be submitted to the instructor for review and evaluation at least three times, spaced relatively equally apart throughout the semester. Before each evaluation, students will contract to earn whatever letter grade they desire. The instructor will indicate in each portfolio review whether the work reached the contracted grade level. If not, students will have an opportunity to perform additional work, document this and resubmit their revised portfolios until it does. Grading will be cumulative, with all work for the entire semester evaluated as a whole. Failure to make improvements deemed necessary to achieve any contracted grade will result in a minimum of a full letter grade reduction in the students’ final grade. Contracts do not include plus or minus grades. The instructor will assign these based on the relative performance within each letter grade category.

Office hours

5 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and 1 to 1:30 and 5 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays or by appointment from noon to 3 p.m. Mondays and 1 to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays. During working and evening hours, reach the instructor at or (217) 244-8317.

Academic integrity

Any work that makes unauthorized use of the work of others (including plagiarism, infringement of copyright or unapproved collaboration), includes unauthorized fabrication of factual material, or otherwise fails to adhere to professional ethical standards, including reportorial and visual ethics taught, will receive a grade of zero. Flagrant violations may merit more severe penalties, including a failing grade in the course.


This being an exploratory course in which weekly class discussion and coordination are crucial, attendance is mandatory. True emergency absences beyond a student’s control are dealt with on a case‐by‐case basis provided the instructor is notified as promptly as possible. Notices from the “emergency dean” are helpful but are neither required nor automatically accepted. For all other absences — including field trips, job conflicts or interviews, and projects in other classes — in‐class work may not be made up, but work that would have come due will be accepted in advance without penalty or afterward with penalties equivalent to one letter grade per missed course session. For absences resulting from a student’s religious practices or formal participation in scheduled activities of an officially recognized university group, work to be performed entirely during a missed session may not be re‐created; however, a grade matching the student’s average on all similar work to date will be entered as if the student had completed the in-class assignment. Any student who for any reason, even an excused or explained absence, has missed more than three course sessions or failed to submit three or more assignments will be deemed to have become seriously deficient academically and could be barred from additional participation and involuntarily dropped with a withdrawal or failing grade.

Accommodation of disability

Students are responsible for making known any accommodation needed for reason of disability. Only the accommodation, not the disability, need be disclosed. Requests should be directed to the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services.

Professional values and competencies

In addition to entrepreneurial values and theories regarding communicating information via images, text  and design in multiple media, the course includes a history of social and digital media and seeks to instill application-level competency in using audience diversity as an opportunity for non‐linear communication; in making critical, creative and independent evaluation of students’ and others’ work, and in using certain professional tools and technologies, especially in new media.

Public safety emergencies

During the first week learn at least two ways to exit the lecture and lab building. Except in severe weather, the best choice is to flee. Second best is to hide quietly, with cell phones silenced, behind barricaded doors. Fight if there is no other option.

Class photo