Lots of phone interviews: Journalism courses go online

Lots of phone interviews: Journalism courses go online

For Jonah Kurylowich, studying online has meant an opportunity to speed up some of his life plans.

Jonah Kurylowich shows off a hat from the Peace River Fire Department

Kurylowich, 24, is taking journalism courses at King’s as part of a Bachelor of Arts at Dalhousie. He was all set to move from Calgary to Halifax with his partner. “We were pricing out driving or flying, or putting all of our stuff in a big steel box and sending that across the country,” he said. But then Kurylowich thought, wait a minute. With classes online, it didn’t really matter where he was. So he and his partner decided to move back home to Peace River, where, in addition to his studies and part-time work doing architectural drafting, Kurylowich is also a volunteer firefighter. “We always thought we’d move back home at some point and maybe try living in an older house—give it a shot,” he said. Online classes mean they can do that now, instead of “maybe 20 years down the line.”

Time zones might represent a bit of a challenge, but Kurylowich says the King’s journalism school has thought that through. His instructor, Lezlie Lowe, records asynchronous lectures, complemented by synchronous discussion groups with staggered start times to accommodate students across the country.

“I’m in this horrendous Alberta time zone, so for discussion I don’t have to show up at 6 a.m. It’s a godsend,” he said.

King’s third-year Bachelor of Journalism (Hons) student Josh Neufeldt, 20, also stayed home, pursuing his journalism studies from Toronto—for now. He hopes to move back to Halifax for the winter semester. He said online classes are “definitely a bit of a change of pace, but I enjoy the challenge… The journalism program does a really good job at giving us the breathing space to survive the rigours of the online environment. So I can’t complain at all. I’m just grateful that they’ve transitioned so smoothly.”

King’s student Joshua Neufeldt, playing E-sports for Dalhousie in 2019

In some ways, the online environment simulates much of the practice of journalism, which involves a whole lot of research, interpreting data, and self-directed work skills. “I imagine that in terms of the tasks we have to do, it would be rather similar if we had in-person classes. But we get a little bit more independence,” Neufeldt said.

For King’s second-year BJ (Hons) student Luke Dyment, 19, studying and practising journalism these days (he writes for The Dalhousie Gazette) means spending a lot more time on the phone. He says he misses some of the face-to-face interaction with other students and with people he’s interviewing, but the coursework itself works well online.

“We’re all in a period of adjustment, and everyone’s trying to make the most of it,” Dyment said. “It’s been really, really good…. [King’s] have done a good job with what they had at their disposal: The courses are going well, profs are doing their best to be accessible and help you out the best they can. It’s great.”

The university has made the transition a bit easier by loaning out equipment to journalism students. Those in Halifax can pick it up on campus, while others can get it mailed to them. Second-year journalism student Alecia Gallant, 19, called the initiative “awesome.” She said, “They’ve sent out journalism kits—tripod, microphones, and a phone adapter for the tripods—and that helps a lot.”

“The school told us we can have the equipment until we are done with the degree,” said Dyment, who walked over to campus to pick up his kit.

Gallant says some aspects of online learning have been a challenge, especially as a student with a hearing impairment who often relies on reading lips—not easy when you’re looking at slides on a screen. But there have been some advantages too. “Last year, I rarely spoke up in FYP lectures. I was pushing myself down in the chair hoping nobody would notice me. This year, with the Zoom calls, I’m participating more,” she said. “I don’t have that anxiety. I know these people, it’s a smaller group, and I’m a little more comfortable.”

As an older first-year student, Kurylowich loves the flexibility of his online courses. He hopes to eventually do an architecture degree, and figures he’ll find himself in a classroom again at some point. But for now, he’s happy to be online, and living where he wants to be. “I have lots of time to sit in a lecture in person and experience that vibe. For me, being able to be at home and do things that I’ve been yearning for again, like joining the fire department, is just phenomenal,” he said.

To find out more about studying journalism at King’s, read about programs and courses offered by the School of Journalism.

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