Benefits of Distance or Online Learning

Using MOOCs in complementary fashion with data journalism courses could help professors integrate new skills into what they offer, said Doig from ASU.

In addition, distance learning and virtual classrooms may provide structure and support that MOOCs lack. Journalism schools may consider coordinating partnerships in which students cross-enroll in specialized coursework and take the class over a video stream. The student would participate in class, submit work, and receive credit like any other student. This approach could fill coursework gaps in cases where it is otherwise difficult to find an instructor.

Stanton, the founder of, offers a cautionary word: maintaining online courses is a problem for any program that produces tutorials or screencasts. Without updating, the value of the offerings diminishes quickly, Stanton said. The tutorial on building a web framework with Django is based on an older version of the open source software, for example.

Stanton suggests that universities create a consortium of universities where each participating university would take ownership of specific topics in which it had expert faculty. It would create labs to provide the technical instruction in those areas and offer screencast tutorials on the basics. Then each school could build on that foundational learning in projects specific to their programs.

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