1. This Fellowship aligns directly with a key aim of the OLT Fellowship scheme as it identifies a significant issue relevant across the higher education system – namely the need to measure graduate skills and capabilities. There is a need to ensure consistency across course offerings because a survey of journalism degrees and majors, which was part of an 2011 OLT Innovation and Development Grant on graduate qualities and journalism curriculum renewal, revealed that while 29 out of Australia’s 39 universities offer undergraduate journalism degrees and majors, there was a wide diversity of units on offer (17 in all) and significant differences in content, emphasis and delivery. Some courses were more focused on theory-based units, while others opted for mainly practical skills building units. While no-one is proposing a unified tertiary journalism curriculum, there must be a way to identify the minimum standards and test capabilities to be met by a graduate from a Bachelor level degree or enrolled in a major in the field of Journalism. There is much to be gained from collaboration to develop consistent assessment criteria and standards.
2. Another OLT Fellowship aim is to foster national collaboration and collegial networking for good practice in learning and teaching. Currently, it is difficult to define exactly what a journalism capstone unit is? The Fellowship offers a practical solution (and will be the first) – by providing a series of criteria, strategies and standards to guide teachers in the design of a journalism capstone unit and its implementation. The first phase comprises a wide consultation and the circulation of an interim discussion paper for consideration by key stakeholders (educators, editors, reviewers) to evaluate the main features of the proposed unit. Phase two involves the development of the capstone unit, initially with 10 universities, to test and prepare the preliminary and then the final model. The third phase involves the dissemination and promotion of the capstone unit. Moreover, the Fellowship will engage industry (who are often overlooked as stakeholders) so they can have input into what the graduate capabilities might be and the standards that are deemed appropriate. The impact of the Fellowship will be through the embedding of a final year journalism capstone unit in universities throughout Australia that results in better learning outcomes and identification of the ways to achieve more effective measurement of the graduate skills and capabilities.
3. Broad applicability is another aim of the Fellowship. This capstone could become a model for other disciplines such as Public Relations and Advertising, especially since communication, social and digital media capabilities are becoming increasingly part of the required skill set for these disciplines. Another broad outcome is the accreditation process of journalism programmes in Australia (which is currently at a standstill) will gather pace, and universities that embed the capstone into their journalism programmes, will be in a stronger position to demonstrate graduate skills and capabilities and thereby, encourage industry to accredit their programme.
4. A fourth aim of the OLT Fellowship is to show leadership in promoting and enhancing learning and teaching in higher education and exploring new possibilities. To achieve this, the Fellowship will investigate what needs to be included in a journalism capstone unit with guidelines to assist teachers to develop a strong capstone for their context, with particular emphasis on measuring knowledge and demonstrating graduate skills and capabilities more effectively and accurately.
5. A fifth aim of Fellowship programmes is to build on previous OLT projects. This Fellowship draws on and will add to the findings of the 2013 OLT Fellowship on Capstone curriculum across disciplines, the 2013 OLT study on Capstone courses in undergraduate business degrees: A good practical guide; the 2011 OLT Innovation and Development Grant on Graduate outcomes and journalism curriculum renewal: Balancing tertiary expectations and industry needs in a changing environment; the 2011 Special Initiative OLT Grant entitled: Discipline Network: Journalism, Media and Communication; and the 2009 OLT Fellowship on Improving graduate employability by implementing subject benchmarks research.