Staying Ahead: A New Wave of Modules

Four WKWSCI faculty members step up to the challenge of creating new interdisciplinary modules to meet the changing demands of the workforce.

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From video games to data analytics, faculty members of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information share more about how their modules prepare students for the ever-changing future. 

For undergraduates, interdisciplinary studies are essential in order to develop transferable skills. As such, a diverse range of modules have recently been introduced to the undergraduates, to help equip them with these set of skills.

 

Digital Literacy for Everyone 

As part of Nanyang Technological University’s recent initiative to encourage all students to hone their digital literacy skills, every college now offers mandatory digital literacy courses designed to cater to the learning needs of their students. 

For the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, one of the new modules offered is Making Sense of Big Data, taught by WKWSCI Associate Professor Goh Hoe Lian, Dion.

This semester marks the inaugural run of the module, which consists of online lectures and live streams.

The module introduces students to concepts surrounding data analytics as well as the Information Technology infrastructure to support analytics projects. 

“Big data is everywhere and analytics is everywhere. It’s prevailing in all sorts of industries, and you can’t run away from it.”

Associate Professor Goh Hoe Lian, Dion, lecturer for Making Sense of Big Data

Also, the module is taught in a digestible manner to CoHASS students, who have little to no experience in programming or coding. 

To students who are hesitant about the core module, Assoc Prof Goh advises them to keep an open mind and embrace new knowledge. “You can’t come in being afraid of mathematics and computers,” he said.

Technological advancements have allowed for user-friendly data analysis software to be designed. Now, even those with little background in computing or mathematics can use them.

Basic knowledge of the existing software and how it works will help keep NTU undergraduates competitive. 

Assoc Prof Goh hopes the course will encourage students to appreciate analytics on a deeper level, such that they would be better able to meet clients’ requests and hold meaningful conversations at work.

“Big data is everywhere and analytics is everywhere. It’s prevailing in all sorts of industries, and you can’t run away from it,” he said.

 

Another Way to Look at Video Games

This semester, some 400 students from around the university had the opportunity to study the consumer behaviours that fuel the video game industry.

Be it through computers or mobile phones, WKWSCI Associate Professor Jung Younbo say most people play some kind of video game. 

Deep Dive Into Video Games is a new module led by Assoc Prof Jung and gives students interested in video games a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the topic, especially if they are interested to work in related fields in the future.

This class aims to equip students with the knowledge to understand market trends, and subsequently innovate popular products in any industry.

During his lessons, Assoc Prof Jung debunks myths such as the demographics of video game players being teenagers aged 13 to 19. In fact, the average age is the mid 30s.

The appeal of the class is not bound to any particular demographic. “When I look at the live comments and posts in class, there are plenty of female students who introduce themselves as hardcore players,” Assoc Prof Jung said.

“There are even some students who are not regular players, but are simply interested in the topic.”

With students from diverse backgrounds, Assoc Prof Jung hopes the module will challenge them to not only consider how their field of study might be useful in the context of the video game industry, but also to first understand video game consumers and their needs. 

To do this, students play video games as part of the curriculum.

Ultimately, Assoc Prof Jung aims to make the learning experience enjoyable for his students, and shares that he too, is learning through new insights shared by the students.

“Although I play games occasionally for my research, there’s no way I can play and know everything, so getting the students’ perspective and input enriches the course,” he said.

 

VIDEO: JESSICA TAN

 

The New Newsroom

The brainchild of WKWSCI Journalism Lecturer Ms Jessica Tan, News Media Lab - Innovating and Exploring New Tools for Digital Media Storytelling was inspired by the trend of similar media labs starting up in the industry. This module aims to keep students up-to-date with the changing media landscape. 

“The idea is to put students in a pro-active position,” Ms Tan said. 

“Aside from waiting for cues from the industry as to where it might be going in terms of digital news, why not go upstream and have the students be part of that trend-making process?”

“Aside from waiting for cues from the industry as to where it might be going in terms of digital news, why not go upstream and have the students be part of that trend-making process?”

Jessica Tan, lecturer for News Media Lab - Innovating and Exploring New Tools for Digital Media Storytelling

The practicum brings together student journalists, developers and designers from schools across NTU, such as the School Of Art, Design and Media and School of Computer Science and Engineering.

During the module’s first run earlier this year, students used the Google SPRINT, a design thinking framework, to innovate solutions and prototypes for problems faced by digital news agencies of today.

News organisations such as TODAY, The Straits Times and The New Paper came on board to partner with students in their projects. In small groups, the students were partnered with an industry mentor and tasked to pitch a digital news media tool or solution to their clients. 

Each group conducted meetings and face-to-face interviews with their news partners, to gain a better understanding of their clients’ targeted audience. This enriching experience provided the students with valuable insights on newsroom workflow, among many other opportunities. 

Industry mentors include Google’s Head of News and Publishing Partnerships (APAC), Kate Beddoe and the Co-founder and CEO of Splice Media, Alan Soon

Last semester, the winning group was subsequently given the rare, fully-paid opportunity to attend Newsgeist Europe, a journalism unconference event, hosted by Google in Athens, Greece.

With its focus on creativity and innovation, the module is offered on a pass-fail basis.

“If you’re going to be scrutinising and grading them every part of the way, students are going to be conscious about not making any mistakes, and I believe that will hinder innovation,” Ms Tan said.

 

Breaking into the world IT 

With several design patents under multinational conglomerate Samsung - in smart display interfaces, remote controller, gesture control, and multimedia production - to his name is Professor Lee Kwan Min.

Having established himself in multiple areas of technology in the corporate world, Prof Lee is now undertaking the new WKWSCI module, Digital Media and Human Relationships. 

His diverse background has informed the course, which covers issues related to computer-mediated communication and human computer interaction. It also delves into the psychological and socio-cultural implications of new digital technologies.

Before joining WKWSCI,  Prof Lee was one of the youngest professors in the University of Southern California. He also worked at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea. In both institutions, he taught postgraduates.

He added that his teaching stint at SKKU sparked the interest and inspired several communications students to work in product development. They have since moved on to work in some of the most established corporations in the country such as Samsung, Hyundai Motors and SK Telecom.

In the same way, Prof Lee hopes that his new module will inspire NTU students to look outside the conventional career options for their field of study to pursue a career in technology.

“As a student of a communications discipline, what you learn from communication and media studies can be applied to our understanding of new communication technologies. It can be very practical,” Prof Lee said.

The course consists of four main focuses, the philosophy of science, the effects of media content, the effects of media form factors and our social responses to communication technologies. 

One piece of advice Prof Lee has for students interested to enter the technology and IT industries is to look into classes offered out of their specialisation to widen their skill sets and expertise. Similarly, his class is open to all NTU students.

He said: “Students need to move away from their comfort zone. The career itself requires talent from diverse backgrounds, and successful people in this field have multidisciplinary backgrounds.” 

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