Cardiff University this week opened entries to a free online community journalism course for those interested in the hyperlocal media scene, with almost 1,000 people said to have already signed up.
The online course is part of an educational "initiative" called MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, being run by the Open University-owned Future Learn.
According to a press release, the Cardiff University course will start on 14 April, and will be "the world’s first community journalism MOOC".
Professor Richard Sambrook, who is director of the Centre for Journalism, told Journalism.co.uk that the course will share examples of hyperlocal websites in the UK and their approaches, as well as offer advice on how to set up a website and engage a community around it.
"If people are thinking about launching their own websites and community sites, this is something that will help them get started, give them some insight into the things they need to think about and put them in touch with a network who can help them," he explained.
In addition it may also be of use to those with a more general interest in the hyperlocal media industry, such as fellow academics, he said.
Cardiff University launched a community journalism centre back in mid-2012, and so Sambrook said it considered this subject to be an ideal focus for the new MOOC.
"The journalism school in Cardiff has a centre of community journalism which is basically a centre of expertise looking at community journalism, hyperlocals, building out event work, what works, what doesn't, and trying to help people launch community journalism sites.
"We've had that for about 18 months now so we thought we'd launch this course using all that experience and expertise in that centre."
The course, which lasts five weeks, will be delivered via "videos, slide presentations, interactive question and answer", as well as directing participants to wider reading material, he explained. The course will also provide "discussion forums" with specific talking points suggested.
It will also consider different business models as well as assess the growth of the industry in recent years, drawing on research by bodies such as Nesta and Ofcom. A survey by Nesta published last year, for example, looked at how and why people accessed hyperlocal sites in the UK.
The online course will also offer some journalism pointers, with a focus on covering the more "basic tips on good journalism best practice".
"In a five-week online course you can't teach people NCTJ standard, but you can give them basic outline of best practice," Sambrook explained.
And while the focus is on UK examples, Sambrook said interest has been shown in the course from across the globe, with sign-ups not just from Europe but also South America and Asia.
"We're very clear about it that this a course that's based on UK media, but there's a lot of interest in that," he said.
"It will use the UK as an example of something that's happening elsewhere in the world. We will refer to the fact this is obviously happening in lots of different parts of the world, not just Britain, but obviously the case studies we'll be using are UK."
The press release added that "the FutureLearn course experience centres on social interaction, whereby people learn actively by engaging in conversations around the learning material".
"The website has also been designed to work on smartphones and tablets, as well as desktop computers, so that learners can enjoy the same high quality user experience, regardless of their screen size."
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