Media Literacy in Higher Education Environments: An Introduction

Media Literacy in Higher Education Environments: An Introduction

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4059-5.ch001
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In this introductory chapter, the author seeks to establish an easy-to-follow narrative of media literacy implementation in higher education, which would potentially encourage personal experiences and student needs to be considered when individual faculty members seek to enhance existing curricula and courses. This introduction also provides a brief outline of each chapter within the volume and the various ways in which contributing authors illustrate their own incorporation of media literacy principles into existing curriculum at their respective colleges and universities. The author also details her personal journey and experiences with media literacy as a student, professional journalist, and an academician ultimately detailing the pathway to enhancing the curriculum in her current department while highlighting some of her own experiences teaching media literacy in higher education. This chapter also provides key takeaways and tips for adding media literacy to existing courses and department curricula.
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As the concept of media literacy and its entry into formal educational settings -- including higher education -- expands, a greater acceptance of formal training in the interpretation of media messages is becoming normalized (Chen, 2007; Duran, Yousman, Walsh, & Longshore, 2008; Hobbs, Ranieri, Markus, Fortuna, Zamora, & Coiro, 2017; Mihailidis, 2006; Schmidt, 2013). As such, the notion that media literacy will become fully accepted in colleges and universities in the United States and around the world is still a very far-reaching, though likely, idea. As noted previously and throughout this volume, media literacy has been defined by an assemblage of scholars whose definitions culminate into a set of skills that allow media audiences and consumers to develop the ability to understand and interpret media messages (Hobbs, 2010; Kellner & Share, 2007). Media literacy is most commonly defined today as the ability to access, analyze, produce and act upon media messages (Aufderheide & Firestone 1993; Hobbs, 2010; National Association of Media Literacy Education, 2007; Potter, 2011). Media literacy is also considered a vital 21st century skill necessary for full participation and awareness in society (Mihailidis, 2009; UNESCO, 2015). Several researchers (Cubbage 2016, 2017; Schmidt 2012, 2013; Tisdell, Stuckey, & Thompson, 2007) have advocated the notion of adding media literacy to the higher education curriculum; stating its many benefits, including fostering the increased ability among media consumers to parcel through and make meaning of the various media messages consumed each day. Accordingly, Duran, et al. (2008) conducted an exploratory study on the potential impact of a media literacy course and found that such a course would positively impact students and their ability to understand and retain basic principles of media literacy and media production. They continue by stating that when universities add such a course, it can be instrumental in helping students become “fully media literate” by enabling them to answer media questions about their own consumption and engagement with media. According to Cubbage (2016) several organizations including The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU 2018, have encouraged and supported the idea of adding media literacy to the higher education curriculum.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Curriculum: The subjects that comprise a course of study within a college or university.

Curriculum Committee: A committee that governs the process of creation, regulation, measurement of the course of study within a college or university at the department level or university wide.

Mass Communication: A media source that is used to communicate with a large number of people.

Media Literacy: An associated cluster of skills that allow media audiences and consumers to access, analyze, evaluate, produce, and act upon the messages they encounter.

Mass Media: Media that reaches large numbers of people.

Higher Education: Education beyond the secondary level (K-12), typically considered college and university level or secondary education.

Curriculum Design: The process creating or selecting or reassigning.

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