IV Education

Teaching immersive journalism

Turn Uskali and Pasi Ikonen

This chapter draws from a study designed for this volume. Its main purpose was to answer two questions: 1) where has immersive journalism been taught? and 2) how to best teach immersive journalism?

This chapter adds value by offering an overview and fresh insights from some of the leading journalism educators in the world, focusing on the interplay of emergent technologies and journalism, especially in relation to immersive journalism. So far, journalism educators have not been at the forefront of immersive journalism studies, although journalists (Watson 2017; Aitamurto 2019), content (Jones 2017; Bosworth & Sarah 2019), and audiences, especially students (Sundar et al. 2017; Shin & Biocca 2018), have received attention.

Traditionally, journalism education has been rather slow in reacting to many technological changes (Deuze 2006). The change needed for journalism education has been emphasized from varying perspectives. Angus and Doherty (2015) have argued for design skills for students to be able to better understand digital platforms. Robinson (2013) has demanded radical changes in core curricula and reporting classes, arguing for teaching “journalism as process”. Although technology' adoption into journalism curricula has been slow, fresh entrants to the news industry have also been criticized by working veterans for lacking traditional skills, which have been superseded by technological emphasis in the curricula (Ferrucci 2018).

We first map the journalism educators that have been teaching Immersive Journalism courses. We proceed by giving some background information about the five journalism teachers chosen as interviewees. Next we present our results, and finally we summarize and discuss our results in the Conclusions section.

Mapping immersive journalism educators

To begin seeking out those journalism educators who have used immersive technologies in their classes, a desk study was implemented. We searched for global course listings and public announcements in English as well as online news articles on the topic using internet search engines. In addition, we also used the snowball sampling method (King et al. 2019,62) during the interviews, and asked each interviewee to recommend another knowledgeable interviewee in terms of immersive journalism education.

We could find only a few teachers and courses. In reality, there are most probably many more, but nevertheless this initial listing (see Table 14.1) sketches the current status of the field, at least in the English-speaking parts of the world. Many of the courses have been one-time tryouts or experiments.

To understand how immersive journalism is being taught, a closer look at practice is needed. For this chapter, we conducted a set of interviews with five immersive journalism teachers from five different countries. The interviews were semi-structured (Ayress 2008, 810) and lasted from 25 minutes to one hour. They were conducted face-to-face (one interview) and via phone and video calls (four interviews).Table 14.2 presents the interviewees and their courses in their respective higher education institutions. The interview transcripts were analyzed in a qualitative manner using content analysis, and paraphrases related to teaching virtual reality (VR) were searched for.

In this next section we introduce the five courses in question and their instructors.

Associate Professor of Practice Robert Hernandez from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (USC) has been teaching immersive technologies for journalism since 2012. He began with augmented reality (AR) before starting the ongoing VR course in 2015. At the same time, TV documentarist Nonny de la Pena, the “godmother” of immersive journalism, and Palmer Luckey, who later founded the head-mounted display company Oculus, were working at the USC’s Mixed Reality Lab. During recent years, Hernandez and his students have won several awards, especially thanks to their Jovrnalism app that includes several immersive journalism stories. Jovrnalism has received awards from the Online News Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the Los Angeles Press Club, The Webby Awards, and the World Journalism Education Congress. In addition, from March to April 2017, Hernandez ran the very first MOOC (massive open online course) on immersive journalism, “Intro to Immersive Journalism: Virtual Reality & 360 video”. It was offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University ofTexas at Austin. During the course, students produced VR,AR, and mixed reality productions, some of which ended up on the project’s website and were distributed further.

Senior Lecturer Ben Stubbs of the University of South Australia (UniSA) at Adelaide in Australia created the course “VR Storytelling” in 2017. It is being taught for the third time in autumn 2019. In the course, students learn about VR in general, the use of 360-degree cameras, editing, creating their own stories, and

TABLE 14.1 A selection ofjournalism schools teaching immersive journalism




Cotirse/dass (or part of a course)



University of South Australia

Ben Stubbs

Virtual Reality Storytelling

2017 -


University of Antwerp


Timmerman and others

Summer course

“Storytelling in Virtual Reality”



Danish School of Media and Journalism

Mette Sejsbo

Virtual Reality Storytelling

2018 -


University of Jyvaskyla

Panu Uotila

Part of a Multimedia Journalism course



University of Bergen

Lars Nyre

Journalistic Prototyping (VR journalism using Samsung Gear)


Design for Media Use (focus onVR narratives for H TCVive)


University of Stavanger


Trageton and others

Part of a Multimedia Storytelling course


Part of an Audiovisual Storytelling course





Malin Picha Edwardsson and others

Part of the Storylab project


Part of a course at the Media Technology department




University of Southern California, Annenberg School of Communication



Emergent Technologies in Journalism

2012 -

Stanford University

Geri Migielicz, Janine Zacharia

Immersive Journalism class


Syracuse University

Dan Pacheco

Virtual Reality Storytelling

2015 -

Hofstra University School of Communication

Aashish Kumar

Virtual Reality Storytelling

2017 -

University of California, Berkeley

Melissa Bosworth, Lakshmi Sarah

Workshop: VR:

Immersive 360-Degree Video Storytelling

2018 -



Coventry University & Birmingham City University

Sarah Jones

Part of Innovation Journalism courses

2015 -

ethical questions related to this form of storytelling. Stubbs has acquired AUD 50,000 in grants to explore VR in journalism education. The course won the 2018 Innovation in Journalism award from the Journalism Education and Research Association Australia, awarded by The Guardian.The university is currently the only one in Australia with a Practical VR Journalism course. The course is 12 weeks long (with a two-hour seminar every week) and has 15 students from Journalism and Media Arts. They use seven Insta 360 One cameras and have created their own editing software Immerse, which enables the use of interactive storytelling for 360-degree videos. As coursework, students produce six-minute videos with interactivity included.

Lecturer Mette Sejsbo of the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DJMX) at Copenhagen in Denmark teaches in the Department of TV and Media Direction. They provide basic training in producing and directing journalistic and documentary productions in VR, more specifically 360-degree videos. The course was run for the first time in 2017 with 40 students. The intensive course lasted for three weeks, focusing on creativity. In 2018, the VR workshop was held as part of a six-week Documentary course. During the course, the students used ten sets of Samsung equipment, including a phone, a pair of VR glasses, and a camera. The students produced documentaries and made one scene from the film also forVR. Sejsbo teaches the course with other lecturers as well as some outside visitors, for example former students and Danish Broadcasting Company journalists.

Senior Lecturer Malin Picha Edwardsson of Sodertorn University at Stockholm, Sweden has taught courses that incorporate new technology', including VR, into journalism classes. While working at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, she taught in a Storylab class (Hulten & Picha Edwardsson 2017) in cooperation with Stockholm University. In this class, Media Technology' Engineering students worked together with Journalism students, creating stories using different technologies. One group used VR to tell a story about parental leave. The course started with five weeks of lectures, followed by a workshop. They then worked eight weeks on the group projects.

Assistant Professor Sigmund Trageton of the University of Stavanger in Norway teaches VR and 360-degree filming as part of an Audiovisual Storytelling course. The course is for third-year bachelor students of Television and Multimedia Production. The course lasts the whole autumn term, and students acquire ten points in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) from it. The section on multimedia, in which VR is introduced, takes about 40 percent of the time of the full course. There are 16 students in the class this year, and Trageton is leading the course with two colleagues. The course combines lectures, seminars, and workshops.They are equipped with one GoPro Omni camera, Kolor stitching software, and they use Premiere Pro and Pro Tools for editing. In 2018,Trageton and Espen Reiss Mathiesen taught a similar but smaller-scale VR class for Journalism and Television Production students, as part of a Multimedia Storytelling course.

Having introduced our interviewees, we present the results from the qualitative interviews. We identify some recurring themes, including practical skills,

TABLE 14.2 Immersive journalism educators interviewed

Interviewee and institution

Course description

Robert Hernandez Associate Professor of Practice University of Southern California (USC)

Journalism course. Using VR,AR, and mixed reality technologies.

Ben Stubbs Senior Lecturer

University of South Australia (UniSA)

VR Storytelling course since 2017.12-week course with 15 students producing 360- degree videos with interactivity.

Mette Sejsbo Lecturer

Danish School of Media and Journalism (DJMX)

Virtual Reality Storytelling with varying forms. Currently as a one-week part of a larger Documentary course.

Malin Picha Edwardsson Senior Lecturer Sodertorn University

Introducing VR as a part of a more general Journalism and Media Technolog)' course.

Sigmund Trageton Assistant Professor University of Stavanger

Introducing 360 filming andVR as a part of a course on Audiovisual Storytelling. One student group doing their coursework as a 360-degree video.

multidisciplinary cooperation, challenges with technology and time, course updating, larger questions to be addressed, and selecting the right technologies for classes. A few main challenges concerning teaching were also highlighted: learning the technology, motivating students to invest in the medium, time constraints, and the lack of examples from other universities.

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