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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Media Literacy Via Distance Learning:: Comparative Analysis of a Research University Program

Dr Daniel Bernardi.

The Department of Media Arts at the University of Arizona has more than 550 declared majors and 110 declared minors, yet only 8 available tenure-track faculty. According to a recent Academic Program Review (2001), students have a 19% chance of taking a course from a tenure-track member of the faculty. Moreover, many find it difficult to meet degree requirements within a four-year period as already over-crowded courses are capped due to facility, faculty workload and budgetary limitations.

In an effort to ease enrollment demands while improving the quality of the undergraduate experience, the Department converted three lower-division and three upper-division courses for distance learning – all of which are taught by tenure-track faculty:


These courses utilize a class specific version of the Real-Time Interactive Distance Learning Template. This scalable template facilitates the conversion of “brick-and-mortar” courses for distance delivery, and emphasizes real-time interactivity between instructors and students. Interactivity is centered on mandatory discussion sections and threaded discussions. In other words, the Department’s distance learning program is built on a unique platform (as opposed to a proprietary Learning Management System such as Blackboard) that facilitates “live” interaction.

All six distance learning courses were offered in Summer 2002, attracting 253 students – the majority of which were Media Arts majors and minors. 72 students were duplicate enrollees. Thus, these courses attracted 325 distinct registrations. Correspondingly, many of these students resided outside the Tucson metropolitan area. It can be reasonably assumed that, had it not been for the distance learning courses, this group of students would have either not taken a summer course or would have enrolled in summer courses at local schools.

Considering several baseline measures and performance goals, the program is a success. First, 82% of students responding to a Quality of Service survey conducted during the run of the program in summer 2002 said they would take another Distance Learning course from the Department of Media Arts (69% of all registrants completed the survey). Second, the program earned the University of Arizona over $110, 000 in revenue from tuition. The Department’s share of this revenue amounts to a 64% increase in “summer profits” from the same courses offered in summer 2001. Third, the program resulted in a decrease in the enrollment of Fall “brick-and-mortar” courses. Our core lower-division courses ended up being smaller and more manageable thanks to the distance learning program. Finally, several students were able to complete their degree requirements and either graduate in four years or be in a position to do so thanks to the availability of upper-division distance courses.


Dr Daniel Bernardi  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Media Arts College of Fine Arts
University of Arizona

An Assistant Professor of New Media, Dr. Daniel Bernardi teaches courses on American film and television, critical race theory, new media theory and practice, and distance learning. He is the author of, Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future (1998), and the editor of The Birth of Whiteness: Race and the Emergence of U.S. Cinema (1996) and Classic Hollywood/Classic Whiteness (2002). He is one of the founding executives of the Global Film School (see

  • Distance learning
  • Media arts
  • Film and television
  • Media literacy
  • Interactive learning
  • Real-time interactive discussions
  • Learning content systems
  • Learning management systems
  • University of Arizona
Person as Subject
  • Bernardi, Daniel Selznick, Barbara Smith-Shomade, Beretta Makino, Yuri

(30 min Conference Paper, English)