Invisible Boston: An Emerson.Build Project

On March 21st, the Iwasaki Library and Instructional Technology Group held its 3rd annual Innovation@Emerson Faculty Showcase. The event featured a variety of professional development initiatives that Emerson offers and highlighted specific examples of faculty work from each. Faculty posters are on display at the Iwasaki Library for the rest of the Spring semester.

At this year’s event, ITG highlighted Emerson.Build, a pilot of the Domain of One’s Own initiative. By providing free domain spaces, Emerson.Build offers faculty and students the opportunity to build websites from the ground up and take ownership of their digital identity. Mark Micheli and Gustavo Faleiros showcased student-produced websites using Build. In this post, Mark discusses how he used Emerson.Build in his Advanced Multimedia Reporting course (JR 612).

Tell us about your course and Invisible Boston.

JR 612 is designed to take students’ visual storytelling skills to the next level through hands-on assignments that are created and edited in a real-world editing environment. They have to work on their assignments until they get them right and worthy of publication to Invisible Boston, the class website.  Specifically, Invisible Boston is a news website that uses multimedia to tell stories outside the mainstream of traditional media. The mission of this course was to have graduate students cover stories that are usually not covered by traditional media.

How did you structure the student work?

The students came up with a list of four beats — religion; social issues; public safety/health; and the arts — and then worked in small teams to cover stories. Students wrote cover letters applying for jobs at Invisible Boston and were assigned beats based on them.

At the beginning of the semester, the students conducted interviews with people relevant to their beats and then brainstormed story ideas for each beat in class. We used those lists all semester to choose the best stories to cover. Allowing students to be involved in every step of the process motivated them to produce good work.

Why did you use Emerson.Build for this project?

I wanted to build an elegantly designed website where graduate students could showcase their multimedia news stories. The website needed to be outside of Emerson’s traditional WordPress installation so that students would be free to use plugins from online multimedia tools without the risk that other academic blogs would be affected. The support services at Emerson are amazing. When I described what I was looking to do, ITG recommended I try Emerson Build and met with me to ensure I got off to a good start.

Would you do anything differently next time?

I’m not sure what I’d change the next time I teach this class but as usual, I’ll reassess what worked at that time. For anyone interested in building a website, I’d highly recommend working with ITG and using Emerson Build.

photo of Mark and his students
Mark and his team of students behind Invisible Boston.