Our students are leaders in aerospace engineering and other STEM fields and this studio will serve as a STEM Communication Center, essentially giving STEM students and faculty the opportunity to communicate their ideas in a more creative, effective way.”
When Carly Shoemake was working on a project presenting her research on crisis communication and the use of social media in the airline industry, she sought help at Embry-Riddle’s Digital Studio.
With the studio’s tools and its student tutors, she created video that won her a scholarship to attend the 2016 International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) Conference in Iceland. Shoemake was one of four winners internationally and the only one representing Embry-Riddle.
“The digital studio helped me effectively communicate my research and led to me winning a scholarship that has not only sent me to Iceland, but also put me on a first name basis with department heads at major corporations and government entities,” she said. “I didn't know how invaluable that experience would have been for me.”
Embry-Riddle is hoping to reach more students like Shoemake and faculty by expanding its Digital Studio with the help of a $66,012 grant from the Gladys Brooks Foundation.
“Our students are leaders in aerospace engineering and other STEM fields, and this studio will serve as a STEM Communication Center, essentially giving STEM students and faculty the opportunity to communicate their ideas in a more creative, effective way,” says Lori Mumpower, associate director of the university’s Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence (CTLE) and the studio’s interim director.
Launched in 2015 as a pilot project, the Digital Studio is housed in a small portable unit on the Daytona Beach campus. The on-campus tutoring space is aimed at improving digital skills for students and faculty. Using a wide range of software tools from PowerPoint to Photoshop and iMovie, they can learn to edit movies, create effective slideshows, build infographics, and combine images with text to create a variety of multimedia projects.
“Digital literacy is becoming really important,” says Shirley Waterhouse, CTLE’s executive director. “The grant is going to help us shift out of pilot mode.”
The Gladys Brooks Foundation grant will provide funding to move the Digital Studio into a larger permanent space on campus with additional computer equipment, software and movable furniture, serving triple the amount of faculty and students. The expanded studio will feature a new multimedia production area and a collaborative learning space where studio equipment and software can be used to work on group projects.
“The Gladys Brooks Foundation grant provides Embry-Riddle students, faculty and staff further resources to enhance the way we communicate in and outside of the classroom,” said James Scott, director of development at the university.
The studio was born out of a push by the university’s Task Force on Innovation to improve the digital literacies of Embry-Riddle students, says Waterhouse, who chairs the Task Force. The project received pilot funding for the 2015-16 academic year as a joint venture between the Information Technology Department and CTLE, which then hired seven student tutors to provide expert support at the studio.
“The Digital Studio specializes in project optimization, which is communicating the ideas of the project in a clearer or better way,” says Jaclyn Wiley, a tutor at the studio with experience in radio. “By teaching people how to more effectively communicate their ideas, the Digital Studio is helping people better represent their thoughts and their intelligence.”
The CTLE offered a small grant to 20 faculty members willing to incorporate the use of digital media into their curriculum. Some redesigned their assignments to use videos or podcasts, while others used the studio for scientific research posters or presentations.
Dan Maronde, an assistant professor of physics, says conference posters and slide show talks are a big part of research scientists’ communication, so the Digital Studio has helped him and his students.
“With the Digital Studio giving my students knowledgeable advice on how to best communicate material on posters or in a presentation, it frees me to focus more on the content,” he says.
Sally Blomstrom, an associate professor of communications, had her students use the studio to create digital tours for an exhibit at a museum. Tutors with the Digital Studio helped them learn how to use software to create effective tours and taught them about design and copyright issues. Blomstrom said her students are applying concepts covered in her course while developing skills that can better position them for success over their careers.
“Today, effective communication skills include digital literacy, and Embry-Riddle students can increase their value in the job market by developing their communication skills,” said Blomstrom, who will become faculty director of the Digital Studio in Spring 2017.
The studio has served more than 1,000 students and 26 faculty already, just in its pilot phase, says Mumpower. A Spring 2016 survey found 93 percent of students and 100 percent of faculty found the studio's digital resources and instruction helpful and expressed a desire for more studio access, training and services.
Now with the help of the Gladys Brooks Foundation, the Digital Studio will be able to meet that need.
“We’ve been in a slow and steady mode, waiting to unleash it to the entire campus,” says Mumpower. “Now we can.”
Melanie Stawicki Azam
Development & Alumni Relations