The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill offers an online Master of Arts in Digital Communication through its Hussman School of Journalism and Media. The program includes two required campus visits that online students must attend: a two-day orientation the summer before the program starts (the program only admits students once a year for the fall semester), and a weeklong summer residency that occurs between the first and second year of the program. Aside from the two required campus visits, the rest of the program’s curriculum is delivered entirely online, with the majority of courses being taught using an asynchronous learning format. This means there are no set times when students have to be online to attend a class. From recorded lectures to narrated slides, classes use a variety of tools for online instruction. Some courses may incorporate synchronous sessions, where students use video conferencing and other technologies to watch live lectures, participate in class discussions, or review assignments.
The master’s degree is a part-time program designed for working professionals. In order to be admitted, students must have at least three years of professional experience in communication roles. This program requires 30 credit hours of study spread across a set curriculum of nine classes. Students can complete the program in 2.5 years, including one summer session, by taking two courses per semester. The curriculum blends the study of theory with application, emphasizing management-level strategic planning and decision-making.
The program begins with an on-campus orientation experience. Students visit campus a week before classes start and spend two days learning about the curriculum, meeting other students in the cohort, talking with professors, and attending discussion sessions with program alumni. They are also introduced to the learning management system they will use and the expectations that faculty have for students in the program. Additionally, the orientation provides training sessions for accessing library resources and technical tools that will prove useful for students in their research work. After orientation, students progress into their first two courses: Multi-Platform Storytelling and Psychology of Audiences.
In the Spring, students learn about using data as a contextual tool to address and analyze problems and how to use graphic elements to visualize and present information. Courses include Media Analytics and The Business of Media. Following the first year of coursework, students participate in a week-long summer residency that is designed to prepare students for their second year of coursework and for their final thesis project. Students meet the instructors for their second-year classes, and also receive key information and guidelines pertaining to their thesis. The Program Director meets with each student individually to discuss thesis parameters and students’ preliminary ideas regarding their thesis topic. During this summer session, students also take a course in Information Visualization.
In year two, students take courses in Strategic Communication, Usability and Multimedia Design, Media Law for the Digital Age, Leadership in Digital Media Economics, and Media Law for the Digital Age. After completing their classes and successfully passing a final examination, students work on a “non-traditional” thesis, which is students’ opportunity to investigate a specific digital media issue or challenge facing a business or organization. This project includes a written proposal, a written document that includes a project summary, a case study around said digital media issue, and a final presentation and oral examination with the student’s faculty committee. Pending faculty advisor approval, students may be able to use their current employer as the organization for which they examine a digital media challenge. The aim of this project is to have students synthesize concepts from their program courses and apply them to concrete recommendations for a real organization.
The University of North Carolina is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the School of Media and Journalism is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Online Master of Arts in Digital Communication
Department: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
Websites: Department and Program
Structure: Online program with two required campus visits (2 day orientation at the beginning and a 5 day summer residency)
Instruction Methods: Program uses a cohort model with asynchronous instruction
Campus Visits Required: Yes (2 throughout the program)
Program Length: Program is designed to be completed in 2.5 years (2 courses per Fall and Spring semester, 1 course in Summer)
Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
Thesis Required: No
Capstone Options: Three part final project (non-traditional thesis) plus final examination
Credits Required: 30 credits (10 courses including non-traditional thesis)
Example Courses: Writing for Digital Media; Research Methods and Applications; Digital Data and Analytics; Information Visualization; New Media and Society; Strategic Communication; Usability and Multimedia Design; Media Law for the Digital Age; Leadership in Digital Media Economics
Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
GPA Requirements: Minimum GPA 3.0
Testing Requirements: GRE required (minimum GRE scores - verbal section: 55th percentile, quantitative section: 50th percentile)
Work Experience: Three or more years of professional experience required
Start Dates: Fall admission only
Estimated Tuition: ~$20,340 + fees (in-state); ~$43,950 + fees (out-of-state)
Cost per Credit Hour: $678 per credit hour (in-state); $1,465 per credit hour (out-of-state)
State Authorizations: Program accepts students from all 50 states