© 2019 by Paige Normand

I founded and coordinated JMU’s Digital Communication Consulting (DigiComm), where I trained undergraduate tutors to help students develop skills to produce more sophisticated and professional online content that extend beyond the classroom. We emphasizes collaboration and teamwork through partnerships with faculty across campus, one-on-one peer consultations, and workshops.

At DigiComm, we assist students from all over campus: Hospitality and Management students developing digital portfolios, Engineering students creating digital stories about their community research projects, Biology students creating WordPress posts, Education majors preparing to make websites for their future classes.

DigiComm's Mission

Digital Communication Consulting empowers the JMU community to be content creators. Our team supports sophisticated and professional online content by offering semester-long faculty partnerships, one-on-one consultations, and workshops across campus.

DigiComm launched in the fall of 2014.  Now in our fourth year, our team of 8-10 tutors have: 

 

  • partnered with 50 faculty to support over 100 courses and programs
     

  • tutored over 1,200 students one-on-one on their digital stories and portfolios
     

  • assisted over 7,000 students across campus with their digital assignments

Leading DigiComm

 
Building DigiComm

DigiComm was born when I trained the first cohort of tutors in the spring of 2014.  I recruited students from three departments:

  • Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication (WRTC)

  • The School of Communication Studies (SCOM)

  • The School of Media Arts & Design (SMAD)

A tutoring center is only as good as its tutors, so I focused on recruiting the best students to not only train but also to shape the vision of our program. 

Since this first group would lay the foundation for our program, I sought out students who would not only bring a valuable range of perspectives on digital communication, but also be adaptable and self-motivated since we were training for our program that didn’t yet exist.  A tutoring center is only as good as its tutors, so I focused on recruiting the best students to not only train but also to shape the vision of our program. I had students apply for the course: they submitted an application, letter of interest, and participated in two-rounds of interviews before being accepted into the course, and then interviewed at the end of the semester to apply to be a part of the DigiComm Team.  Our staff has been small but ambitious, professional, and demonstrably successful.  

Coordinating DigiComm

Once I had successfully launched the program, my next hurdle was to develop a program management system that would ensure the tutors could both work with autonomy but also foster a sense of community and support within our program as well as provide the necessary professional development that would keep the tutors up to date and confident with new tools. 

I've achieved this through implementing several tools that promote transparency, autonomy, self-reflection, and collaboration within our team:

Slack

Internal Communication

Trello

Project Management

Google Drive

Documentation

Professional Development

Weekly 1x1

My values as a manager: 
  • Promote transparency
  • Support autonomy
  • Foster support & unity
  • Provide mentorship

The DigiComm tutors are my colleagues: they attend conferences, co-author scholarly chapters, conduct their own research, and run their own professional development workshops.  

 

Once I train and hire great employees, the rest of my work is ensuring that I provide the tools and support they need to do fantastic work for DigiComm.

 

DigiComm Media Fellows

About the Media Fellows Program

Media Fellows are extensively trained undergraduate tutors of digital communication.  Our Media Fellows can offer a range of services in class, out of class, and online to assist JMU students to create more sophisticated, usable, and professional online content by:

  • offering mini-lectures and/or workshops to a class on web builders, personal branding, and effective digital communication 

  • holding one-on-one consultations specifically to assist students in producing more sophisticated digital content for a their course

  • maintaining a website for their course with relevant resources, tools and websites that will enhance the students' digital production 

  • improving the overall quality of students process and digital production

Examples of Media Fellowships

Biotechnology Analysis

Fall 2017: Dr. Emily York from Integrated Sciences and Technology teamed up with Media Fellows Teresa Cummings to support her students' creation of digital stories investigating the ethical, legal and social implications of biotechnology. Students picked their topics and worked in teams. 

Benefits for Faculty Partners

Faculty who incorporate sustained digital assignments in their course benefit from a partnership with a Media Fellow:

  • The Media Fellow has experience utilizing web builders, digital storytelling platforms, and WordPress sites and can best advise faculty and students on effective approaches, tools, and timelines

  • The Media Fellow can handle the more technical issues in one-on-one or group consultations, allowing class time to be spent with course content

  • The Media Fellow can relay to the faculty member behind-the-scenes issues or concerns that can arise with digital assignments to improve process and production

 

After our first year (2014-2015), I interviewed DigiComm's faculty partners to discuss the program. 

DigiComm Consultations

Any JMU student working on a digital assignment or an online portfolio can make an appointment to work with one of our peer tutors. All consultations are non-directive and non-evaluative: we're here to empower JMU students to be content creators.

 

At the end of each consultation, the client fills out an exit survey.   Since our start in fall 2014, we have maintained a 100% Helpfulness Rating.  Perhaps even more impressive is the impact our tutors have on clients' confidence level with their digital assignments. 

 

Our 2016-2017 data illustrates how clients' assessment of their efficacy before their consultation falls into a bell curve. After the consultation, 98% of clients rate themselves as "Confident" or "Very Confident" about approaching their assignments. 

My work coordinating DigiComm is deeply intertwined with my teaching philosophy and my own production of digital work.  See more: