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Sheridan Curiosities Blog

Screen shot from the #WhatAreTheChances website

What are the chances a group of second-year Sheridan students could create a website that is internationally recognized? Apparently, pretty good.

#WhatAreTheChances – a project examining how income, gender, mental health, and race can impact a GenY’s opportunities – is the latest site developed in Sheridan’s Broadcast Journalism’s Online News Production class, a course that I co-teach with Cheryl Vallender.

“For a small journalism program that developed a project with no funding, the nomination itself is a major accomplishment” – Nicole Blanchett-Neheli

The site won a national Emerge Media Award in the spring of 2015 and was a finalist for an Online Journalism Award hosted at the Online News Association Conference in California in September. We’re the only Canadian school in the running. The three other finalists in our category come from two, high-profile post-graduate programs in the United States. For a small journalism program that developed a project with no funding, the nomination itself is a major accomplishment. And it’s not the first time our students have been in the spotlight.

Back in 2014, a project called Digitally-Dependent Relationships created in the same course, was nominated in two categories at the GEN international Data Journalism Awards, losing out in one to The New York Times. The project looked at how flipping a classroom, using flexible teaching and learning strategies, and engaging students by making them decision makers results in quality content.

Another big factor in the quality of content produced in this course and its success in general, is that although Cheryl and I share many of the same skills, my primary strength is editorial and hers is web design. Where we might be able to supervise a project individually that could be really strong in one area and adequate in another, together, we can teach students how to create a project that excels on all levels.

With any class though, there are bumps along the way. We had to rejig timelines and due dates of assignments leading up to #WhatAreTheChances to make sure this particular group of students could manage the workload. And although the course had technically finished, the website still wasn’t ready to go public. Despite having received a final mark for the project and the course, with our encouragement and advisement, students decided they’d fix the problems that were preventing the site from being published. Led by superstar students Nick Kattis and Maria Ramage, who are now both working in the industry, they made the necessary changes that resulted in an incredibly insightful and visually-engaging piece of work.

“So really, chance has nothing to do with it. Creativity, flexibility, ingenuity, and plain, old hard work are the keys to success – for this project – and a small program trying to make a big impact” – Nicole Blanchett-Neheli

So really, chance has nothing to do with it. Creativity, flexibility, ingenuity, and plain, old hard work are the keys to success – for this project – and a small program trying to make a big impact.


Pictured at top of page: Screen shot from the #WhatAreTheChances website

Written by: Nicole Blanchett-Neheli, Professor of Journalism at Sheridan.

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