Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Immersive Learning

September 5, 2014

BSU Journalism at the Fair students and teachers pose
Students in the BSU Journalism at the Fair immersive learning project pose with a banner at the state's annual event. The group produced dozens of feature stories for professional media.

Dan Edwards and his classmates in an immersive learning experience were hunting for stories at the Indiana State Fair when they saw dogs “kissing” people for $1.

The Ball State students set up a slow motion video camera and filmed the 90-second clip "Puppy Lovin'," which got the attention of Good Morning America and USA Today, among other media.

Part of me just didn’t think it was real until it was on screen,” Edwards, ’15, says. “The moment we saw our work come on, we just took this huge breath in and didn’t let it out until it was over.”

The telecommunications major joined BSU Journalism at the State Fair after participating in BSU at the Games, immersive learning experiences covering the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

“I’ve had amazing professors and instructors and advisors, who just bent over backward to help me get credit with this,” he says. "You kind of catch a bug for this."

Colleen Steffen, one of Edwards’ journalism instructors, described the dog video as the “biggest coup” for the students she mentored at the fair. But it was just one of dozens of human-interest stories, photos, and videos that ran in professional media outlets throughout Indiana and occasionally outside the state.

'Human panorama'

Telecommunications students prepare equipment
Ball State students Dan Edwards, Michael Webb and Sam Noble prepare equipment for a video shoot.

The group—a mix of 25 journalism and telecommunicatios students—spent 17 days in August 2014 working as a “free freelance agency” with reporters, photographers, videographers, editors, designers, and public relations specialists.

Steffen and Ryan Sparrow, a fellow journalism instructor, secured a Provost Immersive Learning Grant to pay for equipment and a trailer, where students wrote stories and produced videos. They covered everything from cows giving birth to deep-fried Oreos to two students’ very different reactions on carnival rides.

“You have to take a minute to appreciate stuff like that,” Steffen said. “It’s like a human panorama. … Enterprise is a really big lesson they learn—how to go out and find something. And how to see something.”

News media in need

By the numbers

194 – times students' work ran
40 – media ran students' stories
40,000 – views for videos  

Professional media could choose stories they liked on a public website the students managed.

In other cases, the students tailored coverage for individual newspapers or broadcasts.

The project helped some media outlets report an event they otherwise would not have covered, Steffen said.

One of them is The Kokomo Tribune, which created a special section on its website and ran a few stories in print.

“The Kokomo Tribune doesn’t have the resources to cover the Indiana State Fair, and certainly not the way the BSU at the Fair project did,” says Jill Bond, the newspaper’s city editor. “Having the students there taking video, live tweeting, and sending in polished stories and processed photos gave us a chance to offer our web users and print readers something special that we were not able to produce ourselves.”