Digital Media 2025 Initiative - University of Houston
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Digital Media 2025 Initiative

The Digital Media program was planned and submitted to the appropriate UH and THECB committees in 2007 and was approved to be offered to students as of Fall 2009. When the program was originally planned, the “smart” phone did not exist. Many other technological systems that are used in the Digital Media field have transformed greatly over the years. The program must evolve to satisfy these inventions and transformations.

By 2018, the program had about a ten-year track cadre of graduates who are earning their livings in the Digital Media field. These students were able, along with the members of the Digital Media Advisory Board, to look objectively at the program and determine its best and weakest features. During 2018–19, the Digital Media faculty engaged these constituents, along with its current students, and envisioned “Digital Media 2025,” i.e., what the 2025 graduate of the Digital Media program needs to be like to be the most successful in the field. Part of this envisioning process included a summit, held in April 2019, that was attended by nearly 80 professionals (including alumni). In addition, a survey was distributed electronically to advisors, faculty, and alumni. Finally, select alumnae were interviewed in depth by members of the class of 2019.

A complete report detailing the process used to conduct the DIGM 2025 Initiative can be found here. 

Several themes dominated the Digital Media 2025 results:

  • Students should not be pigeonholed into narrow career fields; i.e., our graduates should not think of themselves as video editors, but as strategists or Indeed, an increasingly-common job title for our alumni is digital strategist.
  • Students need an introductory class...one that will set the stage for the entire curriculum. Adding such a course would also fulfill the request Department Chair Enrique Barbieri, who would like to students to demonstrate some fundamental knowledge and be able to use certain tools prior to being formally admitted to the program.
  • Students need to be very proficient in the principles of User Experience (UX). The focus of today’s digital media strategist or producer must always remain on the end-user. A course in UX, near the beginning of the curriculum, will focus the students’ thinking process on the ends rather than the
  • The students need a course focused on professional development to help them get the best possible jobs upon graduation.
  • Students need to know data visualization and analysis.
  • We should offer a Master of Science degree. This is especially true if we are able to create a combined BS + MS degree than can be completed in a total of five years.

Specific Proposals

Eliminate the sub-plans (areas of emphasis) in the current degree plan.

The Digital Media program in existence in 2018 could be considered: “required courses + a sub-plan.” Digital Media students choose one of five 12-hour sub-plans: Production Graphics, eMedia, eCommerce, Packaging, or Simulation and Gaming. Even though these sub-plans only represented 10% of their entire baccalaureate degrees, students tended to think of themselves as “I’m in eCommerce,” or “I’m a packaging student.” Emphatic advice was given to us by our alumnae, such thinking “pigeon-holes” students and prevents them from seeing the overall value of Digital Media as a whole. Thus, the curriculum initiated in Fall 2020 takes the advice of our constituents and eliminates this pigeon-hole attribute of the previous DIGM degree plan.

When asked, on the DIGM 2025 online survey, whether all students should take the same generalist courses or take a core of required classes plus some focusing courses, the respondents overwhelmingly chose: “Students take a core of required classes and then specialize (our current structure).” This result seems to contradict the advice provided during in-depth discussions with our alumnae.

Upon reflection, this dichotomy was traced to the need for both soft skills (such as strategic thinking, writing, innovation, and leadership) that graduates need to succeed in the long run and hard skills (such as operating video recorders, using software to design packaging, and mining data) that are required for students to get their first jobs. The soft skills will be used more permanently by graduates than the hard skills that change every time a software vendor makes an update to its product.

To satisfy this dichotomy, the new Digital Media program requires 14 courses that will be common to all Digital Media majors and then allows students to pick five additional courses as electives. Students, depending upon their temperaments and career goals, could focus these courses on one specific field within Digital Media (package design, for example) or take a sampling from among courses related to multiple fields.

The change from “required courses + sub-plan” to “required courses + electives” also gave students more flexibility when choosing classes they can take to graduate in a timely manner. This is especially true for students who need only one sub-plan class to graduate, but that class is not offered during the student’s final semester.

Since the field of Digital Media is changing so quickly and fundamentally, the faculty will regularly teach DIGM 4390 (Current Issues in Digital Media) and, as the need arises, DIGM 4397 (Selected Topics in Digital Media). These courses will be acceptable elective choices for all students.

Provide a choice in business-related courses through existing minor degree plans

Digital Media is the creative convergence of digital art, science, technology, and business. Because business is an integral part of the Digital Media field, the DIGM program has always included several courses from the College of Technology’s Technology Leadership and Innovation Management (TLIM) degree (previously known as Organizational Leadership and Supervision). These courses constitute a minor. So, DIGM students have, from the very beginning of the program, graduated with both a DIGM major and a TLIM minor.

Colleagues in the Technology Leadership and Innovation Management program created a new minor in Applied Innovation. This new minor is also available to Digital Media students.

When asked, on the DIGM 2025 Survey, whether Digital Media graduates should be called “strategists,” “producers,” “technologists,” or other terms, the most-commonly-chosen term was “strategist.” “Producer” was chosen second most often.

These terms relate to the two aforementioned minors: Strategists would best be prepared by the Applied Innovation minor while Producers would benefit more from the Technology Leadership and Innovation minor.

The Digital Media degree plan implemented in Fall 2020 requires students, after advisement, to choose either the Applied Innovation or the Technology Leadership and Innovation minor. 

Moving some courses from upper-division to lower division

During the years that the Digital Media program has existed, some areas of endeavor have moved from being “high end” to basic. The new curriculum respects those changes. For example, much of the content of DIGM 4376, Integrated Media, focused on the end user’s needs. This concept is so critical to effective Digital Media now that we are moving the course to the freshman year and retitling it User Experience/Interface Design. Similarly, DIGM 3350, which has historically been an introduction to the field of Graphic Communication, should really be taught at the very beginning of the program instead of in the fourth semester.

Specific Undergraduate Course Changes

  • DIGM 1300 was added as the program’s first course: “Introduction to Digital Media.” Students need to take and pass this course before declaring Digital Media as their major.
  • DIGM 1350, Graphics for Digital Media , changed from a 2-3 lecture/lab to 0-6 lab. This provided additional time for students to develop their projects and have their work critiqued. The content of the existing lecture will be covered in the DIGM 1300 course. (Note that this course will require an additional three hours of lab work outside of organized class so that nine hours are required each week, per the College of Technology’s rule of 1 hour of academic credit per three hours of lab.) 
  • DIGM 3325, Information Technology Applications for Digital Media, moved to the sophomore year and was renumbered 2325. This allowed the skills learned in 2325 to be used in the DIGM 3351 and 2357 (previously 3357) courses.
  • DIGM 3351, Individualized Communication Processes builds upon the content of two courses that have been moved into the sophomore year: DIGM 2325 and 2353. These courses become prerequisites for DIGM 3351. This course takes advantage of XMPie uPrint and uImage, which were graciously provided to the Digital Media Program by Xerox. The integration of XMPie into this course, as well as DIGM 2357 (formerly 3357) necessitated a catalog description change.
  • DIGM 3356, ePublishing, had a prerequisite change to remove DIGM 2351 and add 1376, 2357, and 3351.
  • DIGM 3357, Content Strategy & Development, moved to the sophomore year and was renumbered 2357. Its prerequisites were changed to reflect the other changes in this proposal. This course will take advantage of XMPie Circle, which was being graciously provided to the Digital Media Program by Xerox.
  • DIGM 2351, Web Design, moved to the senior year, was renumbered 4351, and its title became Professional Development. Note that web design became much over the years and can be easily accomplished in a WYSIWYG way using online tools. So, it isn’t necessary for all our students to take a class in local-computer-based web design. Students still have the option to take one or more classes in web programming/coding if they desire. However, the focus of the Professional Development course is to use online web site design tools to create a personally-branded portfolio and to skillfully use print media to create a personal branding package to give to potential employers.
  • DIGM 4372, Costing in Digital Media, had prerequisite modifications consistent with the rest of these changes.
  • DIGM 4376, Integrated Media was moved to the freshman year, was renumbered 1376, and retitled: User Experience Research. This senior-level course has traditionally covered UX principles. However, these principles were so fundamental to the contemporary world of digital media strategy that we decided to introduce them in the freshman year so that students can incorporate them throughout the remaining courses. Note: we hired a new DIGM professor for 2019 and beyond; her specialty is UX. 
  • DIGM 4378, Senior Project, has prerequisite modifications consistent with the rest of these changes.
  • DIGM 4379, Transmedia Authoring and Distribution becomes Transmedia Marketing® (which is consistent with our online non-credit certificate program) and had prerequisite modifications consistent with the rest of these changes. This course takes advantage of XMPie Circle, which was graciously provided to the Digital Media Program by Xerox.
  • DIGM 4381, Mobile Application Design, had prerequisite changes to reflect DIGM course number changes as well as provide for a choice in prerequisite programming language.
  • DIGM 4390, Selected Topics in Digital Media, had prerequisite changes to accommodate different topics (different topics would require different prerequisite knowledge). The new prerequisite is: Digital Media major or minor; consent of instructor.

New Classes

To accomplish the new vision of the Digital Media program, we adopted a Computer Information Systems (CIS) course.

  • CIS 3220, Information Visualization was added to the Digital Media sophomore year. The prerequisite for this course is MATH 2331 or TMTH 3360 (students take one of these two classes to fulfill the Math/Reasoning section of the DIGM degree plan).

Program Flowchart—Required Major Courses:

Core DIGM flowchart

Program Electives

Minor: Choose One:

  • Applied Innovation
  • Technology Leadership and Innovation minor

Course Electives: Mix or Match Any Five of These Courses

  • Production Graphics
    • DIGM 3350: Graphic Communication Production Processes
    • DIGM 3252 + 3152: Graphic Communication Output + Lab
    • DIGM 3355: Package Technology
    • DIGM 4373: Photographic Tone and Color Reproduction
    • DIGM 4375: Package Design
    • DIGM 4390: Current Issues in Digital Media
    • DIGM 4399: Senior Honors Thesis
  • Motion Media
    • DIGM 3356: ePublishing
    • DIGM 3370: Two Dimensional Computer Generated Imagery Animation
    • DIGM 3374: Video Production 2
    • DIGM 4350: Venue Transmedia
    • DIGM 4382: Simulation and Gaming
    • DIGM 4390: Current Issues in Digital Media
    • DIGM 4399: Senior Honors Thesis
  • eCommerce
    • DIGM 3356: ePublishing
    • DIGM (TBD): Storefront Design
    • HDCS 3369: Entrepreneurship
    • HDCS 4374: Entrepreneurial E-Tailing
    • HDCS 4375: Strategies in E-Tailing
    • SCLT 2380: Distribution Channels
    • SCLT 3381: Industrial and Consumer Sales
    • DIGM 4390: Current Issues in Digital Media
    • DIGM 4399: Senior Honors Thesis
  • Web/Mobile Programming/Coding
    • COSC 1306: Computer Science and Programming
    • CIS 2336: Internet Application Development or
      • ELET 2300: Introduction to C++ Programming
    • DIGM 3356: ePublishing
    • DIGM 4381: Mobile Application Design
    • DIGM 4382: Simulation and Gaming
    • DIGM 4390: Current Issues in Digital Media
    • DIGM 4399: Senior Honors Thesis