Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association

Volume 9, Number 1 (2009)

Bruce Ronkin, Editor Northeastern University

Published with Support from

Media Evolution and its Correlative Effect upon Curricular Instruction in the Twenty-First Century

Marcia Lewis

Valparaiso University (Emeritus)

This research was funded by a 2008 Senior Faculty Research Grant from the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association.


All sectors of media in the twenty-first century continue to undergo a profound transformation because of multiplying distribution channels, declining entry barriers for content producers, continuous technological advancements, and mounting competitive pressures. During the fi rst decade of the century, we have witnessed the proliferation of fi le sharing, a nosedive in the sale of physical products like recordings, books, and newspapers, and the shrinking of employment opportunities in nearly all sectors of the media industry, with the music and print sectors being hit especially hard. A more gradual shift in the culture at large—the culture of information and social interaction—has been evolving simultaneously. We are in an age in which computers are as common as cockroaches and the internet is king. Because the entertainment industry has been transformed by the internet, educational institutions must shift their focus to adequately prepare students to be successful in an industry that is rejecting old business models, eliminating career options, and struggling to find new directions.

The aim of this research is to study how the rapidly changing business models within the media industry are effecting the development of curricular instruction in educational institutions. What is the proper balance between a traditional survey or introductory course and a contemporary trends or entrepreneurship course in media education? Is a history of the recording industry or copyright course as important as the more practical media technology lab or experiential internship? Is the development of critical thinking and verbal communication skills more or less important than the development of personal creativity and entrepreneurial motivation? Educators must constantly keep abreast of change in business economics, technological advancements, and pedagogical paradigms. Academic curricula must reflect this “Brave New World” and prepare our millennial students for careers in the contemporary world. Through examination of the rapid shifts confronting media organizations from the legal, market, technological, and organization perspectives, strategies for innovation in curricular content, methodology, and pedagogy will evolve that more effectively reflect new business models and continuous industry transformations.

Prior Research

An interesting Time magazine article entitled “How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century” (Wallis & Steptoe 2006) addressed critical issues facing American educators today, including the pace of change and the chasm separating the world inside the classroom from the world outside. A commission of representatives from business, government, and education issued a blueprint for rethinking American education in 2006. It reached consensus on one key conclusion: we need to bring what we teach, and how we teach, into the twenty-first century. Today’s economy demands not only a high level of competence in traditional academic disciplines, but also what might be called twenty-fi rst-century skills. These include:

and what educators call “portable” skills, many analysts

believe American curriculum needs to emphasize depth

over breadth, the ability to leap across disciplines, and the

presentation of key concepts taught in a careful sequential

manner, as opposed to a succession of forgettable details.

Lucy Küng in her book Strategic Management in the Media (2008) makes the following concluding comments: “The media industry is at an extraordinary point of transition. The mass paradigm is suffering from erosion, but the underlying structure is still intact. The media industry is inexorably drawing closer to the fields of telecommunications and information technology, but sector boundaries are still discernible, although new products, business models, and cultural forms are emerging” (p. 223). The author views this situation as presenting both enormous challenges and significant opportunities for academics in the media field and strategic planners in media organizations.

Scholar and activist, Robert W. McChesney, in his book Communication Revolution (2007) advocates that media academics should be at the center of the debate about policy changes in communications—not the politicians or global corporate executives. “We are in the midst of a communication revolution that is at the center of 21st-century life” (p. 3). He argues convincingly that the movement for media reform needs to enter a new phase where democratic values trump corporate profits or government politics.

How do we academics in higher education adapt our teaching objectives and curricular pedagogy to best reflect the rapid changes transpiring in education, media, and communications? This is a topic of concern voiced by many contributors to previous MEIEA Journals. As early as 2000, Bruce Ronkin advocated the need for the introduction of global musical awareness into our undergraduate degree programs. Claudia McCain in 2002 studied thirty-one music business programs, surveyed graduates from Western Illinois University who were working in the music industry, and designed a “Model Music Business Curriculum.” Barry Hill (2003) advocated the organization of our teaching around applications and issues, rather than content and topics. Dick Weissman in his philosophical article “Knowledge For What? A Change Is Gonna Come, and Maybe We Should Be Part of the Solution,” makes five insightful suggestions in 2004 that are still relevant today.

1) Whatever we think we are training people for, it is probably

not what they are going to be doing five to ten years from

now. 2) Critical thinking is no longer a desirable attribute; it is a necessity. 3) If we don’t start to cap enrollments in our programs, we will

be in the same position as other areas of music where we

train far more people than can possibly be employed. 4) The business itself has to undergo some serious changes.

5) The internet will not solve everyone’s problem.

These five pearls of wisdom still ring true today, as does Weissman’s concluding remark: “If I were still teaching, I would have to rethink all of the things I used to present as stock wisdom” (p. 140).

Finally a 2007 MEIEA Journal article by media industry executive, Ron Sobel, President of North Star Media, questions whether the mission of our schools is reflecting the transformation in the industry, both from a business and creative perspective. He views the industry as including an amalgam of “music, technology, consumer, broadcast, public policy, legislative, and intellectual property law communities. Rather than teaching students primarily about the traditional business models, laws and contracts, our students need to be exposed to the contemporary realities of digital distribution, legislative initiatives, and evolving business models impacting the industry currently.” He challenges educators to re-evaluate their curricula, to learn, and to update their teaching. “Just as the very nature of the music industry is evolving, the music schools themselves must adapt, evolve, and redesign their own infrastructures,” warns Sobel. He considers this mission both an opportunity and a mandate for educators (pp. 178-179).

Research Methodology

How are we coping with this mandate as educators? Concern for this issue provided the impetus for my research. A survey was designed to determine whether curricular content and pedagogical methodology is currently adapting to the many challenges presented by the changing business environment in the media and entertainment industry. A twenty-question survey was administered to educators in the music and entertainment, audio engineering, arts administration, and broadcast industries in October, 2008. A total of seventy-eight educators responded to the survey. Data was compiled based upon the responses received from members of four professional organizations: MEIEA (Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association), AAAE (Association of Arts Administration Educators), AES (Audio Engineering Society), and BEA (Broadcast Education Association). Data from all four professional organizations were consolidated to maintain anonymity.

Research Results

The rst ve questions identied the respondent’s employment information, professional afliation, age, teaching experience, and area of specialization. Gender statistics were not gathered.

Type of Institution

Of the educators who responded, the majority taught at four-year institutions offering bachelor degrees (58%). Educators teaching in graduate schools granting either a masters or doctoral degree comprised the next largest group (30%). Those teaching in junior colleges comprised 8% and those in technical or trade schools, 5% (see Figure 1).

Professional Organization Membership

This chart indicates that the majority of the respondents were members of MEIEA (58%), with AES members representing 38%, followed by 16% from AAAE, and only 1% from BEA. A sizeable percentage of respondents were members of other professional organizations and many belonged to more than one association (see Figure 2).

Age Demographics

The majority of the respondents (89%) were in the 30-60 age brackets, with the largest percentage (40%) being 50-60 years old (see Figure 3).

Teaching Experience

This chart is interesting when compared to the previous one. Although teachers responding to this survey were mature in years, their teaching experience peaked in the 5-15 year bracket. This suggests experience in the industry probably preceded an academic career in many

Figure 1. Type of institution. Figure 2. Professional organization membership.

instances (see Figure 4).

Area of Specialization

Survey respondents were allowed to choose more than one response to this question as indicated by the 230 responses. The number of respondents specializing in music (91%) more than doubled the next category, online (web based), at a surprisingly high 40%. Following closely are social media, radio, and film in the low 30s percentile group. Areas of specialization in television, publishing, and print fell into the 20s percentile group. This chart suggests that faculty are adapting a multi-dimensional approach to learning and teaching, and are training in more than one area of media (see Figure 5).

To summarize Figures 1 through 5, the typical person taking this survey is teaching in a music department of an undergraduate institution for approximately 15 years and is around 45 years of age.

Questions 6 through 8 were devised to collect information pertaining to degree and accreditation issues. Most academic institutions model their curricular offerings based upon degree requirements and accreditation standards. Much debate about the proper balance of liberal arts, core requirements, and professional courses guide the modeling of each institution’s offerings.

Degree Program

The responses to this question are fairly equally divided among the four choices. Although the Bachelor of Science category received 29%, so did the “Other” category (that includes junior colleges and technical schools that grant associate degrees or certificates) (see Figure 6).


88% of those surveyed teach at institutions that are accredited by a variety of professional organizations, both national and regional. The most common were NASM (19 schools), SACS (9 schools), and a variety of associations for different areas of the country (including New England, Northwest, Middle State, Southern, and Mid Atlantic). Other institutions have dance, theatre, business, or engineering programs accredited by agencies in these disciplines (see Figure 7).

Effect of Accreditation

Of the 67 accredited institutions represented, 52 (74%) of the respondents indicated that accreditation serves the purpose of providing academic standards and curricular guidelines for their respective schools. 12 additional people responded that accreditation encourages curricular change. 13 indicated in the “Other” category that accreditation affects general education requirements, demands program evaluation, encourages curriculum evaluation, and forces assessment (see Figure 8).

On the other hand, 29 respondents, or 41%, viewed accreditation less favorably, stating that it places limitations on curricular offerings or course innovation. One person wrote, “It is just more busy work!”

Summary of Questions 6–8: although media education curriculum is housed in a variety of degree programs, the majority of academic institutions surveyed were accredited by outside agencies which provide helpful guidelines for standards and curricula.

Questions 9 and 10 specically focus on categories of pedagogy and type of course offerings, whereas Questions 11 through 13 further dene curricular offerings and methodology by employing percentages and usage indicators. Question 14 ranks the importance of aptitudes of our institutions’ graduates.

Area of Media Education

Respondents taking this survey teach in a variety of areas of media, however business (44%) and technical production (42%) were represented the most, followed by arts administration and marketing (35% and 32% respectively), and entertainment law and organizational perspectives, both at 26% (see Figure 9).

Whereas the categories were quite broad in this question, many people used the “Other” category to further define their areas of expertise. Other areas of media instruction mentioned were mass media, broadcasting, copyright and trade law, music publishing, song writing, artist management, fund development and finances, record company operations, sales, entertainment business, global business, music engineering and production, acoustics, sound design for theater, digital signal processing, and audio documentary.

Type of Course Offerings

Most institutions offer a survey or introductory course (83%). The next most common course offerings are business/marketing (77%), and audio production (73%). Offerings ranging from 53-60% are entertainment law, public relations/promotion/publicity, music publishing/distribu-tion, and entrepreneurship. Skipping the 40s percentile group, more contemporary curriculum (online, video production, and global) is offered in more than a third of our institutions. Print/journalism courses are offered in only 17% of the institutions surveyed (see Figure 10).

Distribution of Types of Curriculum

This chart further defines curriculum by categorizing the various types of courses and their percentage of usage from zero to more than 50%. The highest numbers indicate that 49% of the respondents have courses with historical content offered in 10-20% of their course offerings, 42% offer global or international content in only 0-10% of their courses, and 36% of the respondents have research evaluation in only 0-10% of their offerings (see Figure 11).

Analysis of each content category reveals the following data:

Historical – when viewed from left to right, the data has a

dramatic downward slope from the 0 to 50%-plus range.

Current Trends – this data graphs in reverse proportion to

the historical one, with a rising percentage of coverage as

one moves from left to right (0-50%).

Technical Production (Video/Audio) – a rather level bar

graph with a cluster of users in the 0-30% range and the

highest number (20%) in the over-50% range.

Entrepreneurship – this graph is equally weighted in the 0-30% range, but drops significantly in the 30%+ range. This drop is somewhat alarming since employment opportunities in our present economy have shifted from the more traditional to the more innovative.

Global or International – a somewhat similar curve to Historical with a heavy concentration in the 0-20% range and a sharp drop from left to right.

Experiential – peaks in the 30-40% range but is emphasized in all the surrounding ranges.

Case Studies – has a downward slope from left to right, indicating that this category is not utilized extensively in the predominately undergraduate programs surveyed.

Research Evaluation – again this category has an even more dramatic downward slope, suggesting this area is probably used more extensively in graduate, rather than undergraduate programs.

Methodology Usage

The predominance of the “Frequently” used category in this chart is significant. With the exception of the Online or Web-Based category, which ranks highest in the “Some” choice, the other types of instruction (lecture, group discussion, student presentations, visuals, audio clips and team projects) all have their highest number in the “Frequently Used” category. The lecture format has the highest percentage of use (60%) in this category (see Figure 12).

Also of interest in this chart is the fact that no one avoids using the lecture or group discussion type of methodology and that the “Some” and “Always” categories are approximately utilized half as much as the “Frequent” categories in all types of instructional methods except for the Online category where the “Never” and “Frequent” choices about equal the “Some” option.

This chart implies that a variety of methodology is employed in our classroom presentations.

Classroom Activities

Chalk Collaborative Seminar Testing Electronic Labs Other
and Talk Group Projects Discussions (PowerPoint)
32% 19% 17% 8% 16% 8%

Figure 13. What percentage of your classroom time is devoted to the following activities?

MEIEA Journal

Figure 13 represents responses to a survey question that was not constructed to generate a graph. Data was gathered from 52 of the respondents whose information equaled a total of 100%. The majority of classroom time involves talk and demonstration. Collaborative group projects, seminar discussions, and electronic labs occupy about the same percentage of classroom time. Testing takes up only 8% of classroom time, as do “other” activities. Types of activities mentioned in the “Other” category include audio demonstrations, individual creative projects and research, current events discussions, student presentations, guest lectures, writing and analysis, and hands-on production work.

Goals for Graduates

The range of opinions is very divergent in Figure 14 which ranks the importance of aptitudes in our graduates. Looking at each category from left to right the following observations can be made:

Knowledge and Information ranked no. 1 by 28%, slopes downward in importance.

Technical Skills peak in the no. 2 spot and also has 14% who rank it in the 8th and 9th spot respectively. This chart indicates a difference of opinion in terms of importance.

Creativity has it highest number (18%) in the no. 3 spot. This aptitude seems to also have a variety of responses.

Communication Skills, both oral and written, peak in the no. 3 spot with a 19% ranking and in the no. 6 slot with 17%. The no. 4, 5, and 7 categories all received a 12% ranking.

Strategic Thinking peaks in the no. 4 slot with a 14% ranking, but also has high percentages in the 5th through th spots.

Problem Solving peaks in the no. 2 and no. 4 categories with 16% and 18% respectively.

Job Experience is rather equally distributed, but peaks in the no. 9 (last) position with 16%.

Leadership Skills peaks in the no. 8 category with 18%.

Teamwork is highest in the no. 7 category with 17%.

To summarize Figures 9 through 14, a diverse group of topics in media education are offered by educators, with the survey or introductory course being the most frequently taught, followed closely by business/marketing and audio production courses. The percentage of courses in the historical, entrepreneurship, global, case studies, and research categories declines rapidly when moving to the higher 50+ percentile option. Conversely, current trends courses are rising in usage and technical production courses are maintaining an equal distribution of use. A variety of methodologies are employed in the classroom and time is equally distributed between various methods of delivery. Viewpoints of the respondents pertaining to educational goals for our graduates are equally divergent.

Questions 15 through 19 present contrasting pairs of materials or means of instruction and ask the respondents to compare usage percentages. The survey read:

For the next five questions, please consider how recent changes in the business model have influenced your pedagogy. For each pairing below, comparing one to the other, indicate the percentage of usage among the contrasting materials or means of instruction. (Note: Your answers for each pairing should equal 100%.)

Print Versus Digital Distribution

Print Textbooks ranked strongest in the 40-80% brackets with the highest usage in the 70-80 percentile group (19%). Online or Web-Based Instruction peaked in the 20-50% usage category with 54% of the respondents marking this range. This category had the highest usage concentra-tion in the 40-50% range (27%). (See Figure 15.)

Classroom Instruction Versus Distance Learning

Classroom Instruction peaks in the highest 90-100% percentile group with 49% of the respondents indicating they favor this mode of learning. Distance Learning, on the other hand, is heavily weighted in the lowest percentile with 63% ranking this in the 0-10% category. Figure 16 indicates a clear preference for classroom rather than distance learning.

Live Performance Versus Web Transmission

Live Performance (see Figure 17) is a top-heavy chart with the majority of the respondents ranking the upper two percentiles from 80-100% as most important. In the Web Transmission category, the chart is bottom-heavy with the majority of the respondents ranking this option in the bottom two percentile groups from 0-20%.

In-Class Discussion Versus Electronic Chat-Room

Figure 18 shows the obvious preference for oral discussion over electronic commentary. It is interesting to note that the 10-40% group has no advocates when it comes to excluding oral commentary and that the 60100 percentile group rank electronic commentary equally low.

Media Specialization Versus Multidimensional Approach

Both categories peak in the 40-50% category and have advocates at all percentile options. Perhaps this comparison is primarily affected by the talents and training of the individuals surveyed, rather than being indicative of a trend in media education (see Figure 19).

Summary of Comparison for Figures 15 through 19: print textbooks, classroom instruction, live performances, oral discussion, and media specialization are all used more frequently than their comparison partners online instruction, distance learning, web transmission, electronic commentary, or a multidimensional approach. However, the charts comparing print and online instruction and media specialization and multidimensional approaches to teaching were more similar in nature.

Question 20 provided space for additional commentary. It was difficult to take this survey if the respondent taught at more than one institution or offered a variety of courses (at differing levels) to students with a wide range of ability and interest. One respondent suggested more examples of terminology would have been helpful. Data from this research project substantiates the statement offered by one colleague: “Technology supports the classroom, but we find that the traditional classroom environment (vs. distance learning and electronic commentary) is still best.”

Limitations and Implications for Research

Although the issue of “Media Evolution and its Correlative Effect upon Curricular Instruction in the Twenty-first Century” was researched primarily through means of a survey of educators, this study has limitations that should be recognized and that could lead to further research.

1) Results from the four professional associations surveyed were not equally represented and the number of respondents was relatively small with a total of 77 responses. Since the author is a member of MEIEA, this organization of educa- tors responded with over 25% of its membership taking the survey. Approximately 20% of the members of AES took the survey, a lesser percentage of AAAE responded, and only one member of BEA was included in the data.

2) Results from the respondents to the survey was analyzed collectively, rather than assessed individually by profes- sional association.

3) This survey assumed the respondent was a specialist in type and level of instruction, while in fact many educators teach a wide range of courses, at introductory and advanced levels, and even at a variety of institutions. It was therefore difficult for those taking the survey to categorize, label, and summarize what they taught, especially when asked to define a diversity of course offerings. They could have been instructed to fill out a survey for each class they taught. However, this would have been more time consuming. The author designed a twenty-minute survey with questions of-

fering choices, rather than being open-ended, intentionally,

to entice more educators to participate in the survey.

The initial findings from this study are instructive in establishing benchmark indicators for current pedagogical methodology in the media, yet there are implications, not substantiated, that warrant further investigation. Future surveys could reveal how quickly, and in what direction, media pedagogy and educational goals are shifting. Are pedagogical paradigms keeping pace with the evolutionary change in business economics and technological advancements? Will media education shift to a more experiential, global, and entrepreneurial emphasis in the near future? These questions still need additional research to formulate defi nitive answers.


Educators in the twenty-first century must be lifelong learners. Although they need not fear becoming obsolete, they will feel increasing pressure to bring their methods and curriculum into line with the way the modern world works. As the world shrinks through digital communication and global commerce, the question of how to prepare our students for a future that we cannot clearly describe remains a hot topic around the water coolers of higher education. David Warlick, an educational consultant, and author of Redening Literacy for the 21st Century (2004), believes the next generation of technologically savvy students will find some answers because they have more tools at their disposal and will be comfortable with new business models that embrace the future. Kusek and Leonhard in their book The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution see opportunities for change and growth, especially for creative thinkers. Let us hope, with the careful guidance of innovative and informed educators, this prediction holds true and we are able to share with our students of the future the “portable” skills of critical thinking, making connections between ideas, and a quest for lifelong learning.


Gordon, Steve. The Future of the Music Business: How to Succeed with the New Digital Technologies. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005.

Hill, Barry R. “Are Your Learners Learning? A Critical Look at How and What We Teach.” MEIEA Journal 3, no. 1 (2003): 85–91.

Küng, Lucy. Strategic Management in the Media: theory to practice. London: Sage Publications, 2008.

Kusek, David and Gerd Leonhard. The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution. Boston: Berklee Press, 2005.

McCain, Claudia. “A Model Music Business Curriculum.” MEIEA Journal 2, no. 1 (2002): 14–27.

McChesney, Robert W. Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media. New York: The New Press, 2007.

Ronkin, Bruce. “Introducing Global Musical Awareness Into the Undergraduate Music Industry Degree. MEIEA Journal 1, no. 1 (2000): 29–39.

Sobel, Ron. “Music Schools: Are We Incubating Excellence?” MEIEA Journal 7, No. 1 (2007): 177–186.

Wallis, Claudia and Sonja Steptoe. “How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century. Time, December 9, 2006, 50–56.

Warlick, David F. Redening Literacy for the 21st Century. Santa Barbara, California: Linworth Publishing, 2004.

Weissman, Dick. “Knowledge For What? A Change Is Gonna Come and Maybe We Should Be Part of the Solution.” MEIEA Journal 4, no. 1 (2004): 137–141.

MARCIA LEWIS recently retired from Valparaiso University after teaching for more than thirty years in the voice and music industry departments. Previous academic positions were held at Augustana College in South Dakota and Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. Dr. Lewis received her doctorate degree in vocal performance from Northwestern University and earlier degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an active MEIEA Board Member for many years, serving as both Treasurer and Student Relations Director. In 2008 she was selected as the recipient of the MEIEA Senior Faculty Research Grant and made a presentation of the survey data presented in this article at the 2009 MEIEA conference held at Berklee College of Music in Boston.