Sarconi: Universities should embrace experiential media courses

Microsoft recently announced an array of new products, including a new and improved Lumia phone, the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, a laptop created to challenge Apple’s MacBook Pro.

While those three gadgets are indicative of Microsoft’s focus on hardware, none of them were as exciting as the company showcasing the HoloLens, its augmented reality device that was first announced in January.

Upon watching a video on the HoloLens, I had an irrational urge to drop out of college and do anything I had to get in on either making it, making games for it or even just using it. Dropping out of school to pursue a relatively new technology that isn’t close to perfect may seem like a gross overreaction, but it’s not.

Unlike the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, the HoloLens isn’t a virtual reality headset. Rather, it augments the view of the user. This means the user can alter the world they live in. If you want a TV screen on your ceiling, you got it. If you want to play a game of FIFA in which the players and field are on your dining room table, you can make it happen. If you’re engineer and you want to look at your designs in 3-D, you can do that too. You can do anything.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t even have to drop out of school to get in on this. Rather than choose one or the other, I should be able to choose both. Sadly, that’s not really an option right now. The next great wave of media is taking place in companies ranging from Microsoft to Google to Hollywood studios, and yet, for the most part, colleges and universities are behind in the game.

Fortunately, Syracuse University isn’t one of them. There’s a virtual reality course being taught this semester in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications called Virtual Reality Storytelling. (Full disclosure: I am taking the course right now. It’s awesome.) The course’s professor, Dan Pacheco, says demand for the course is high, and for good reason in that it may set you apart in a job interview.

“Just having a good understanding of [virtual reality], especially for students in communications who want to work within media is going to be very marketable,” Pacheco said. “Every major media company right now is investing in virtual reality.”

Pacheco mentioned that he is also looking into creating a certificate program in Newhouse — an example that other universities should follow. There are other experiential media courses, but, as of right now, it seems this is still being passed off as another fad.

But if it’s only a passing trend, then why would the smartest, most profitable companies in the world be investing in it? Why did Facebook spend $2 billion on Oculus Rift? These companies don’t just spend money to spend money. They do their homework, and, for the most part, they make smart investments.

Technology is a fast-paced world, I get that. But schools need to do whatever they can to prepare their students for the future workplace — at all costs.

Paul Sarconi is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @paulsarconi.


Top Stories