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NUvention: Media Leverages AI with Latest Course Update

One of the signature courses in the Farley Center ’s NUvention course lineup, NUvention: Media was reinvented and relaunched this winter with a focus on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI).

As the world evolves around NUvention: Media, the class itself is evolving.

One of the signature courses in the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s NUvention course lineup, NUvention: Media was reinvented and relaunched this winter with a focus on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI).

During the quarter-long course, students explored different ways AI and computational technologies are shaping media’s future while simultaneously building their own AI-powered media ventures.

“Precisely because generative AI is so new, it’s an incredible time for students to conceive of media startups incorporating AI and working to bring their ideas out into the world,” said Jeremy Gilbert, the Knight Chair for Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, who led the revamped NUvention: Media course alongside Northwestern Engineering professor of computer science Larry Birnbaum.


A course for today’s media environment

The evolution of NUvention: Media (ENTREP 473, JOUR 390, JOUR 435, COMP_SCI 396, COMP_SCI 496) reflects rapid shifts in the media landscape.

First came NUvention: Web and Media in 2014, a two-quarter sequence tasking students to conceive of and construct a web-based business. As the barriers to building websites and mobile apps dropped, the course was rebranded as NUvention: Media in 2023 and challenged students to think less about web development and more about digital media ideas, users, and cutting-edge technologies.

Jeremy GilbertWith the rapid rise of AI, which Gilbert called “as transformative for the media as the rise of personal computers and smartphones,” the latest incarnation of NUvention: Media incorporates an intentional and explicit focus on generative AI.

The students, undergraduate and master’s degree students representing journalism, computer science, and entrepreneurship, gained valuable insights from Gilbert and Birnbaum, two individuals boasting rich experience in the media and AI spaces. Gilbert is the former director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, while Birnbaum cofounded Narrative Science, a company using AI to transform the most important information from a data source into a narrative expressed in natural language.

In addition, guest lectures from venture capitalists, media entrepreneurs, and officials at AI-powered operations helped students understand currently available technologies, AI’s existence in the media landscape, and today’s climate for building media startups.

“If you’re starting a media business today, whether it’s addressing news creation, distribution, or the ways in which people consume news, you need to consider the role of AI,” Gilbert said.


Expediting the process with AI

Whereas students in the previous iteration of NUvention: Media would struggle completing a functional prototype and business plan in a single quarter, using AI was transformative in the reinvented course. The technology expedited students’ construction and testing of media prototypes, thereby allowing them more time to craft comprehensive business plans.

“It’s an amazing time for AI.  It was great to work on this course with Jeremy and an interdisciplinary group of students spanning CS, entrepreneurship, and journalism,” Birnbaum said.

Daniela Lubezki, a senior studying journalism, entered the course eager to learn about emerging technologies with the potential to serve journalists. Her team created EchoExpert, a two-way platform to help universities amplify the visibility and expertise of their professors to media outlets while helping journalists identify credible sources for their content. The platform leverages existing AI to play matchmaker and highlight prospective sources for a journalist.

“While a lot of people are scared to embrace AI’s full capabilities, because of how new it is or how little they understand about it, NUvention: Media allowed us to hear from many experts working with AI and opened the door to creating helpful tools,” Lubezki said.

Journalism graduate student Morgan Manella, meanwhile, relished a hands-on course at the intersection of business, technology, and journalism. Her team created AutoPod, a text-to-audio generator empowering people with speech impairments to produce podcasts by using available AI voice technologies.

“From the diverse perspectives of the amazing speakers to working on an interdisciplinary project team, NUvention: Media was a special course and a unique opportunity to challenge myself in new ways,” Manella said.


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