October 01, 2018

When students walk into Heather Lang’s Introduction to Modern Publishing and Digital Publishing courses, many are preparing for a career in a constantly changing publishing industry. Her goal is to teach the critical thinking skills the students will need to navigate their career challenges, no matter how frequently changes occur.

“In designing my courses, I take a project-based learning approach,” says Lang, assistant professor of English. “This gives students the opportunity to apply the concepts we’re learning to projects that mimic real-world publishing projects, problems and questions. Whenever possible, I make use of new or emerging theories and technologies to help students identify and learn the industry standards.”

The publishing industry has long been a source of fascination to Lang. “The books we write, publish and read impact our culture in so many ways, and I have always wanted to be a part of the critical conversations that focus on that impact. For me, digital technology amplifies that power by providing more people with the tools necessary to reach vast audiences.”

Courses related to publishing and media production help students engage the power of writing in a variety of ways.

“Digital publishing increases the ways people can tell stories by enlisting sound, motion and a variety of other methods to add depth or nuance to a story,” says Lang. “In that way, digital publishing opens up new opportunities for experimentation and storytelling that are really exciting and interesting.”

By engaging with the history of publishing, students can see how the culture of the industry developed, how the industry has impacted American culture, and how that history set up a trajectory that the industry follows.

“In helping students develop a critical awareness of this history, I hope that they’ll be poised to change the industry in ways that can make a difference,” says Lang. “By learning about how books and literacy were restricted to elite people, students understand how publishing can be used as a tool of oppression.

“They might also understand why there is little racial diversity in the publishing industry, and they may come up with creative solutions that improve the publishing world and trickle into popular culture as well.”