Ryerson journalism instructor working with CBC to cover the Winter Olympics in Sochi. (Courtesy Mark Bulgutch)

Ryerson journalism instructor working with CBC to cover the Winter Olympics in Sochi. (Courtesy Mark Bulgutch)

Despite having left the country for two weeks, a journalism instructor said his students will still get the full learning experience in his course.

Mark Bulgutch, instructor for a TV reporting course, informed students that he would be away in Sochi, Russia, to cover the Winter Olympic Games for most of February.

But some students worry that the Skype calls and emails that Bulgutch promised won’t make up for the lack of class time.

“There’s no broadcast. There’s no class. There’s no assignment. There’s nothing for three weeks,” said Peter Lozinski, a student in Bulgutch’s class.

Although students have been encouraged to attend class to practise with equipment, ask for help from the course’s technical staff and prepare for upcoming assignments, Lozinski said the students he talked to will not be attending.

“I’m missing two broadcasts from an experience perspective,” he said.

Bulgutch, however, said none of his students have expressed any concerns so far.

After teaching at the university for 26 years, Bulgutch said he knows the course extremely well. He said he can simultaneously cover the Olympic Games and teach his journalism classes, without the need of a substitute.

“The students will miss nothing,” he said. “In my second-year class I have Skyped from Sochi. I mark and return written assignments by email … if you check with any of them you will find that they have had their assignments marked and returned on the same day they were handed in.”

Bulgutch, who manages the class despite the nine-hour time difference, added that he would have never accepted the offer to go to Sochi if he felt that he was cheating his students.

Kamal Al-Solaylee, the School of Journalism’s undergraduate program director, said he does not see any reason for concern about the change in the class plans.

“Frankly, it’s the 21st century. If there’s classes where he’s Skyping in, it’s perfectly fine,” Al-Solaylee said. “It doesn’t the least bit make me anxious.”

While Al-Solaylee said that if he had known sooner, he might have considered asking another journalism instructor to fill in, he said he has complete faith in Bulgutch.

It’s because of Bulgutch’s expertise that Lozinski said he was excited to have him as an instructor. Still, he says he can’t help but be concerned about whether this will impede his learning.

Another student, Victor Ferreira, said he has not been attending class because there is no substitute for Bulgutch.
He added that he was only told to come in and practise with the equipment, which is not a skill he needs as a fourth-year student.

“It’s not the same as having the Steven Spielberg of Canada judge your work,” said Ferreira.

“Mark being Mark — that’s what makes me want to go to the class.”

Another student in the class, Fatima Kazmi, said she was under the impression that class was cancelled.

“I have no idea if people attended. I know friends that didn’t go. I didn’t show up,” she said.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on February 12, 2014.

Leena graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2014.