Tomorrow Monday July 16 I will be having my fourth (out of seven) online two hour session with some 14 executive masters students from New York University’s Master of Science in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.
So, I am now half way through and I believe I can begin to rationalise this experience from two perspectives, both of which I hope will be interesting for you.
The first has to do with my actual learning experience on how to teach on line and what benefits and constraints this method has for the instructor.
The second has to do with the overall quality and intellectual stimuli I am receiving from my students vis-a-vis the preceding face-to-face teaching experiences I have had over the last ten years.
A few quick facts:
°the course is Global Relations and Intercultural Communication;
°the sessions are two hours each and they are synchronous;
°I accompany my lecture with power points and web navigations;
°students may raise their hands when they wish, and I give them the mike so that they may either ask questions or comment and criticise;
°students can playback each session as many times as they like during the length of the course;
°every session has specific reading assignments;
°for every session each student is requested to send me a 1 to 1.5 page critical analysis integrating reading materials as well as session contents;
°for every session each student is requested to enrol in at least one of three conversation groups on as many questions derived from the session content which ends up with a one-two page synopsis agreed by the group and sent to me a day before the following session;
°finally, the day before the final session each student is required to send me a 5-10 page dissertation on one of three issues I will explain to them tomorrow i.e. during the fourth session.
The sessions are:
°a satellite view of the global public relations community;
°towards a new framework for global public relations along the generic principles and specific applications paradigm;
°public relations in asia;
° in europe;
°in the americas;
°five horizontal major issues for global public relations.
Ok. Now lets address the first issue.
As much as I may be confident with a portable pc, it is a dire challenge to be multitasking for two straight hours governing power points, my voice, their hands raised and various other technical paraphernalia.
Not easy and mistakes happen, unfortunately.
Having said this, and underlying that I very much miss the possibility of looking at my students in the face when we talk and discuss (but this would easily be solved if, as I hope, NYU will be modifying its online platform to include video of instructors as well as individual participants) , there are many benefits.
One, the possibility for students to play back any session they either missed or if they wish to check some points which are not perfectly clear or a concept which they did not understand.
Two, and even more importantly, my possibility of following (in true voyeurship style… even to the point of some embarrassment…) student on line group conversations so to receive impressive ‘participatory observation’ clues on the different nuances of a specific student’s mind and how it functions in dialogue.
This is truly priceless.
Obviously, all this requires a lot of time on my part (plus correcting written assignments, grading et alia) and here is a second relevant constraint.
And now to the second issue.
Overall I am very fortunate because I have an excellent class and, compared to the preceding face-to-face class where I had almost 30 students with which inevitably one ended up dialoguing either with the brightest or the ones that most need your assistance with the implication that you sort of lose out in the middle ground which is usually the majority, in this case I am instead able to dialogue with each individually even though we only do this online.
To be honest, we do not even do this so much as my observations of their group conversation fully satisfies my need to understand, and at least apparently also theirs.
The result of this is that while in the first mid term grades I had a significant number of b minuses, c pluses, c’s and c minuses, this time I have only a minuses, b pluses and b’s.
There are many things I would like to tell you about the quality and interest of the critical opinions they have thus far expressed in the first three sessions, but this would be way too long.
One point however I do wish to mention: practically the majority of the class has, one way or another, without me even mentioning the issue if not indirectly, expressed their support for some sort of licensing scheme for professionals on a global scale.
To be very adamant: I have never asked them to express their views on the issue.
If one considers that the United States probably holds the largest number of professionals in the world today, and that historically, American professionals and their associations have always strongly resisted any discourse on licensing, this is something to be well aware of.
I am in no way implying that my students are representative of the universe of American professionals, but they could be very well considered representative of new york’s younger professionals.
Maybe other colleagues and professional organizations should take good notice of this and possibly investigate further, before they are bypassed by this raising storm.
Which, of course, I very much would like to discuss in a follow up post in the next few days.