Online learning became our new normal over two weeks in Spring 2020 and remains a critical component for instruction at many institutions as the process of vaccination and return to campuses continues. The rapid shift brought technological integration, pedagogical shifts, and evolution in assessment. This left many educators and students overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused in the process. Originally presented in a panel as part of the 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division’s Virtual Conference, this team of educators in public relations and media production offer insights on online instructional design and share tools and resources valuable to public relations education used during the pandemic response, with applications beyond the pandemic. In addition to providing a review of several tools, this article will share perspective on managing diverse learning styles, content delivery for diverse platforms, ensuring accessibility for all learners, class engagement, and assessment, while providing some personal reflection on their experiences in offering traditional public relations offerings during the pandemic.
Key Words: Online Learning, Pedagogical Tools, Accessibility, Certifications, Project-Based Learning
In the spring 2020 semester, public relations educators joined faculty around the world in migrating their courses totally online in two weeks or less, and were expected to deliver a high-quality course, even as this likely meant scrapping existing client partnerships, cancelling project deliverables, or fundamentally adapting them to accommodate the platform shift. Additionally, our approach to connecting with students to provide counsel in project development, building learning communities, and ensuring quality of outcome became severely limited by the quality of the technology and broadband of faculty and students alike. Finally, the socioemotional toll on both faculty and students alike has been a source of concern when determining methods of evaluation and making appropriate accommodations when accounting for those dealing with the various forms of trauma, we have all encountered in this time (Madden & Del Rosso, 2021; Scannell, 2020).
In addition to the pandemic’s impact on the way we live and work, and the personal losses many of us have incurred due to its impact on public health and the economy, an election year, and the ongoing civil unrest over issues of race and class have permeated the public consciousness and found its way into classroom dialog around the country. These factors further complicate our challenges in making it all work as scholars, educators, and servants to our discipline and community. Not surprisingly, most of us have been asked to make these changes without institutional guidance or logistical support to execute the task at hand.
In February, we held a panel where we offered our perspectives, along with resources to help those who are still working to adapt to online and hybrid learning. The conversation was rich and opened some channels of dialog with peers across the discipline who are veterans and novices of distance learning alike. In the weeks that followed, the editorial team invited us to develop an article loosely based on the review structure commonly adopted by the Journal of Public Relations Education to provide insights on new or existing resources to faculty across the discipline. In addition to traditional considerations of software platforms and technologies in this piece, the authors are offering personal insights and perspective on specific practices common to teaching in our discipline and how we individually adapted our own practices to accommodate student needs.
The authors offer these topics and resources as examples of resources at your disposal, and to offer support to those who may still be struggling with adapted formats. That said, we know these tools and advice may prove valuable to educators who may be developing online courses in the discipline for the first time. In each case, each of us have a wealth of experience and are certified online course developers, so we consider ourselves fortunate to have been trained to manage this process well in advance of the crisis at hand. We know this edition of JPRE will provide some early assessment of the impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning during the pandemic. Our intent is that this review and commentary on our own process of adapting to and accounting for elements specific to online learning and public relations pedagogy proves a valuable complementary resource, as well.
Online Recording/Presentation Delivery
Rafael “RC” Concepcion
One of the biggest challenges of the student experience in a pandemic classroom was maintaining a level of connection with the students and ensuring educational continuity. Teaching in an online environment requires the breakup of curricula into smaller digestible components (Bao, 2020) so it is important to ensure that you cover the educational material in a way that makes the most impact and has a measure of assessment tied into it.
Leveraging asynchronous content allowed for organization of material based on our “new need,” but also allowed the creation of online content that students could watch with whatever device they wanted to use (Islam et al., 2020). This afforded the opportunity to foster better student progress and address any learning gaps in online synchronous (live) sessions.
In developing asynchronous content, it was also important to consider students’ tendencies to watch content on mobile devices or in a second screen experience. Any content that is developed for this student experience would have to be tailored to these students’ viewing habits and attention needs. To reach them, a recorded PowerPoint lecture simply is not enough.
To develop asynchronous content, we used two software applications- Screenflow from Telestream for the Mac operating system and Camtasia for the PC operating system. This screen recording software allowed us to develop the presentations in a “two camera” setup – one camera being the WebCam and the second camera being the slide content or software being taught. Once completed, the recording was edited in the included software editors for each project.
Recording presentations in this manner allowed us to switch between the slide content and a host more frequently – helping keep student attention. Further – by addressing key topics on screen and switching back to a presenter to talk about the application of these key topics, the student is left with the impression that the asynchronous recording was planned to fit a larger developed component of the classroom and not just a replacement of a lecture that would have been done in-person were it not for COVID-19.
The professor would present the foundational concepts of a lesson in an asynchronous topic, leading to a series of questions that would serve as a formative assessment at the conclusion of the presentation. This allowed the professor to gauge how the students fared with the concepts before meeting for the live session.
During the live online session, the faculty member can steer the class facilitating discussion about the topic and provide his experience of the topics that were presented asynchronously. Using the synchronous time to connect, discuss, and share – you leverage the online medium to foster a “front row” to every student in the class and elevate connection in an environment where human connection was in short supply.
In using the Camtasia and Screenflow recording software to make the asynchronous content, we were able to pause, highlight, zoom, and call out specific portions of a lecture or demonstration. With students being more inclined to view content on their mobile device, most presentations that are designed for a laptop or desktop presentation will appear small in the mobile device. In addition to the student’s inability to read or decipher content on that small of a video, the student is left with a feeling that the education they are receiving is not flexible enough to meet their needs and an after-the-fact experience.
By formatting the content with this extra level of production value, it demonstrates to students that the content is tailored for their medium and encourages mobile use. Encouraging them to use a second screen during presentations also prompts students to use their laptop or desktop devices to follow along and make notes – deepening the connection with the material.
Once the content was rendered, it was uploaded to the Kaltura Media Space or unlisted on the YouTube video platform for hosting. When uploading the video and setting the language, YouTube will generate captions for the presentations, streamlining the process.
Ensuring that the content is available for mobile platforms and varied to keep student attention would be incomplete without ensuring that the content was viewed and assessed. To help with this, the content would be linked using the Playposit Interactive video platform.
Playposit allows you to create a series of Bulbs – a combination of video links and organized questions for students to review. The Playposit bulbs allow you to create stop points in the video where questions can be asked on the topic that is presented. Playposit allows you to prevent the student from advancing ahead on the video without answering the questions – giving you greater control over the student experience.
As students interact with the Playposit bulbs, professors can monitor their progress using Playposit built in reporting. From here, professors can analyze how the content is being adopted in an asynchronous format and adjust the live sessions in response.
Online Recording Software Summary
Screenflow by Telestream
- Can record multiple monitors.
- Can record regions of a screen for tailored presentations.
- Can record iOS devices for use in presentations.
- Easy-to-use post production features.
- Cost (Check on your university’s licensing agreements).
- Available on Mac only.
Camtasia by TechSmith
- Can record multiple monitors.
- Can record regions of a screen for tailored presentations.
- Can record iOS devices for use in presentations.
- Available for Mac and PC.
- Cost (Check on your university’s licensing agreements).
- More of a learning curve than Screenflow.
- Create Bulbs (videos plus interactive questions).
- Can prevent users from fast forwarding through video.
- Can control video playback speed.
- Great reporting controls to monitor progress.
- Incorporates into a variety of question types for the video.
- Can be organized and stored for re-use.
- Monthly cost ($12 USD) for instructors.
Playposit – Creating and using Bulbs: http://rcweb.co/playpositdemo
Ensuring Accessibility of All Learning Abilities
Christopher J. McCollough, Ph.D.
In the past decade, to force compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, nonprofit organizations working on behalf of students with a wide spectrum of impairments are filing lawsuits against universities which fail to comply with web accessibility standards on the main Web sites and on course content delivery systems. A recent case involved the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University facing suit from the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) for failing to comply with provisions of the ADA when they failed to provide closed captioning on their entire catalog of instructional videos housed on online course pages (McKenzie, 2019). Other cases include matters of failure to optimize photos, videos, course pages, and slide presentations for learners who are dealing with visual impairment, hearing impairment, and color blindness, among others. In short, there is a growing movement to ensure Web content on university and college platforms are compliant to avoid being swept up with other institutions in a suit. Unfortunately, the movement to comply with these measures is an inconsistent priority across higher education. The rapid pace at which many of us had to migrate content online likely means many of us have done so with little attention paid to or support for ensuring compliance. As such, the author wanted to share some resources they use in course development. The author was introduced to these tools at a previous institution when serving as an accessibility champion for the university’s Center for Online Learning. Using these tools have ensured my courses are ADA compliant.
WCAG is the Key to Compliance
To help educators comply, the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (A3 WG) established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Because our understanding of and best practices for supporting differently abled learners continues to evolve as medicine and science cultivates a sharper understanding of meeting needs, A3 WG maintains a living document approach to WCAG, and currently abides by what is called WCAG 2.2 (W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, 2021). Educators should review WCAG periodically to ensure they are accounting for updates to the guidelines that happen over time. As the organizations filing suits for failures in ADA compliance cite precedent from the WCAG standards, using these standards as a means of developing content and course presentation ensures compliance.
Identifying the WCAG Standards
The WCAG consists of four standards for the content developer to meet using a checklist, which includes subcategories that must be satisfied to meet the standards. The four standards are:
- Perceivable – 11 components pertaining to visual and audio presentation that ensures learners coping with impairments have a clear means of accessing content logically.
- Operable – 5 components pertaining to logical organization and clarity of function of headers, hyperlink destination descripts, and elimination of time limits and automations that may limit clarity of the content.
- Understandable – 4 components pertaining to clarity of site navigation, sequence of the document, languages used, and guidelines for how one writes equations adherent to accessibility standards.
- Robust – 1 component focusing on whether the author has provided thorough accessibility to third party tools and resources essential to course learning.
Resources to Support Educators in WCAG Compliance
Given the volume of expectations for educators in meeting these standards, the following offers public relations educators (and the larger community at your respective institutions) with a list of links to tools and resources to ensure ADA compliance. The first suggestion is to seek out your institution’s support network for online learning to identify what resources they may house to support WCAG and ADA compliance online. One strong example is at my former institution’s Online Course Accessibility Guidelines, which are put together by the Online Course Accessibility specialist Ann Newland. Look around to see what you may be able to draw on from your institution.
Absent of that, here is a comprehensive list of resources for educators who need tools to ensure development of WCAG compliant content:
- Breakdown of Standards by Subcategories
- Checklist Template for Inspecting WCAG
- Third Party Accessibility Policies List
- Accessible Microsoft Office Documents
- Accessible Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations
- Creating Accessible PDFs Using MS Word (WebAIM)
- Creating Accessible PowerPoints (WebAIM)
- Accessible PowerPoint Templates (Microsoft)
- Section 508 Comprehensive Guide for Creating Accessible PDFs
The following links provide accessible checkers for content developers to test each piece of course content prior to site launch:
- Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker
- Grackle Docs – Google Suite Accessibility Checker
- WebAIM WAVE Accessibility Checker Tool for Web Sites
- WebAIM Color Contrast Checker
Given the growing trend of filing suit to force compliance, adapting to WCAG now ensures not only that you are compliant, but that the content is easy to follow and facilitates learning for multiple styles of learning, especially important to pandemic pedagogy when students may not have their usual access to learning support. This only works to strengthen what we offer in the public relations classroom and provides the same quality of content for learners of different abilities.
Certifications, Simulations, and PBL Software
Jamie Ward, Ph.D.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow seven percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. A key component for career success in PR today is both knowledge about, and experience with, digital marketing and communication. Student preparation requires classroom training along with applicable experiential learning activities. The use of digital certifications, simulation-based training and project-based learning can enhance student engagement and facilitate an educational environment where students become adept in the skills required for success in the public relations industry.
Digital certifications such as Google Analytics or Stukent’s Digital Marketing Certificate have become a popular addition to many college and university courses in recent years and their applicability has only been heightened with the shift to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certifications can serve as an extension of the classroom, provide up-to-date training in areas that are constantly evolving, and add a level of innovation to course work. There has been little research conducted on the benefits of digital certifications within public relations curriculum. Therefore, research focusing on certifications and marketing courses has been utilized to highlight the curricular and professional benefits to students.
According to Professor Donald Bacon, “Keeping courses up-to-date with the latest theories may be less important than developing pedagogies that engage students, challenge their thinking, and inspire them to improve their communication and interpersonal skills” (Bacon, 2017, p. 121). Student success is heightened when professors not only endorse the content, but can also speak to the value of content and how it can be included in professional materials.
Cowley et al. (2021) found that faculty often select the digital certifications they offer in their courses based on recommendations and endorsements from industry professionals, professional advisory boards, or administrators. Faculty also develop assignments and craft curriculum to assist students in obtaining critical skills necessary for success in the job market (Madhavaram & Lavarie, 2010; Schlee & Karns, 2017).
Student acceptance and excitement over certifications is largely linked to the way the certifications are explained and integrated into the syllabus. An examination of student feedback from 2018-2021 in the author’s fundamentals of social media course shows a correlation between the student’s perceived value of digital certifications and the amount of time the professor has spent highlighting the skills that can be acquired through certification.
Based on student feedback, some best practices for incorporating certifications into public relations curriculum include:
- Make sure to get certified yourself before assigning certifications to students. This means watch all the videos and take the exams as if you were the student.
- Identify pain points, plan for questions, and incorporate that information into lectures.
- Remain the star. Certifications should supplement the knowledge that is already being presented in a classroom.
- Highlight the value in obtaining the certification so students are encouraged to work for their scores as opposed to simply looking for an answer key online.
Some of the most common certifications being used to supplement or enhance curriculum include:
- Courses in Hubspot Academy
- MuckRack Certifications
- Google Ads Certifications
- Google Analytics
- Twitter Flight School
- Social media Analytics course by Quintly
There is a myriad of different certifications available. A more comprehensive list can be located at https://digitalmarketingcompetition.com/.
In addition to certifications, simulation-based training has also shown significant value to educators. Public relations education is most effective when it bridges theory and practice with real world application (Gleason & Violette, 2012). Students need to understand how to apply what they are learning. Students who are confident in their understanding of public relations and in how to effectively counsel clients, will have a much easier time finding positions in the industry and to that matter, be far more effective in the industry than those who are unsure and question their skills. The more hands-on experiences educators can integrate into their course work, the more prepared the students become. There are two simulations, Mimic Public Relations and Mimic Social, both developed by Stukent, that are well suited to address the needs of both public relations professors and students.
Mimic Public Relations helps students gain experience and practice creating and targeting media pitches, writing press releases, creating targeted social media posts, developing content for crisis management, and reinforcing Associated Press Stylebook formatting. The content can integrate well into many introductory public relations and public relations writing courses. Asal and Blake (2006) claimed that “simulations, particularly human-to-human interactions, offer social science students the opportunity to learn from firsthand experience, and can be an important and useful addition to an educator’s teaching repertoire” (p. 1).
Mimic Public Relations provides targeted training in public relations writing. Pitching is a unique activity, and pitches are developed based on the relationships with media – bloggers, editors, and reporters. This simulation, with its characters and archetypes, allows students to select different media – journalists, bloggers, etc. and learn the intricacies of working with each of them. The press release portion of the simulation takes a scaffolded approach. Students initially select content from set choices and then eventually build up to crafting content on their own. This allows students the opportunity to think content sequencing throughout the piece.
The Mimic Social simulation helps students obtain practical experience with formal and informal social media strategies. Students gain experience:
- Creating targeting ads on a variety of different social media platforms.
- Testing and adjusting their strategies. Students can engage with the simulation for a period of four to eight weeks, they have an opportunity to adjust their strategies, including days and time of posts, based on KPIs.
- Targeting influencers. This includes selecting influencers best suited for the brand and deciding how much compensation to offer for posts. The simulation is designed to have the influencers turn down insufficient offers. Most students do not get the opportunity to gain experience in this type of strategy before they graduate.
- Managing a budget. Students manage a $5,000 budget each week.
Educators can effectively guide students through these simulations while also assisting students in articulating their experiences and the value to potential employers. Many instructors have had great success implementing simulations and find simulations to be effective pedagogical tools (; Dorn, 1989; Olson 2012, Shellman, 2001; Wang, 2017).
Project based learning models put students in the driver’s seat and allow them to serve as public relations practitioners in a safe environment where they are encouraged to learn and make mistakes. The instructor provides guidelines in areas unfamiliar to students such as guidelines on copyright for photos or helping to develop strategies for engagement. The key to success here is for the instructor to give up some of their control and to let the students take the reins and implement what they have been taught. In public relations courses, project-based learning is often done by having students work with classroom clients.
Project based learning encourages students to think, speak, and act as competent public relations professionals. Project based learning allows students to identify with course concepts, find the course material relevant to real-life situations, and become more familiar with the theoretical course content and more confident in the application of that content in the classroom and beyond (McCollough, 2018).
Designing Capstone, Internships, and Projects for Online Learning
Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D.
Lucky for us, best practices for online learning began long before the COVID-19 pandemic flipped higher education topsy-turvy. For those who were already certified in online learning through our institutions, we had the advantage and likely found the transition smoother from an in-person to an online classroom. As an adjunct, the author took advantage of all the training and resources made available to me in this role as I thought it was more like a benefit offered to me than something I was required to do through the institution and as you know there are not many benefits afforded to adjunct faculty members.
Many scholars and practitioners have reported the positive outcomes of a flipped, or inverted, approach to instruction (Baker, 2000; Bates & Galloway, 2012; Lage et al., 2000; Lo & Hew, 2017; Pearson, 2012; Wright, 2011). Very few articles are published on the idea of flipped learning in public relations and even fewer on a flipped classroom online in public relations, but Enfield (2013) looked at this model for multimedia journalism courses. A researcher at the author’s institution, Robert Talbert, has an active blog that the author began to engage with to help develop and maintain active classrooms.
Much later researcher H.O.U. Zhi-quiang (2018) published a conference paper which was a reflection on a public relations and tourism classroom that confirmed the author’s experience, the quality of her own teaching, the quality of student input and prep was greatly improved with the flipped classroom idea. Other tools that helped the author inform my classroom and course design, were the books Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Brown, 2014), Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning (Vanderbilt, 2021), Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative and The Element (Robinson, 2017, 2009), Creative Confidence (Kelley & Kelley, 2013), Outliers (Gladwell, 2008), The Culture Code (Coyle, 2018), Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time? and Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? (Godin, 2010, 2015). Finally, of course, the author can shoehorn anything by Brené Brown into a classroom to build confidence in new pros and have hooked many on her podcasts. While the author reads a lot of pedagogical material, she probably spends more time trying to transform the classroom through business acuity. It differentiates my classroom (online or offline) from others’ and allows the author to really tap into the 22 years of experience she has in communication practice. She does not cater to a passive student experience. Students regularly acknowledge how much they like the “active” classroom and “crowdsourcing” conversations through starters from book chapters to podcasts and anything in between to keep learners active outside of “just” textbooks.
The author believes that a flipped classroom allowed me to seamlessly take her classes, with very few syllabus or schedule changes, online when COVID-19 struck, and our campus shut down. Students often mock the author’s love of spreadsheets and project management, but they were the calm for many in the storm that was the end of that first COVID-19 semester. Like many colleges and university settings, the author was given very few days (two to be exact) to prepare my courses as we ventured online when our campus shut down. An unexpected bright side of taking a flipped course online was this is the exact way a student would operate in a professional environment with clients or work teams and so in my campaigns and capstone classes, The author was also showing students how to create workflows and best practices regarding time management, project management during our prep and class periods as well as how to better work in teams on large-scale projects remotely. So, the next transition, from college to a job during COVID-19 becomes much less of a stressful transition and more of a curious continuance into the working world.
While not all my experiments and assignments have worked out, the author has learned from each failure and side-step along the way in the spirit of continuous improvement. Here are a few things that have made transition from in-person campaigns courses and capstones easier:
- Adopt and embrace cool tech. Utilize a project management system (PMS) and deploy it alongside your learning management system (LMS) at school. The author has used Asana, Trello, Monday, Airtable, and Basecamp over the last few years and I like Basecamp best in my classes. It seems to be the quickest to learn, their support is instant and amazing, and there is a great blog and rich video library for the students to learn tips on working remotely, team dynamics, group project tips, and project management tips of all kinds. The books It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work and Rework (a New York Times Best Seller) are also must reads for anyone tackling large-scale projects, managing multiple teams, and remote work. There are drawbacks and bonuses to each system listed above. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. You should practice with a few and be comfortable trouble shooting in the one that you pick. Basecamp has a free education program which also sweetened the deal for me as my institution does not have the budget for tools like this for just one professor.
Reduce anxiety with instant exchanges. Engage in the use of an instant message platform like Slack (or Google Hangouts/Chat) even if your PMS has a chat feature for quick informal exchanges and to monitor group progress. Assign class-wide interest channels, team channels, and allow for direct messaging with your students. Slack uses a great mobile application the author finds far superior to Basecamp’s app which includes “Campfire” as a messaging tool, but their mobile interface has been heckled by the author’s students due to its poor functionality. So, the author works with her class to pick the best tools, based on their advantages and functionality. Slack is a crowd favorite, and students report they have used it at work, in internships, and in other classes to communicate with classmates and peers. Slack is much like Microsoft Teams chat which makes it nice to show how to communicate better virtually, but leaves room for students to feel confident learning any new platform for messaging as they progress through school and jobs.
Training for adaptability and platform-agnostic students to me is more important than specific platform training. When the author provides professionalism and support, the students will be able to hack any tool they encounter into submission. As an aside, the author knows this seems like a lot of accessibility to the professor, and maybe it is too much for everyone, but the author finds this “concierge-level” communication of higher quality between the students and herself as they can express something more easily that is maybe personal or professionally curious in a direct message or gain feedback from their classmates in a general channel on something like an assignment or an internship. These platforms can also allow the professor to eliminate issues before students stew on them, leading to decreased anxiety about small issues — before they become bigger issues. This platform has allowed crowdsourcing help for students from other students when the author is delayed in responding to students. The author sets firm expectations about my accessibility to students. I realize this approach is not for everyone.
- Introduce time management and distraction management early on. New tools bring increased accessibility of all involved. When the communication is easier the flow of information is faster and more frequent which introduces for some the feeling of being overwhelmed or stretched too thin. In every class taught, the author does exercises for speed researching and writing to demonstrate that three hours it took a student to write that 800-word blog post for your client, should and could be 45 minutes with time for a healthy edit experience. Using speed exercises in classes sans distractions does wake students up to the idea of less notifications is better for not just their writing life, but their whole life. The author performs a lot of tech support in class demonstrating how to mute notifications on phones and laptops for time blocks, how to use apps to our advantage with timers, or how to use calendar blocks to commit to a project for a while. Demonstrations are often followed up with a reward like a 20-minute walk or 15 minutes of TikTok. Whatever the case, there is a reward out there for everyone.
In the first day of class, which is full of onboarding activities and networking, we each access the “lifestyle” portion of our phone which unlocks how much time you have spent on apps that day, week, month, etc.; there are always gasps of horror in this newfound knowledge. Usually, students’ progress through this discovery much like they experience other forms of grief. First in denial: I do not spend that much time on TikTok. Next, pain and guilt: I could be working on schoolwork or training for a marathon, but I am on TikTok? Then, anger and bargaining, masking the effects and beating down the resentment: Well, if TikTok were not so entertaining and if only I did not need to use it for work/internship/to keep up with friends then I would not have to use it. Next up depression: quiet emotions and the feeling of confusion about how they let social media get this far. Then finally, acceptance and hope: I am going to set limits and timers for my social media consumption and try to spend more time in self-care screenless activities.
This ultimately lays the groundwork for the idea of time block scheduling using a tool like Todoist, mind mapping, Design Thinking, process building, Pomodoro Technique, and use of Google calendar and to-do lists in Basecamp. This has led to the adoption of timekeeping apps on teams (to fill in time slips – just like “real life”) like Toggl and Clockify. In general, discussions the author has with students are about how to best project manage oneself for better performance in all life activities, not just school and to avoid scheduling every moment of your day including your leisure time which can lead to burn out and dissatisfaction with your work (Tonietto & Malkoc, 2016; Malkoc & Tonietto, 2019).
- Demonstrate how all the pieces support the whole. Students used to complain about “too many things to look at” until the author spent time during the first classes on a software demo about how everything works together to create the experience with the tools, along with a discussion on creating successful processes for improved organization and learning potential. Many classes have a Google Drive, an LMS, an PMS, a chat, and more. This can be confusing until you define the utility of each item, and as I mentioned earlier, “right size” the experience, meaning take the students through why choices were made in the first place and showing them how the decisions were made has since made for much less resistance in the space. The author has students suggest tools, and they pilot them in classes through mini-project briefs that we share with the class. Discovery then becomes part of the class norm. This doubles as job training as many times between client apps, files, and systems plus your own firm’s apps, files, and systems, things can seem chaotic at first glance. Defining utility and improving understanding helps reduce anxiety about digital natives using new tools for professional projects.
Digital literacy is something the author strives to improve in every class; it is no secret that digital natives are not professionally digitally literate (Luttrell et al., 2020). The author uses radical transparency to show the behind-the-scenes operations so that students understand the author knows how to use these tools and can help them improve their skills too. The idea of “learning together” is something that makes the author feel vulnerable, but it has helped students get comfortable being uncomfortable. The class makes it work together.
- Ditching perfection for utility. The author is not a video producer, a scriptwriter, or a podcast host. That is okay.
The author has long given up on the made-for-TV movie she thought she would be making, and instead am thriving in my gifts of imperfection (thanks Brene’ Brown). Flipped learning can mean a lot of content creation, but it does not have to mean the instructor has to create all the content. The author prefers to use videos of herself less, audio of herself more, and mix it together with industry pros, and great industry articles in a smorgasbord which is created for consumption each week. Over time, the author found this to be a “best practice” in several books and articles, at least until she took a direct hit through a student evaluation where they said there should only be instructor-made videos in the class, that the author was not working hard enough if they are watching, say the introduction video produced by Basecamp to serve as the tutorial for the platform. The list went on and on. The author wore this shame around my neck for assigning certification videos in my tech class and tutorials made by software companies to introduce things like our PMS or our Slack for our chat.
One day the author came to a realization: making content is not her job. Curating content IS her job. Translating and providing meaning and purpose to the content IS ALSO my job. So, she gave herself the deserved pass for those videos and carries on. She is not a tech company. She uses radical candor when introducing the videos. helps the student pull out the concepts of the prefab tools, and applies them together. The author advocates for the position that if you are putting your students through anything, and she means anything, whether it be Google certification to Slack tutorials to Hubspot social media training to Facebook Blueprint – you do the damn thing yourself and come back to the class and unpack it with the class. The experience and knowledge transfer should be led by you. It does not have to be made by you. How can you make them care if you do not? Make the time, do the prep.
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To cite this article: McCollough, C.J., Concepcion, R., Ward, J., & Wallace, A. (2021). Thriving in “The new normal”: Student-centered practices, design, and tools of hybrid and online learning environments. Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(3), 144-169. https://aejmc.us/jpre/2021/12/27/thriving-in-the-new-normal-student-centered-practices-design-and-tools-of-hybrid-and-online-learning-environments/