PReparing for the online classroom

online coursesThis week I’m taking an online course on how to develop and teach a course online.  I have to admit that I’m a bit reluctant about teaching through a computer; I’m old-fashioned in this respect and believe that losing the experience of classroom learning could have long-term consequences.  That said, I won’t fight the trend, and what a trend it is!

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) says that more than 20 percent of undergraduates are taking at least one distance learning course in a given semester.  DOE has predicted that in 2013, 18 percent of undergraduate students will get 80 percent of their education through online courses.  Older, married students are taking more online classes than traditional college students, but the trends keep shifting.  I can cite an example from personal experience: my daughter, soon after being awarded a bachelor’s degree, earned her entire master’s degree from a highly respected state university without ever setting foot in a classroom.

But can public relations be taught online? Well, it seems I’m about to find out.  I’ve been developing a graduate degree in PR which includes a plan to offer the entire program online within five years.  At least one undergraduate public relations course has been developed and taught online at Hofstra and more are in the works.  Some could reasonably argue that it’ll be challenging to teach the nuances of pitching stories, planning events, or crisis management through distance learning.  True public relations, by its very nature, is about relationships: relationships with reporters, with constituents, with audiences, and with new publics.  Some of the people skills involved in PR may be hard to interpret in an online classroom.

Distance learning widens access to education and brings a potential global audience to campus.  It’s a godsend to the disciplined student with physical challenges or transportation issues or scheduling problems. It’s not just the future; it is here and now and fast-expanding.

Whatever you believe about online PR courses, I’m going to give this online teaching thing the old college try.  Maybe I’ll learn something.  Your thoughts?

5 thoughts on “PReparing for the online classroom

  1. Vanessa Mota

    I am not a big fan of online courses. I like the classroom interaction. It adds to the learning experience. However, it is good to have the option of online courses for those of us with a family. I might be taking that option into consideration in the future when I decide it is time for graduate school.

    I am sure many students appreciate the schools’ efforts into providing online courses. Good luck Professor!

  2. Maripat Quinn

    Jeff, Where are you taking the course on teaching an online course. I’d love to learn how to do it because I’ve taken many online courses myself and recognize it as a wide ranging tool for future educational opportunities.

    Appreciatively, Maripat

    Sent from my iPhone

    Maripat Quinn, Ph.D. Everyone’s Minister Non-denominational weddings Suffolk Co., Long Island, NY

    1. jmorosoff Post author

      Hi Maripat,

      I don’t know why I missed this and I apologize. The online course on teaching online courses was an internal course at Hofstra, taught by our IT people. It was centered on the Blackboard platform, which is not too difficult to use.


  3. markjgrossman

    I would be interested in hearing about the class you are taking and how you will be applying distance/online learning to a PR curriculum.

    The industry has already made major shifts regarding how PR professionals and reporters interact. With services like ProfNet and HARO, many PR pros have strictly “virtual” relationships with members of the press. So, if that’s how future PR professionals will work, then perhaps that should also be the way they learn.

    I’ve been experimenting with it somewhat at Suffolk Community College by making my communications classes “web enhanced,” which involves integrating online content for use by students in and outside of the classroom. I’m intrigued by it, and each semester I add a little more and see how it goes. So far, it seems to be working.

    Good luck.

  4. Jill Archibald

    Although I’m sure many of my classmates would love to take their classes online, I can say from experience that it truly does take away from the experience.

    I took a one credit class online and found that I put little to no effort into the assignments and was content with getting a B+ in the class. There was no motivation for me to do well because I knew the grade the professor was giving me was not a result of her observing my knowledge growing over a semester, but rather it was assessed strictly through the assignments given.

    Clearly I’m not a huge fan of online classes but I wish you the best of luck with your new endeavor, Professor!


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