Public Speaking in a Digital World: Getting Student Buy In

23 Jan

Classes have finally started for the spring semester. I rolled out my Public Speaking in a Digital World course (Previous posts: Public Speaking in a Digital World, “Feedback Loop“). Teaching a traditional and well established course such as Public Speaking in such a different way means I am hyper-aware that I would have to work at “getting buy in” from students. I have taught courses that have fallen flat because I was unable to get students invested in the material or structure right away, and once you go down that road — turning around is next to impossible.  So, I began the class by asking students about their expectations of the course. I received answers along these lines:

  • To give speeches
  • To do research
  • To study great historical speakers and speeches
  • To learn how to do research presentations.

These are all good answers and fit in line with the ways public speaking is traditionally taught. By this I mean, in many academic settings — not all of course — public speaking engages students in traditional academic research for the purposes of completing the standard informative, persuasive, and special occassion speech.  This brief example of the answers also illustrates a few points I want to make about why using social media to teach public speaking is a good idea –and how I used my own persuasive speaking skills to secure student “buy-in.”

Compartmentalized Classroom Learning

It is no secret that many students have trouble applying course concepts to settings and situations beyond the course, or Compartmentalized Classroom Learning. The challenge for instructors is finding creative ways to facilitate that activity in the classroom with the hope that students will learn how to do that without prompting. Teaching public speaking using social media provides an avenue to facilitate this type of “real world” application. In the case of my course, I’ve challenged students to take the knowledge they have gained through the experiences as college students, apply it to a public speaking setting, and then share it with others using social media as the platform. I suspect I was persuasive for students at Denison University because the opportunities for “real world” application are fewer than at other types of insitutions. Which leads me to my second point:

Sharing Knowledge

Many students are competitive because the academic environment is competitive. They have had negative group project experiences, which also mean many are reluctant to share what they learn and any cooresponding work load. Also, many have a difficult time knowing how to share their college experiences with others and be taken seriously. One way I persuaded students to “buy into” the course was to explain how their blogs are an opportunity to Share Knowledge with others. I suspect that this aspect was particularly appealing because the best uses of social media are those that share knowlede with others, i.e. the 80/20 Rule. Sharing Knowledge is part of what makes social media so exciting, and there are audiences very interested to learning about the “student experience” from both within and outside the institution.

Becoming a Resource Person

For me, Becoming a Resource Person is the  most important aspect of teaching the course in this way. It is responsible, professional, and ethical to put individuals in contact with one another than might mutually benefit from a professional relationship. I got the impression that students more easily overcame their apprehenison about creating blog article and posts when I talked to them about the professional, responsible, and ethical practice of connecting individuals with one another if you see a mutually beneifical relationship emerging. In other settings some might call it “networking” or “relationship building.” It’s not always about what you can get from the relationship — but also how you can help others grow their relationships in meaningful ways.

My Take Aways

Anticipate nothing and look forward to everything.  Getting student buy in was much easier than I expected. I also cannot underestimate how far excitement and enthuasiasm can go when introducing new elements into the traditional classroom setting. Admit you do not know everything and rely on those that do. Nate Riggs will be making a visit to my classroom to discuss the range of blog types, putting one together and driving traffic.

In the next week, students will begin the process of setting up their blog and creating a compelling profile for themselves. Look for the next installment of Public Speaking in a Digital World.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 23, 2010 in education, social media


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One response to “Public Speaking in a Digital World: Getting Student Buy In

  1. Nate Riggs

    January 26, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Excited to meet your class Erika, and thanks kindly for the mention. Students have a lot to gain by starting a blog. Blogs are the corner stone of establishing an online presence and doing little things – like finding your career path… 🙂 See you soon!


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