Teaching Public Speaking Online: Part Three


In “Teaching Public Speaking Online: Part One,” I discussed our three major goals as an instructional team at a university and how we implemented those goals.  In “Teaching Public Speaking Online: Part Two,” I covered three innovative things we’re doing in our online classroom.  The last in our “Teaching Public Speaking Online” series focuses on our three biggest challenges ahead and the ongoing solutions we are working on.

Challenge One: Student Resistance

My colleagues and I do receive student emails flat-out refusing to do the work.  Students will tell us they don’t want to put their personal information out on the Internet and thus don’t want to sign up or participate in Google+ Hangout team meetings.  Students say they can’t present in front of a live audience because they’re new to the area, they don’t know anyone, blah blah blah.  I’ve heard enough excuses from online students in the last four years to last me an entire lifetime.

Student resistance is problematic because if the student refuses to try one or more elements of the online class, they aren’t going to learn public speaking, and they definitely aren’t going to do their best work.  As an instructional team, we try our best to overcome this by creating a safe, fun, positive learning environment for students, but the online medium proves challenging.  We will continue to work on encouraging students to take a chance on uncomfortable curriculum…


Challenge Two: Live Presenting

The second challenge my team faces is that balance of synchronous and asynchronous communication.  While recording a video and uploading it to YouTube is one way to practice a speech, synchronous public speaking and presentation is significantly more likely to happen in the real world.  Unfortunately, the instructional team doesn’t have time to meet with every single student in order for that student to deliver a “live” speech via FaceTime or Google+ Hangouts.  Though we simulate the live presentation environment as best we can, is there ever really any substitute for standing in front of 25 live people in your class and speaking to us?  At this point in time, I don’t think there is.  We can continue to get closer as more and more technology emerges.

Challenge Three: The Online Medium

Online learning itself is the third and largest challenge.  When compared with the on-campus version of Public Speaking, students in our online class are more likely to fail the class, more likely to drop out of the class, more likely to earn a lower score in the class, more likely to be negative and unprofessional, and more likely to have a negative experience in the class.  Technology is a beast.  Email and AIM/iChat often provide a barrier behind which students hide, and they often forget they should be professional in language, tone, and content.  On campus, we can hold students to 60 contact hours of lessons, activity, and discussion.  Quite often, online students don’t dedicate the time it takes to learn the material… let alone to successfully apply the material.  The nasty student email over a simple miscommunication in the directions and the hostile student voicemail because he didn’t check his comments for his grade are daily issues that bog us down.  We will continue to seek solutions for education in the online environment since e-learning definitely isn’t going anywhere!

Help!  Do you see any solutions to our three ongoing Public Speaking Online challenges?  Let me know in the comments section, or email me at alexrister1@gmail.com.


6 thoughts on “Teaching Public Speaking Online: Part Three

  1. Hi Alex!

    Challenge #1: I suggest to tell your students to create a “fake” Google account they use only to enroll your course and do their assignments. This way they don’t have to give any personal data and can still be engaged. You can also tell them that this is a safe learning environment where everyone wants the other to succeed. Regarding online classes, well, sooner or later they’ll have to deal with clients-to-be online, so your class is a perfect opportunity to try and get feedback.

    As for your other challenges, maybe you should invent teleporting :)

    Good luck with your online class!


  2. If the Google Hangouts videos are at any time accessible by the general public, then I’d say the students have a point. There is some expectation of privacy when it comes to education. Would they sign up for a regular university course where the professor has video cameras in the room, recording their classroom participation, so that he can upload it to YouTube afterwards? It’s one thing to speak in front of your classmates, but it’s a different matter altogether to put something on the internet that others can then download and distribute however they like.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Raymond! How would you suggest that online students practice live, synchronous public speaking and presentation skills without Google+ Hangouts? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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