To Participate or Not Participate–That is the (Students’) Question Reply


Should students who elect to take a digital media course be required to participate online? 

I recently subscribed to some new blogs and a site called PROpenMic, and this was the first question I encountered.  I smiled as I read the posts because I am experiencing many of these issues as a digital media instructor (undergrad, MBA, practitioners, and executives).  Of course we do not allow students to not write when they sign up for a writing course, and we would never allow them to earn a passing grade if they worked individually in a small group communication course.  So why would we reward a student decision to not participate online when they sign up for a corporate communication/PR course devoted to digital communications? 

To read a bit more from those who would require online participation, please see Staci Anne Stringer's blog or Karen Russell's blog. I am absolutely in the same camp.  Why would we take a course on public communications if we wish to remain hidden behind some sort of self-imposed firewall (e.g., false identity, locked accounts, or simply remaining a passive observer)?

But this is not the only point of view.  Tiffany Gallicano puts forth a few arguments why we should not require online participation.

  • Giving students control over their privacy and self-presentation is the right thing to do.  (great point, but I personally think there is more than one way to achieve this learning target without letting students avoid the central point of a course)
  • When students believe we are asking them to do something that violates their privacy, the relationship suffers.  (another great point, but again there are alternatives available which could let us meet both goals)
  • Requiring identifiable public participation online is legally questionable.  (perhaps only in litigious America)

If you teach online communications to any audience, this is a great set of posts.  Here in Singapore, people of all ages are exceptionally (!) reserved about presenting themselves online.  They are reluctant to give a public display of self.  Thinking through the questions might help educators and trainers approach the issue more productively.  You will find good ideas to think about.

As for myself, two ideas come to mind.  First, the advantages of being a top-notch knowledge worker are well documented.  Students who can search, organize, compare/contrast, crowdsource, collect, curate, judge, and otherwise present in the online world have a huge advantage over those who are less skilled.  Add to this the power of weak ties, and we have very compelling reasons to get learners online….now.  Second, I still cannot get around the point of studying corporate communication or PR.  If you don't want to communicate, maybe take a moment to consider your university major/career path before proceeding.  Life is too short to waste days on something you don't want to do.  I also think success comes more often when we love the work we do.

I for one love communications….thus, this post.

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