When Dr. Melissa Broeckelman-Post joined the Mason community in fall of 2013, she and colleague Lance Schmeidler immediately set to work rebuilding the Basic Course curriculum. Leveraging Schmeidler’s decade of institutional knowledge with Broeckelman-Post’s background in the field, the duo integrated core philosophies and innovative technologies into the university’s introductory communication courses.
With all Mason undergraduates taking COMM 100: Public Speaking or COMM 101: Interpersonal Communication to build Mason Core competencies, creating accessible pathways to the coursework has been a significant department initiative. In fall 2015, COMM 100 was piloted as a fully online course for the first time.
“Accessibility is one of the greatest benefits of the online environment. We wanted to accommodate deployed students, parents, those with full-time jobs, physical disabilities, or other needs,” states Broeckelman-Post. “It is important that we’re able to reach diverse students with a diverse set of experiences.”
The inherent flexibility offers convenience for students, the integration of assignments in Blackboard has streamlined the course management process, and standardized assessment procedures allow for consistent data collection across all course sections and modalities. Additionally, while face-to-face communication remains foundational to the field of communication, these professors have noted students’ ability to reach similar competencies in the online classroom.
“Stereotypically, many often think of public speaking as one person speaking in a public space, but that’s not necessarily how it happens anymore,” explains Broeckelman-Post. “Thinking about the global workplace, students will encounter jobs where a lot of communication occurs through web presentations. The online section of this course helps capture how students will need to interact in today’s workplace.”
As the flipped design of face-to-face sections emphasizes out of class preparation, the same activities are able to occur in the online classroom with slight adjustments for monitoring purposes. One advantage that the online format affords is the chance to “meet” and interact with students immediately.
“One thing I really enjoy is introductory speech assignment,” says Schmeidler. “I can learn a lot about their interests and backgrounds, and they get to experience a structured activity and discussion board conversations before the first day of class. We go in already having seen them a few times on videos. It creates a learning community that lets them take bigger risks.”