Connecting With Students in the Virtual PR Classroom Using Informal Videos

One of the best ways to connect with students in the virtual classroom is to use informal videos for periodic updates and check-ins.  These videos are different from what I call instructional videos.  I use instructional videos to cover doctrinal fundamentals, with follow-up assessments and activities to deepen and assess learning.  For example, in my PR course, I may have a pre-recorded video on Rule 1.6 confidentiality vs. the attorney-client privilege.  While there are techniques for connecting with students in these instructional videos, because I create the videos well before the semester start and because they may be used for more than one semester, these videos often lack personalization.

To increase personalization and to better connect with an individual class, I use informal videos to start each unit.  These are short, typically 4-5 minutes, and include a quick review of the previous week and a few comments about the upcoming material.  I try to always reference one or more student’s work and to include anything else that lets the students know they are heard; I may also discuss a current event or recent issue.  While my more-formal instructional videos display my screen images (power points and other visuals) covering the doctrinal material, these informal videos are just me, speaking directly to the students.

This is how it works in my current, asynchronous summer class.  I email the week’s assignments before noon on Monday, with all work due by 5 pm Sunday**, giving me time to review on Sunday evening what the students understand and where they need more help.  On Monday morning, as I prepare to send out the weekly assignments, I create my short video and send it with the materials.  Here’s an example; I made this video using the free version of Screencast-O-Matic, my computer’s built-in web camera, and a $24 headset.  You will note it is not scripted, not professionally staged or lighted, and not edited; the goal is conversational.

These quick, easy, informal videos allow me to personalize what is often erroneously assumed to be a canned course.  As always, I’m happy to answer any questions: murphyme@wfu.edu.

**While some asynchronous courses give students complete control over pacing, our course does so on a week-by-week basis.  In other words, students work independently on one unit each week and are required to complete all components of the unit within the week.  All assignments are due on a specific day, at a specific time.  This allows students to act as a cohort of sorts throughout the course, facilitating both formal and informal group work.  It also allows students to feel more connected to one another and prevents any one student from getting too far behind – or too far ahead.

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