Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in College | 6 comments

This week concluded my first semester of teaching a graduate level class as a digital marketing teacher. Through the course of the semester, I learned more than I thought I knew about the subject matter, but most importantly I confirmed my assumption that I genuinely love the classroom experience (on either side of the desk).

BYU Observation Classroom

Lesson #1 – Avoid Male Frontal Nudity…On The First Day of Class.

Earlier this year, I watched We Live in Public and found it to be an excellent commentary on the increasing broadcast-lives that we live through our social networks. At the time, I did not know that I would be teaching the class this fall, but I filed this gem away for appropriate use one day. So, as I assembled the course outline, I decided that I would show this documentary on the first day of class (instead of wasting half of the first class reading the syllabus to the students).

My best intention was to review the film the day before class, but as usually happens, my day became crowded and I didn’t review it prior to the class. So I walk into my first teaching engagement with some nervous excitement. We went through an icebreaker and discussed some logistics of the class. Then was my big moment to be the cool professor, “Class, we are going to watch a pretty cool, slightly edgy documentary that you will have a chance to blog about afterwards. This documentary is not-rated because there is quite a bit of fowl language and some generally inappropraite scenes. If that bothers you in any way, you may leave now and I will give you an alternative assignment.” One student jokingly said that he was highly offended by any a-hole that cusses, but there was no other discussion.

The first half of the documentary was brilliant for a digital marketing class as it tracked the history of the commercial development of the web. Long story short (my review here), the viewer is taken into hedonism NYC, where the social experiment of The Quiet turns into a drug and alcohol fueled mania where everyone’s every move is broadcast on more than 1,000 closed circuit television cameras, and then the scene happens: man in the shower on closed circuit TV fully nude showing the depravity of living a published life 24/7. At this point, I am hunched down in my chair perusing graduate students ranging in age from 22 – mid 50s, and that’s when I hatched a plan to grab my computer and run out of class never to return. Fortunately, I stayed around and the students did too; we had some very meaningful commentary on the film–none mentioning the male-frontal nudity, of course.

The real lesson here is to make extra time to review your material before class, but that headline doesn’t really grab attention like Avoid Male Frontal Nudity…On The First Day of Class.

Lesson #2 – Care. A bunch.

If you don’t love the subject matter and don’t to genuinely share this passion with your students then the cost benefit analysis would suggest that being a greeter at Walmart is actually a better investment of your time. Passion or lack there of is transparent, and the students will know it. Caring is infectious, so spread the virus of your subject matter with the students.

Lesson #3 – Make it Fun.

I believe that I hold the record for more YouTube video clips played through the semester than any other professor at UTC. Long, boring classes where professors bloviate throughout the semester are boring. Have fun. Draw on the rich body of knowledge that puts you in the front of the class and guide the conversation, don’t own it.

Lesson #4 – Get Feedback. Early and Often.

As I gave out the midterm grades to students, I setup a Google form to get feedback about the class. When I told my friend Mark that I did this, he covered his head to protect himself from the impending bomb that I had dropped. Truth is, the feedback was wonderful. Over 75% of the students took time to answer the survey and give meaningful feedback. Their comments pointed out a few things that I already knew like NEVER USE POSTEROUS for the blogging platform in this class, but the other comments were very instructive about what type of conversation they wanted in class. There were even a few pats on the back, which were welcomed for this novice professor.

Lesson #5 – Grade with Frequency.

This is probably the area that I struggled with the most. First of all, I became accustomed to the law school grading system–work all semester and get one grade on a three-hour final exam, so I was deprogrammed from the “how am I doing grades?” Secondly, I wasn’t teaching this class for grades, I wanted students to walk out of the class and “get it.” My assignments were not about grading, they were avenues to “get it” street. However, I now realize that the students are programmed in the grading economy where constant grade feedback is the currency of value. Despite the fact that I don’t necessarily agree with the framework, I don’t think I’m going to win this battle, and I believe the student buy-in is much higher when they see those A’s and B’s.

Lesson #6 – Ask for Help.

One weekend, I was putting together my notes for class and thought it would be really cool to have Paula Berg Facetime into the class to discuss social media as a profession and a bit about her experience with Southwest. The class raved about this afterwards, and it helped me to look for other opportunities to ask friends to share their expertise with the class. In the final survey that I gave the class, this one feature of having experts in from time to time made this class, as one student commented, “Honestly, the best I’ve taken at UTC.” That credit goes to all of those who helped throughout the semester (Paula BergJami MullikinSam DeckerMark Schaefer and David Thomas)–including my team at Bluegill.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive guide to teaching just a few things that I learned along the way. If you have any lessons you’ve learned in the classroom, please share!