This article is woven from changes that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and which made remote teaching of students a necessity from the second quarter of 2020. The changes highlighted the need for academics to increase their awareness of student needs and upgrade their teaching techniques to better meet these needs. Given the magnitude and pace of changes in the teaching environment since the onset of the pandemic, a deeper understanding of student needs, better engagement, and clearer teaching have never been more important than now.
Change is essential
The transition from face-to-face to online teaching, stemming from the global pandemic of COVID-19, has provided fresh visionary platforms for creatives, academics, and business entrepreneurs. Delivery of learning materials in the online environment cannot remain the same as classroom delivery, as lecturers now need to grab hold of each and every moment and nurture their student audience with continual engagement through heightening interest, introducing relevant surprise events, and allowing more fluid interaction through increased student participation.
Especially from 2020, we need to promote deeper learning engagement by developing student enthusiasm for online learning. Lecturers must recognize the necessity of being a star - a star of teaching, learning and engagement. They must step up to the plate and become this star. Knowing how to ‘feel’ the audience and being able to give them what they need on the spin of a dime are essential, even when there is not a soul in the room with the lecturer.
In this article I outline specific teaching techniques that I have acquired over many years as a lecturer in the higher education sector and as an onstage performer in the entertainment industry that I have honed during the COVID-19 induced switch to online delivery. These techniques produce more effective control of the audience, continually swaying them into wanting more and anticipating what is coming next on the content and showcase platter.
“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” (Jacobs 2014).
From classroom to stage
The stage is where we now work, and a lecturer's repertoire needs to be on a conveyor belt, from which they pick items according to what the moment begs for. Having little learning tidbits available at one’s fingertips is crucial. Of course, the prepared lesson plan does not change much. What does change is how the lecturer delivers the story in order to engage learners more thoroughly by supplementing content with real-life personal examples. These examples must come from the heart, to help paint a more vivid picture of what is being taught.
Delivery requirements have changed. It is now essential to feel the room (feel your audience), in order to heighten student engagement and increase learning through enthusiastic student participation. Lecturers need to have a refined charisma, like a pop artist on stage, if they are to grab their audience and give them the ‘hooks’ on which to hang their hats.
Awarding marks for participation
Following the move to online delivery, I have increased attendance and participation in my postgraduate online class, ‘Entrepreneurship Report’, by using the following techniques:
Firstly, I have added two 5% random participation assessments. I take a pro-active approach to participation by providing the students with a stage, so to speak, on which they can shine in front of their audience (the class). Whether the student is extroverted or shy, this moves them into the spotlight, like a singer calling a fan onto the stage to participate in a musical performance. Their moment on the stage is important to them – we must not forget that, and we must actively encourage their participation.
Secondly, I now include three practical assessment activities in each trimester for each student (one every four weeks). These comprise 15-minute blocks dedicated to presentations. The content is an executive business summary, a marketing analysis with implementation skillsets, and a statement of the business finances with a focus on break-even calculations. The presentations provide a vehicle for the students to showcase their communication skills to other students and their lecturer. They also prepare students for the more challenging task of making professional presentations later to company shareholders, directors and investment managers.
I also use various examples from my own entrepreneurial activities to supplement learning outcomes: audio files, visuals, music samples, real-life street stories, and in particular emotional ‘wordsmithing’ to help define and form useful marketing ideas.
Finding a parallel between subject content and an example from personal experience is golden, as it drives the storyline deeper for more entrenched learning memory and better life-long recall.
As stated by Dr. Christine Greenhow, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University: “Online learning can be as good or even better than in-person classroom learning. Research has shown that students in online learning performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction, but it has to be done right. The best online learning combines elements where students go at their own pace, on their own time, and are set-up to think deeply and critically about subject matter combined with elements where students go online at the same time, interacting with other students, their teacher, and content, and getting feedback”.
Facilities to teach online must be state-of-the-art, embracing seamless audio, visual and presentation technology. This is the situation at UBSS, which spent considerable amounts of time and money to provide resources specifically for online delivery. The feel of a well-designed television studio lecture room is critical for lecturer enthusiasm and student engagement.
Engagement is everything. Real learning evolves from engagement. Online learning is not for students slouching in chairs; they must be alert and engaged during every moment of a lecture.
As recording artist Barry Manilow stated to Art and the band: “Collecting my thoughts for a short period of time prior to walking on the stage is critical. To understand the importance of connecting with your audience and keeping every moment special and interactive once you are in front of your audience is vital" (Manilow 1983).
Art Phillips was the recording and touring guitarist for Barry Manilow from 1981 ~ 1984, performing over 150 concerts in the USA, Japan, Australia and globally. They performed at the Royal Albert Hall London to Prince Charles and Princess Lady Diana Spencer (1983), and on August 27, 1983 they also performed on the grounds of Blenheim Place, the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough where Winston Churchill was born. This event was an outdoor summer concert, like Woodstock, with an audience of over 50,000 people. The Duke and Duchess were fans of Manilow which made the arrangements possible. This concert was the first time such an event ever occurred at the Palace.
I close with a statement I made while delivering a paper at a conference in Los Angeles in 2017: “Never lose your audience, as once you do it’s all over” (Phillips 2017).
- Greenhow, C. 2018, posted 2020, https://www.sciline.org/covid-expert-quotes/online-learning#q1
- Jacobs, H, 2014, https://elearningindustry.com/inspirational-elearning-quotes-for-elearning-professionals
- Manilow, B. 1983, personal statement to his touring band
- Phillips, A 2017, conference on music production libraries: The 4M’s, Los Angeles CA USA, October 2017
Adjunct Professor Art Phillips is Director of the UBSS Centre for Entrepreneurship. He is a composer of film, television, and popular music and has worked in film and television for over 30 years. Currently, he teaches in the MBA program at UBSS, adjudicates in the institution’s undergraduate program and sits on several of its committees including the UBSS Academic Senate. He is passionate about keeping his lectures engaging for his students and has a profound interest in digital and virtual teaching