Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Using Vlog Posts to Teach Undergraduates: The New Homework Assignment?

Persuasion Part One from Joshua DeLung on Vimeo.

Now that you've watched the video, perhaps I should do some explaining. Because of changes in the schedule during the last semester I taught Public Speaking classes at Virginia Tech, I had to change one of my in-class days to an online day. Normally, this would mean simply conveying material and assignments via boring old text on each section's Blackboard site for the course. I decided, however, given my interest in social media, to use a vlog post for the out-of-the-classroom instruction that day.

My students were instructed to watch the approximately 17-minute video and follow the instructions therein. In retrospect, I wish I would have had time to make the production better and come up with different scenes to use as examples and such to make it all more interesting. I didn't have much time to plan though, as I only got the notes I needed from higher up a day or two before I had to get everything up online for my students. If I ever did this again, I would try to get a videographer so I didn't have to stay fixed in front of my MacBook Pro's iSight the entire time, and I would get hopped up on caffeine to convey the energy I normally have when up walking around in front of a class on normal days.

Now, what my class may not have realized so much was that I was primarily running an experiment on them. Yeah, and I didn't even consult the IRB! Ha, well it was informal research for quality control purposes, and I'm pretty sure they didn't suffer any negative consequences. fI told them they could voluntarily participate in a survey to help me learn more about using social media to teach today's undergraduates, and I think I did learn something! So now, I'm finally going to go through and review the results of that survey to share with you in hopes that you can learn something as well:

I found the vlog experience for class to be:

10 (28%)

13 (36%)

9 (25%)

3 ( 8%)

1 ( 3%)
no answer 0 ( 0%)

As you can see here, 64 percent of the students had more fun with a vlog assignment than with other previous homework assignments.

Rate the vlog's ability to keep your attention on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the most boring to 7 being able to keep your attention the best.

2 ( 6%)

2 ( 6%)

5 (14%)

4 (11%)

14 (39%)

8 (22%)

1 ( 3%)
no answer 0 ( 0%)

OK, I'll admit I wasn't my most energetic in this vlog, which is something I can learn from and improve upon next time. However, judging from the middle response upward, 75 percent of the students didn't find the post boring if four is neutral on this scale.

Please rate the ability of this learning tool in helping you learn the concepts in comparison to normal in-class lecture with 1 being a low ability and 7 being a high ability.

2 ( 6%)

1 ( 3%)

4 (11%)

9 (25%)

10 (28%)

6 (17%)

4 (11%)
no answer 0 ( 0%)

Only 20 percent of the students who responded said they felt that the vlog post was not as good as in-class lecture for them, 25 percent responded in the neutral zone, and 56 percent actually found the video to be a superior learning method.

Before, you rated this learning tool in comparison to in-class lecture. Now, please rate the ability of the vlog to help you learn in comparison to other out-of-class reading assignments, etc., with 1 being the lowest quality of learning and 7 being the highest.

2 ( 6%)

0 ( 0%)

1 ( 3%)

7 (19%)

6 (17%)

12 (33%)

8 (22%)
no answer 0 ( 0%)

These numbers seem to indicate that 72 percent of the students felt like they learned more from the vlog post than a traditional homework assignment. Only 9 percent were in the range that indicated they felt the vlog post was an inferior homework assignment in terms of how it helped them learn.

How does the use of a social media tool such as a vlog post impact your perception of the Public Speaking course?

4 (11%)

18 (50%)

12 (33%)

1 ( 3%)

1 ( 3%)
no answer 0 ( 0%)

Sixty-one percent of the respondents said incorporating social media into the class makes them view the course at least somewhat more favorably. Perhaps there is something to be learned here about how much more receptive we can make students if we relate to them and meet them on their own turf, which for this generation, is social networking sites. However, 33 percent of the students didn't really care one way or the other, and two students actually must hate social media or something (communists).

I also solicited three open-ended qualitative responses from the students, some of the most insightful comments I will share as well:

What could be done to make this learning tool more interesting so that it keeps your attention better?

"More graphics popping up. More humor, more energy. Interactivity somehow, maybe?"

"I have trouble paying attention to an online learning tool because there are so many other distractions available on one's computer."

"I liked how the important messages were shown in writing."

"Instead of one long vlog, maybe several shorter ones."

"Maybe show a little more than just your face."

"It kept my attention very well throughout the lecture."

"Juggling. Just kidding, it was good as is."

What could be changed to make this learning tool help you learn the concepts within even better?

"Video clips of examples embedded throughout."

"It was good the way it is because I have the ability to watch it over again for things I missed."

"I took some notes during the video. Maybe a quiz directly afterward on Blackboard would help reinforce the concepts."

"More graphics and bullet points on the screen, and downloadable companion documents."

"I really liked how the main points were shown on the screen while you were talking. Maybe attach an outline of some sort in e-mail, so we can have something to take notes on as we follow along."

Please leave any other general comments you might have about the use of the video post for the Unit V Part One Persuasion class in Mr. DeLung's Public Speaking class. Feel free to be honest and candid. Also feel free to make suggestions about future uses of social media such as discussion boards, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, etc. Any other general feedback about the course at this point is also welcome.

"I think this is a great tool that has been utilized and that it shows how good technology really has become. It gives interaction with the instructor and provides a great learning tool for the students."

I liked the vlog because if I needed to hear something again I could go back and listen to it. I was also able to take detailed notes about the topics. For topics that cannot be covered in class, this is a great way to appeal to students by not giving them a huge assignment or reading to cover, but allowing them to hear and understand concepts as if they were in class. I've enjoyed this class a lot and you have done a wonderful job teaching it. Thank you for all your feedback and hard work!"

By using any social media I believe it makes the class seem more interesting, just because that is what everyone does these days in their free time so it makes the class feel like less work even though it is not."

I thought it was really great. I was watching and just thinking to myself how cool it was that I was listening to a lecture from my actual professor and he was talking directly to me. I liked it a lot."

I really enjoyed the vlog more so than just the average online days. It was much easier to obtain the information I needed to know. Many times during the semester, my oline days were wasted just flipping through pages in a book. I have always been a fan of lectures online or inclass and not a fan of general book reading. I think that this technique should be used in the future for other COMM classes. I did feel engaged in the work. When I saw that the video was 17 minutes long I anticipated something quite boring, but my attention was held and I didn't even look at the time once. Nice job!"

So there you have it folks! I feel like I learned a lot from this experience and from letting my students give me some feedback. I'm not sure how soon in the future I'll be teaching again, but I know that if I do I will definitely keep my teaching methods up-to-date with technology, as many students really seemed to relate to and have fun with this assignment. I strongly feel that nothing can replace good in-class lecturing from an enthusiastic and experienced professor, but from time to time, students need a break and some flexibility and the vlog post class seems to provide that. I welcome thoughts from other educators and/or students in the comments section!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Class Boring? It's (Maybe) Not Your Fault!

Class Boring? It's (Probably) Your Fault!

Have a Question? Ask Facebook.

10 Tips for Acing Comprehensive Exams

Social Media Survey Results, Discussion

Writing?!?! Like with Pen and Paper?

It's Not Hazing, It's Mentoring

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Relatively Journalizing's NCAA Football 2009 Summer Preseason Top 10 Rankings Breakdown

BY JOSHUA DELUNG | ReJo College Football Analyst

Just before spring, Relatively Journalizing released its Top 10 preseason rankings and named teams that we here on the blog expected to be duds this season. Now, after spring practices, Florida State kids getting arrested, and careful consideration, we're back to adjust fire and name the summer top 10 teams in the NCAA. Some rankings do the top 25, but let's face it, the top 10 is where it's at — these are all 10 teams that could make a national championship run this year.

Oh, and just to save you time and give you some perspective, we've included the latest rankings for the teams named here from ESPN, Athlon, About, Scout, Rivals and NationalChamps. Also, the previous ReJo rank is given.

Relatively Journalizing's NCAA Football 2009 Summer Preseason Top 10 Rankings Breakdown

  1. Texas Longhorns (Previously 1; ESPN 3; Athlon Top 7; Athlon fans 3; About 3; Scout 3; Rivals 2; NationalChamps 2) — The defensive line will need some work, but Texas has the coaches to pull through such weaknesses, not to mention the secondary will be menacing and the offense explosive under Heisman candidate Colt McCoy's leadership.
  2. Florida Gators (Previously 2; ESPN 1; Athlon Top 7; Athlon fans 1; About 1; Scout 1; Rivals 1; NationalChamps 1) — The defending national champs are the nation's favorite to repeat for a title. But a silly Big 12 rule gave them the luck of facing Oklahoma in the big game this past season, even though the Longhorns beat the Sooners in the head-to-head matchup. Texas would likely love a real shot at knocking the Gators (or any other challengers) out of the spotlight.
  3. USC Trojans (Previously 8; ESPN 6; Athlon Top 7; Athlon fans 4; About 4; Scout 4; Rivals 3; NationalChamps 4) — Mark Sanchez won't be missed too much in Southern Cal as the Trojans have plenty of capable guys to line up under center this season. The defense will be a little younger, but USC looked really good this spring, and playing in the PAC-10 will certainly help their chances at impressing all the factors involved in the BCS rankings this coming season.
  4. Ole Miss Rebels (Previously unranked; ESPN 11; Athlon 10; Athlon fans 8; About 21; Scout 8; Rivals 14; NationalChamps 8) — Ole Miss was the only team to beat national champion Florida last year, and they also beat the previous year's champion, LSU. That information, along with an extremely impressive schedule and the return of a whole lot of offensive and defensive players means that Ole Miss is one team that should definitely be ranked higher than it is by many other analysts. They have my attention after a great spring.
  5. LSU Tigers (Previously 5, ESPN 8, Athlon Top 7; Athlon fans 9; About 14; Scout 6; Rivals 5; NationalChamps 10) — So Georgia Tech routs Georgia last year, leading everyone to think they are pretty good. Heck, GT tore up the ACC pretty good except for the Hokies. But then, LSU held the Yellowjackets to a FIELD GOAL in the Chik-fil-A Bowl this past bowl season. Couple that knowledge with a good-looking schedule and plenty of returning seniority, and you have a team looking to repeat their success two seasons ago as national champions.
  6. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Previously 9; ESPN 10; Athlon 9; Athlon fans 11; About 7; Scout 5; Rivals 10; NationalChamps 6) — My original ranking for the Cowboys lines up a little better with what some of the sites are saying now, but About, Scout and NationalChamps all seem to be seeing what I'm seeing from OSU. Sure, the secondary will be young, but I think the offense here will be fast-paced and tricky enough to give Texas and Oklahoma a run for their money again this season. OSU will fare better than any other Big 12 team except Texas, that's my prediction.
  7. Virginia Tech Hokies (Previously 4; ESPN 5; Athlon 8; Athlon fans 7; About 8; Scout 18; Rivals 7; NationalChamps 9) — My original ranking was likely a bit of wishful thinking. I'll go ahead and disclose that I'm a fan of the Hokies. I took a drink of the Kool-Aid during my first preseason analysis when everyone was buzzing about a national championship on the horizon this season for VT. I personally asked ESPN's Ivan Maisel during a live chat the other day if he really thought VT deserved such discussion this year. He told me that the Hokies are definitely not to be ruled out of the conversation, and if they beat Alabama in their first game of the season, then to put Florida, Texas and Oklahoma on notice! Even if VT loses to Alabama, enough missteps at the right time by some other contenders could still land the Hokies in a national championship game with such a strong schedule where they play not only the Crimson Tide, but also Marshall, Nebraska, East Carolina and a slew of other ACC teams, about four of which will probably be ranked. However, I lowered my preseason ranking after watching Bryan Stinespring's offense continue to sputter in the spring game — not to mention the team is carried on the shoulders of injury-prone Tyrod Taylor.
  8. Oklahoma Sooners (Previously 3; ESPN 2; Athlon Top 7; Athlon fans 2; About 2; Scout 2; Rivals 4; NationalChamps 3) — I rank Texas and Florida at the top of my list, and every other outlet you'll see includes OU in the top three somewhere. I'm just not biting, though. I think people forget they struggled against Florida in the national championship game and that Texas QB McCoy beat Heisman winner QB Bradford of the Sooners last year as well. The Sooners will be good, but I don't expect them to make it out of the Big 12 this year with losses to OSU, Texas and at least one other team in the conference, possibly Kansas.
  9. TCU Horned Frogs (Previously unranked; ESPN 15; Athlon unranked; Athlon fans 25; About 18; Scout 25; Rivals unranked; NationalChamps unranked) — TCU will be this year's Utah. There, I said it. The Frogs have some tough games scheduled with the likes of Clemson, Air Force, BYU and Utah. They also play UVA to open the season, which should be an easy win, but one that will garner some respect just because it comes out of the ever-improving ACC. I think ESPN's ranking of 15 is OK, but any lower (some of the other sites have TCU unranked altogether) is ridiculous. The Frogs return a lot of players and have the name recognition in their schedule to work up to a ranking like Utah saw at the end of the season last year. Maybe TCU will even get the opportunity to knock off an SEC team in the postseason. Alabama probably wants to forget such talk.
  10. NC State Wolfpack (Previously unranked; ESPN unranked; Athlon unranked; Athlon fans unranked; About unranked; Scout 42; Rivals unranked; NationalChamps unranked) — I of course had to include one team to get you, the readers, talking a little bit. Nobody is giving NC State any attention, but I expect them to be ranked early on for multiple reasons. One is that so many of the ACC teams are predicted to start the season ranked. Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech could all very well see numbers next to their names in the first week of the season. If NC State plays its nonconference schedule well, beating South Carolina and Pittsburgh, then the rest of its conference schedule will be interesting to watch. This is a possibility because of QB Wilson and plenty of returning players on both sides of the ball who are expected to be hungry and much-improved, according to sources who report on the ACC who have actually seen scrimmages. There is depth at the QB position too, as Sean Glennon's younger brother Mike is said to actually know how to play football. Beating two tough nonconference opponents and a few of those ranked conference opponents will grab the Wolfpack some national attention quickly. Don't expect anything too crazy like a national championship run though, because some of the schedule is weak with teams like Gardner-Webb, Murray State, Duke and Boston College. If VT makes it out of the Coastal Division alive as expected, they might be surprised to face NC State from the Atlantic Division when it's time for the ACC Championship Game. If there were ever an argument for that game to move to Charlotte early....
Honorable mentions: Miami, Penn State, Oregon, Georgia, California, Kansas, Michigan State, Rutgers — These are all teams that could easily be included somewhere in this list and who should be pretty good this year. I only think Penn State has what it takes to be a dark horse national championship contender, though.

Could lose the preseason hype quickly: Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Alabama, Iowa, Boise State, California, Utah, Nebraska — Some teams in my top 10 list are actually included here as well. Virginia Tech will lose a lot of hype if it loses to Alabama, and the Hokies will need to win every game thereafter to hope for BCS play. Ohio State is a perennial overrated team, and the two Oklahoma schools listed above will both be good, but there is definitely a chance neither will be great. The ACC race was very interesting last year, and a ton of the teams are expected to be ranked and to see bowl action, but with that much hype, somebody has to fizzle out. Alabama just isn't returning enough on offense to deserve the hype they're getting, especially after a more-talented team last year was routed by Utah, who, by the way, won't be near as talented this season around.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

DeLung earns graduate degree

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Joshua A. DeLung, 23, graduated from Virginia Tech Saturday, May 16, with a Master of Arts degree in communication (public relations) from the Department of Communication.

DeLung is a 2003 Oak Hill High School graduate and former cadet battalion commander of the Fayette County Army JROTC. He graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Marshall University.

During his time at Virginia Tech, DeLung was a member of many professional organizations, including the Public Relations Society of America, Society of Professional Journalists, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Communication Graduate Student Association and the Marshall Alumni Association (Roanoke Chapter).

DeLung worked for New River Valley Magazine, The Roanoke Times and Access Advertising and Public Relations while residing in Blacksburg, Va., and he taught public speaking courses for the Department of Communication at Virginia Tech. His research as a graduate student concentrated primarily on perceptions of media, public relations and advertising campaign effectiveness, and political communication, to include public administration.

As a graduate student, DeLung was selected to present his research, “Proximity and framing in news media: Effects on credibility, bias, recall and reader intentions,” at the 2008 annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Chicago.

DeLung also received an honorable discharge in October after serving six years in the West Virginia Army National Guard as an M1 Abrams armor crewman and cavalry scout with C Troop of the 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, based in Glen Jean. He plans to work in the field of public relations upon graduation and later pursue a doctorate degree. DeLung is the grandson of L.T. and Gloria Jordan of Fayetteville and Keith and Janie DeLung of Oak Hill, and he is the son of Vernon and Joan DeLung, also of Oak Hill.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How to Make Your Own Wolf

It's time to stray away from journalism, PR, social media, education and all those other things that have become the norm on this blog to do a more traditional post. This topic has been on my mind for a while now, so I think it's time I write about it. That's right, we're going to talk about biology.

Now before you go running away thinking this is some boring post about protons, anatomy, cells or squamous tissue, please remember where you are. You're reading Relatively Journalizing, and you know by now that I don't take myself that seriously. This post is to educate you about the origin of wolves.

Don't worry, there's no birds-and-bees talk coming. Of course, that's because wolves do not — contrary to popular belief — mate in order to reproduce. Wolves are actually the product of wolfberries, the nutrient-rich, ellipsoid red berries known to the Chinese as the goji berry. I know this is difficult to take at face value, but consider how many times you've actually seen a wolf give birth. Exactly. (And no, as gross as it may be, huskies do not count.)

I know what you're asking yourself right now. If you plant a wolfberry to get a new wolf to be born from the earth, then from where do wolfberries come? Just stop and check yourself right now. The answer is wolfberry seeds, of course, you dolt.

With six vitamins, 11 dietary minerals and enough antioxidants to make you cancel your subscription to Oxidized Monthly, wolfberries are magical fruits whose superiority over their cousin the eggplant is solidified in history forever. But what does this mean in your own life? Well, if wolfberries yield wolves and are full of nutrition, then it is only logical that wolves must be delicious meaty treats composed of every essential vitamin and mineral we could ever need to survive. Therefore, the longevity of the human race relies on diets comprising nothing but wolf steak.

So get out there and start hunting wolves, but please be sure to send me some wolf jerky for alerting you of this deficiency in your diet. If you aren't more healthy than ever before after one year of eating nothing but wolf, then you probably deserve to be malnourished for taking medical advice from a guy with a Master of Arts degree in public relations. Then again, isn't the real question still on all our minds, "What happens if you plant a wolf?" I'm afraid we may not want to know the answer to that question....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

PRSA: Really Advancing the Field?

A little less than one month ago, I wrote a post regarding PRSA's ethical code. Now, I'd like to generate some discussion about whether or not the organization really does much to advance the field of public relations.

The other day, I received an e-mail from PRSA, of which I am a member, about a seminar for young practitioners just entering the field. I've worked in PR in various ways part-time for about three years now, but I am just now finishing my Master of Arts degree and preparing to launch full-time into the profession, so I was curious about this so-called training. Upon further observation, I noticed that the course was something to the effect of "Avoiding Common Mistakes Young Practitioners Make." (I wish I hadn't deleted the e-mail in a fit of rage, as I'm not sure of the exact title, but you get the drift.) I looked a little more closely, as I of course want to avoid common pitfalls if at all possible, but I then noticed the seminar had a cost of about $200.

Pitfall numero uno to avoid as a young practitioner: shelling out two weeks' worth of grocery money on a pointless seminar in harsh economic times. By the way, that little tidbit of advice will cost you $50 (hey, I have PRSA dues coming up soon, give me a break).

Another problem with PRSA is in the subscriptions to Strategist and Tactics. First of all, the daily PRSA e-mail articles and other stuff from the blogs is always reiterated in the print publications of the organization. Not to mention, most of this stuff is just oversimplified fluff about how to write or use social media that young practitioners will find akin to Grandma telling you about how she discovered this new thing called Twitter. So not only are the print publications basically worthless because they have month-old stories in them, but also PRSA is killing the rainforest by mailing out these thick broadsheets that could just be sent out as PDFs or interactive Flash sites or something to that effect. Of course, there has been less actual PR content in the PRSA blogs and articles lately as everything is riddled with personal stories of how getting accredited in public relations has changed some practitioners' life. Once again, give me a break — but at least this brings me to my next point.

The APR accreditation is widely trumpeted by PRSA as the greatest thing for advancing your career as a practitioner since sliced bread, press agentry, Bernays and the excellence theory (all also overrated). But, there's a catch. APR accreditation is targeted to practitioners with five full-time years of experience in the field and who have a Bachelor's degree in public relations, communication, journalism or a related field. However, the organization also says that this is not a requirement, just a suggestion.

The APR exam really doesn't seem complex enough to warrant all the reverance surrounding it. In fact, the APR study guide available for download on PRSA's Web site is very scarce on any sort of in-depth information. For example, the guide mentions agenda-setting theory with no analysis to go on to framing, priming and attribute agenda-setting theories, plus it really fails to acknowledge that this theory is much more a theory of mass media than it is one of public relations like excellence, relationship management or legitimacy would be. Most of the stuff in the study guide was learned during my undergraduate education, which was in journalism and not even in public relations! I feel as though my graduate education and research public relations qualifies me well past the ability to answer the questions on the APR exam, yet PRSA seems to discourage people like myself from becoming APR accredited (even though they do send me an e-mail every other day telling me I should do it). Then again, my reasons might also have something to do with the $385 fee that once again leads me to believe PRSA is more about a money racket than it is about advancing public relations scholarship and practice.

Not only do I not feel as though PRSA does much to advance our field, but also I don't feel like it has done anything to enhance my career aside from giving me some added legitimacy perhaps on my résumé by being able to put four letters in the professional organizations section (though SPJ, AEJMC and others would likely accomplish the same task, and they are listed there also). I do belong, technically, to my local (read: closest, but not really local) chapter. However, they always host the meetings about 45 minutes away from where I live, and they have get-togethers at the strangest times, usually when I have been in one of my graduate classes or teaching one of the undergraduate courses I teach for the Department of Communication here. Not only has becoming an active member of PRSA been made difficult and inconvenient, but also one would think older members would take interest in networking with and helping younger members advance their careers. Instead, I never receive any e-mails about job opportunities from members, nor is there a section for jobs on the local chapter's Web site.

Overall, I don't feel as though PRSA has done too much to advance the field of PR, but I welcome discussion about this in the comments. I feel, as I think many other young practitioners (and perhaps older ones) do, that PRSA is mostly an organization that we think we have to be members of to be considered credible and legitimate. It's a sort of necessary evil. We pay them money so we can say we are members, and in return, well, we don't get much of anything. I've never seen a PR job listing that required a PRSA membership or an APR accreditation. If PRSA wants to survive with the new wave of PR practitioners, it will need to do more for its members, give us good reasons and better ways to become accredited, and it will need to update itself to sound less like the all-knowing authority on years-old technologies and more like the great public relations scholars in our universities who are actually advancing the field through theory and experimentation to achieve actual results in developing strategic communication skills.