Friday, October 7, 2011

Online public speaking classs!? YouSeeU to the rescue!

Don't stop me in the hallway, I'm likely to bend your ear for a while about benefits of online learning or some technology to use in the classroom. I'm notorious for bringing up tech-based ideas in meetings ("why not use a GoogleDoc?"). I can't help it. I love teaching and I love technology. I have designed and taught online courses for over five years. I have taken many courses, sessions, and workshops on effective online teaching. I bring a passion to online learning. I believe in the increased accessibility, convenience, and new pedagogical promise of an online environment. I embrace the collaborative tools and exciting techniques we can use to engage our online students. But there can still many challenges to online learning.

I designed and teach our institution's fully online public speaking course (and yes, at this point most scholars turn to one another and ask how you can teach public speaking online...). Over the past five years, I have modified, enhanced, tweaked, and altered the course. My vision was a course that mirrored not only the rigor, but also the feel (sense of community) and opportunity for growth students can find in the on-campus public speaking course. There are a few things I will never change about the online course. One: the students must deliver their speeches in front of a live audience (and record them). Two: the students must be able to see classmates' videos.

These requirements can lead to student stress. They must plan ahead to accomplish their speeches--but I require the online course to have the same "public" speaking feel and focus as the on-campus class and a webcam head shot video where students speak to computer screens won't cut it, in my opinion. Students work with a live audience found from their co-workers, neighbors, colleagues, church attendees, etc. They then record and post their presentations for their classmates to view.

There are a plethora of privacy concerns when it comes to student work and the web. I have laboriously crafted several techniques using private groups with password-protected video rights that are then embedded in our (password-protected) LMS, but that is a huge headache. I've been looking for an easier option. This semester I found it.

YouSeeU is a site tailor-made for my course. I have enjoyed using it as it can easily work within the LMS and it has excellent support for students (and for me!). YouSeeU is a place to exchange and view video presentations securely. It works well for collegiate classes since students can add slides, work in groups, complete oral exams, and get grades/comments in one secure location.

My students can upload speeches from their cell phones, web cams, camcorders. They literally only have to click twice to submit their work. EASY.
Assignment list and options (professor view)

Student view
When I created my YouSeeU course, I got an ID that the students use to log in. The directions to course creation and assignment creation were clear and the site is helpful. I have a list of assignments (see picture) and can modify the due date, closing date, points, etc. Students simply select from an upload or record option once I make an assignment available. If the due date passes, they can't upload. Once they submit, they can't remove it--so the work is officially in my hands just like the traditional speaking class (you can also do a one-time take with the "oral exam" feature on YouSeeU so students can't record their speeches multiple times trying to get it "just right" -- a situation they would not have in a traditional, on-campus classroom). The classmates can easily view the speeches and leave comments, rate, and engage with one another.

Copy of part of my rubric for the Informative speech
As a professor, I particularly value the rubrics (click and grade...a huge time saver) which can be created for each assignment and has tons of room for a variety of constructs to be measured. It does not take much time to set up and the ability to click-and-grade while viewing saves me a mountain of time in the large online course. The students can see the feedback easily.

Professors can archive videos and use them again (I have sought permission from a few students to do this with their videos in upcoming terms so I have examples readily available for the students). There are many tools for professors to use today in online courses, but I haven't seen such a perfect fit for my courses in a long time. You can view a comparison chart on the site to explore what YouSeeU offers that may be different from the tool your class may currently utilize.

A few notes: 
Use the great resource from YouSeeU that provides pre-written student directions for logging in and using the site. I just pasted this information into Blackboard (our LMS) and added my class identification number. Very simple.  

Clear directions and helpful links throughout the site
Students should record with a lot of light (good for any video) to help keep the quality of their presentation high.

The uploading time can be variable depending on file size and internet connection. Most of my students struggle with a consistent internet connection at home and use mobile devices that appear to take slightly longer to upload.  

The rubrics are worth exploring! At first I thought I did not need to look into them since I have a detailed evaluation sheet for each speech, but they are very easy to use and I have been able to add my (lengthy and detailed) public speaking evaluation sheets easily. Grading is now a few clicks and the scores are totaled for me. I can also leave comments (or even use pre-set standardized comments that I submit and then easily use with my rubric).

Ask for a demonstration or view the videos and resources on the YouSeeU page. It is targeted for educators and students (no random commercials or videos of kittens here), directions are easy to follow and processes are intuitive for both professors and students.

This semester, YouSeeU has been a great addition to my online course and one that I will continue to use as long as I am responsible for the online communication courses at my institution. YouSeeU makes it much easier to answer that question, "How do you teach public speaking online?!"

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  1. Cheers and thanks for the review Lora! YouSeeU would be nothing without dedicated instructors like you.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, I'll be sure to try this out.

  3. I like online speaking class it give me experience in talking to the general public.and i will suggest the students to get advantage from executivespeaking to improve their presentation skill.