The new rules at universities – authors connecting with students

Posted by David Meerman Scott 10:24 AM on March 04, 2008

I went to Kenyon College, graduating in 1983 with a BA in Economics. I took only one English class and got a "gentleman’s C" so it's an odd thing that I should end up writing books. Go figure.

While at Kenyon, the professors' ideas were clearly important to the education process. Reading and independent study outside of the classroom environment was also a valuable aspect of learning (although in my case, I was more interested in the finer points of partying and debating the merits of punk, ska, reggae and new wave bands, so I didn’t do all that much studying). Considering Kenyon is a small liberal arts college that uses the seminar approach for advanced classes, fellow students were also an a significant part of the learning experience.

However in four years, I don't ever recall giving the authors of the books we were reading for class any thought whatsoever. I vaguely recall Milton somebody wrote my Economics 101 text, but don't recall any other names. I never met any authors and they were not a part of my learning experience whatsoever.

There is a new model for learning today, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

Forward thinking schools are involving authors of the books used in class by including them in a virtual social media classroom. Web-based collaboration tools and social networking allows an author to be an input into the learning process (from the comfort of their own offices) and smart professors understand this.

I've been asked a number of times by professors who use my book The New Rules of Marketing & PR for class to participate in virtual classroom discussions and I enjoy volunteering a bit of my time. I hear from students that they find the experience helpful too.

Robert French, who teaches public relations at Auburn University offered me my first exposure to virtual guest lectures. I spoke to his class via Skype and as a result of "meeting" students, have taken a look at some their blogs (students are given the assignment of creating a blog for class). Nothing like having the professor and the author of the text used in class looking over your virtual shoulder to get you thinking about that blog assignment!

I've also done virtual presentations to students at Diane Thieke's PR class at Rider University and Karen Russell's class at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

One of the most interesting experiences is with Steve Quigley's New Media and PR class at Boston University. Each term, the class has a (closed) Facebook group and in the past two terms, the students invited me to be a member. Last term the Facebook group was called "New Media Rocks my PR World" (love the name) and this term the Facebook group is called "Media Socialites" (love this name even more).

Here is the Media Socialites Facebook group description: Professor Quigley's new batch of student social media sponges, eager to soak up as much information about New Media and PR in a semester as is humanly possible ... and, in proper social networking fashion, making important connections along the way.

In the group they share ideas and have pulled me into a few virtual discussions. I enjoyed the interaction so much that I joined the class in person last week for a conversation with students.

A new crop of really smart and social media savvy people are graduating this May. Companies should consider hiring people like Christine and Pamela and their many classmates.

University classrooms are being transformed by social media. How about your business? Is it transforming too?

David Meerman Scott

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