Connecting Students in the Online Public Speaking Course Through Virtual Speeches

Connecting Students in the Online Public Speaking Course Through Virtual
The online classroom has been increasingly adopted at higher education
institutions in the last several years as educators have recognized its value in
increasing educational accessibility for non-traditional students. Being a nascent
pedagogical context, the preponderance of online education has revealed areas of
weakness, such as attrition, and lack of connection compared to the face-to-face
class. Moreover, a significant amount of research has been devoted to the
importance of community to learning, and therefore, this is a major challenge for the
online class. My assignments seek to address this problem in the online Public
Speaking class through the submission of (in addition to three major speeches
delivered in front of audiences,) three virtual speeches that are viewed by
classmates. Typically, most online classes use the discussion board to create a
context for interaction between students. While valuable, I would argue that visual
presence generates a more meaningful connection between students fostering
community, ideally resulting in lower attrition rates, student success and
My students are assigned three virtual speeches during the course of the
semester. No live audience is required, and they are put into online groups of six
classmates. The first speech is a self-introduction and the second two are
impromptu speeches. These speeches are required to be one - two minutes in
length. Students are then assigned to watch all of the speeches in their group and
post a comment for each speaker acknowledging that they watched the speech
(usually manifesting as communication that enhances immediacy). Negative
feedback is discouraged. This assignment serves two purposes. First, it encourages
the students to connect and interact with their classmates in a more personal way
than written text on the discussion board allows. Secondly, it gives the students
practice creating a virtual speech, which is increasingly becoming an important
channel for rhetoric in the contemporary digital culture. I have used these
assignments for three semesters and despite the increased technological demands
placed on students, I have observed positive results and received an impressive
amount of positive feedback on these assignments.