Innovative online teaching accelerates public relations students’ self-preparedness for the industry
31 Aug 2020
The maintenance of effective interpersonal communication has become a prominent issue under lockdown and with the recent social distancing measures introduced as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Yet communication is a key backbone in public relations profession. As a result, the way public relations teaching and learning is conducted during the pandemic can provide a hint on how innovative communications can keep us connected during this difficult time.
With face-to-face classes suspended after the Chinese New Year, Dr Angela Mak, Associate Professor and Programme Director of Bachelor of Communication (Honours) and Public Relations Concentration of HKBU's Department of Communication Studies, maintained close ties with her final year public relations students during the pandemic, and she also helped them build up resilience and prepared for joining the industry. Her online classes were well received by students with over 90% attendance rate achieved throughout the semester.
Dr Mak understands that strengthening the interaction between teachers and students in online classes is essential in maintaining students' motivation to learn. To this end, she introduced innovative teaching activities that went far beyond traditional lectures. For example, she hosted an online media training exercise in early March which allowed students to take part in an interesting role play activity which revolved around in a simulated news programme. Students acted as the programme host and interviewees on the topic of how the fitness and dance industries have responded to the pandemic and acquired practical media coaching skills in an interactive and vibrant manner. The training motivated the students to communicate with each other instead of just listening to a lecture, and stayed connected with a real-life business issue.
The 2019/20 academic year was an extraordinary one for the University's final year students. They have faced a disruption in learning, and have also felt uncertain about their future. To turn the negative emotions that loomed during the lockdown into positive energy, Dr Mak encouraged her public relations writing course students to express their feelings by writing their own stories. Their works were then published in the book PR Class 2020: We Are Ready. The collection of 33 articles demonstrated that the students are ready to do more for society with their aspirations, passion and professional assets. It also shared how they face the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 and how they overcame worries over their future.
"The experience of writing and design in the book production within a month has taught my students how to package themselves under difficult situations and always stay positive. It transformed and equipped them with essential working attitudes and problem solving skills. These are the assets that a PR professional should have," says Dr Mak.
Genie Wong, a final year student who shared her story in the book and is currently working full-time in a digital marketing agency, talked about her internship experience at a global public relations consultancy. With a responsibility for data research and analysis, she came to understand that handling seemingly tedious jobs can help equip her with business insights. "Given the current sluggish job market, the book can add value to my portfolio and help me appeal to potential employers," she says.
The book has indeed caught the attention of prospective employers who were impressed by the students' perseverance. Dr Mak says that she received compliments from her friends in the public relations professional industry after they read the book, and some industry professionals and alumni even expressed the desire to hire the graduating students. She believes that the book had successfully built the brand of HKBU’s public relations students, and she is happy to see that about 80% of her students from Class of 2020 are currently employed by reputable companies as of early August.
For download the pdf version of PR Class 2020: We Are Ready, please visit: http://www.coms.hkbu.edu.hk/prclass2020