My teaching philosophy: Setting the bar high enough that students have to jump

Following our end-of-the-semester project presentations this semester I had a student ask me what my teaching philosophy was. To be honest, I haven’t thought about this much since I created my philosophy during my doctoral studies (many, many moons ago). It was an assignment. Something we had to do to include in teaching portfolios and send out during job hunts. I think I may have included it in an award package at one time too…

Obviously, I haven’t thought about it or even looked at it for a while. Which is strange because it is supposed to guide my teaching. Have I been teaching on autopilot? Have I done my students a disservice? The answer to both questions is “NO.” And here’s why:

1. I read (in great detail) the comments from students, from colleagues and from professionals about what needs to be taught in public relations, advertising and strategic communication classes. I try to incorporate as much as possible from their comments into each lecture. I also find out where our students need the most improvement to succeed and make sure to focus on these items in assignments.

2. I have never taught the same material twice. This isn’t to say that I have not taught the same classes, but I never teach the classes the same way. I am always incorporating new technologies, new topics, new discussions, etc. Look at my syllabi from semester to semester and you will see that my classes constantly change to reflect industry trends, current events, etc.

3. I seek out opportunities to learn more. Recently, I spoke to a professional about job shadowing over the summer months. I haven’t been a PR/advertising professional since 2002. That’s 10 years since I have worked for a client. So, in addition to job shadowing I stay active in professional organizations, bring in guest speakers to my classes, and even take technology/skills classes to keep “up to speed.”

4. I set the bar high in my classes and keep it there. I know what is expected of them as professionals and I make sure they are doing professional-level work. I would be doing a disservice to students if I either: a) set the bar so low so that everyone got “As” and thus, no one who did spectacular work was recognized for it, or b) moved the bar for some people and kept it higher for others. In both cases I would be accepting non-professional work and telling students that was acceptable.

Which brings me to my personal teaching philosophy. I’m going to call it the “high jump philosophy.”

photo by dairytwirl on Flickr

photo by dairytwirl on Flickr

I was a track and field athlete from middle school through college (roughly 11 years), so this analogy is based on my time practicing, building strength and stamina, and focusing on my end goals… which is exactly what I try to get my students to do in my classes.

In high school track the starting height for girl’s high jump is 3’10.” Most high school girls can do this in their sleep — this is why it’s called the starting height. No one pulls out their best jump at the starting height. Some will pass until a “better” or “harder” height, some will practice their form at this height, others will simply mess around and do a goofy jump or scissor-leg over this height to show off. NO ONE tries to clear the bar by jumping 5’10” on the 3’10” starting height. NO ONE. Why? Because the bar isn’t set for their best jump. It’s set where everyone can accomplish something. 

This is a “C bar” in my class. Like I said, most high school girls can clear the starting height in their sleep (and so can high school boys since the height for the boy’s high hurdles is 39″ or 3’1/4″ — making the high jump bar just a mere 9 3/4 inches more than most boys can run and step over). This is average. Come to class, take part in discussions, turn in your assignments and you are guaranteed a “C” because you can basically do these things in your sleep.

In high jump, the bar increases 2 inches after everyone has jumped. That means the next heights are 4′, 4’2″, 4’4″, 4’6″ and so on. Each time the bar increases two more inches it gets harder for everyone to clear it. This is the same in my classes. If you want a “B” then you have to jump higher than you did for the “C”. If you want an “A” then you better pull out your best jump. You better work hard, practice, follow my training (and the grading rubrics) and show me your best work.

In the high jump the bar never goes back down in height. It just keeps going up. At some point you have your winners – gold, silver, bronze. In my classes these are all A’s — the students who distinguished themselves from their peers by pulling out their best jumps (i.e., their best work).

Not everyone will clear 5’10” in the high jump. Not everyone will have trained hard enough to earn that accomplishment. And guess what, not everyone should. There should be heights some people just can’t clear in their sleep. There should be some things that people must work hard at to earn. Just like in the high jump, grades in my classes are earned, NOT GIVEN.

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Missing Baton Rouge? Helping BRAC showcase the best of BTR using SCVNGR

I am a transplant to Baton Rouge. I was not born a Southerner. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and then lived in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and West Virginia for the first 35+ years of my being. As you can see on this map, I spent most of my life living above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Image from SonoftheSouth.net

Image from SonoftheSouth.net

As someone new to the area I want to take in everything I can of the culture, the cuisine and the surroundings. But, it isn’t easy to find out more about where you live. Often, many of the things you ask about people who have lived there forever either: 1) take for granted and don’t tell you about it ’cause they think you already know it, or 2) don’t know “why” a thing is the way it is. Things have been lost over generations. Stories that used to be passed on about local legends have been forgotten. While there are sites such as this one that help collect local folklore, the stories listed there are sparce. As you can see from this Louisiana listing, not much has been handed down and posted to the site.

Now, when it comes to the local cuisine, Southerners can tell you EVERYTHING. Where to locate the best, what spices they use, how to make it yourself at home, etc. Recently, a friend showed us how to do a proper Louisiana Crawfish Boil — and Wowee was it amazing!!!!!

Image from Commons.wikimedia.com

Image from Commons.wikimedia.com

Getting to better know my surroundings has been a bit more difficult. I want to visit all those places that make Baton Rouge unique. The places that aren’t necessarily listed in the brochures at the hotels:) That’s where the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) and SCVNGR come in.

BRAC is currently working to promote Baton Rouge as the Creative Capital of the South. They are working with local businesses to bring new talent to the Baton Rouge area. To promote BTR they are using interaction, engagement and yes, even the geolocation-based mobile gaming application, SCVNGR. As part of the service-learning component of my MC4001- Public Relations Writing course at the Manship School of Mass Communication, students are building mobile treks to help BRAC showcase the best of BTR. Their hope is to get talented individuals to re-locate here permanently.

The treks BRAC and my students have planned are:

  • Discover/Re-discover BR
  • Nightlife
  • Arts and Culture
  • Get out of Town

Each of these will help people who are transplants (i.e., completely new to the area) or boomerangs (i.e., once lived here and are coming back) find out about established locations as well as new places they should try out.

So whether you are a boomerang who is missing your roots in Baton Rouge or a transplant who is missing out on Baton Rouge — we have you covered.

Continue following our progress on this project by checking out my students’ blog (see blogroll on left). You can also follow me on Twitter (@jensenmoore) or find me on LinkedIn.

SCVNGR vs. Foursquare challenge

This semester, my Public Relations Writing and Applications students are completing a service-learning project designed to improve Morgantown small-business revenues by incorporating SCVNGR, a geolocation-based mobile application, into their promotions.

SCNVGR, two-screen shot of retail store challenge.

I envisioned that the task would be an easy one. After all, none of the small-business owners have to pay for the mobile challenges, treks, or rewards offered through SCVNGR, nor do they have to design them. The PR students do all the work for them. Then, after the promotions are up and running the PR students write news releases, feature stories, pitch letters, etc. to get each small-business free publicity. I thought the hardest part would be pinning down small-business owners for meetings. I was wrong.

It seems that Morgantown small-business owners are not very familiar with SCVNGR — or it’s competition, Foursquare. This was surprising as a large part of Morgantown revolves around West Virginia University and college students are HUGE users of mobile phones as well as gaming applications. This meant that the hardest part of this task was that students had to explain (often multiple times and in the minutest detail) what location based applications and gamification were.

Sometimes the small-business owner had heard of, or were at least a bit familiar with, SCVNGR‘s competition, Foursquare (which didn’t always work to our advantage).

Foursquare, two-screen shot of check-in and "tip" posting.

So, I decided to ask my Advertising Media Analysis students to take a few weeks to compare the two different geolocation-based mobile applications to see what they thought. My end-goal was to help find ways for the PR students to “sell” SCVNGR services to small-business owners.

Here are the highlights of their findings:

Foursquare

  • “After I started getting the hang of this application it was easy to see how so many people are addicted to “check in” everywhere they go.”
  • “I really enjoyed that if I checked in enough I would earn new badges.”
  • “I like Foursquare because it seems more venues use it.”
  • “With Foursquare you can easily check in at different locations and earn free stuff.”
  • “I’m more prone to visiting a restaurant where I know I can get a discount rather than a restaurant where I buy something at full price. By earning discounts on Foursquare in a college town like Morgantown you have a good chance of increasing sales to WVU student looking to get a dollar or two off their receipt.”
  • “This application seemed like a friend who could give me advice on where to go.”

SCNVGR

  • “SCVNGR is easier to understand because its main page has all the different ways to check in.”
  • “SCVNGR seems to be focused more on businesses and Foursquare seems to be focused on finding new places and doing new things.”
  • “With SCVNGR I had to check in at a place and do a challenge to receive some kind of reward. Generally the rewards from SCVNGR were more tangible, a coupon or a discount, while most of my rewards from Foursquare were just badges.”
  • “I think that SCVNGR has a better application for advertising and promotion… SCVNGR is an advertiser’s dream because it requires people to buy products or at least come into contact with them in order to get what they want.”
  • “SCVNGR offers a better variety of activities at each check in location.”
  • “SCVNGR creates a more interactive environment.”
  • “The rewards aspect of SCVNGR is more appealing to the advertising/promotions side in comparison  to the pure competitive nature of earning points on Foursquare.”
  • “If you are looking to create a buzz to a level where it will actually generate new business then I would highly recommend that you check out SCVNGR.”
  • “SCVNGR has a call to action that Foursquare is missing.”
  • “I like that the application tries to further involve the user past a simple check in.”

Overall, both advertising and public relations students thought that geolocation-based mobile applications were a great new media to utilize.

  • “I think geolocation-based mobile applications are a really great idea to get people interacting in places that they may not usually visit.”
  • “I think geolocation-based mobile applications are fun and useful once you figure out how to use it effectively.”
  • “Overall I think these geolocation-based mobile applications are a great idea just because it causes others to interact with one another with comments about what they think is good and not.”

All of these findings were quite useful… and inevitably have become part of many of the PR groups’ pitches to potential clients. This project is ending soon. Follow it on Facebook and Twitter (pr_324).

SCVNGR’s influence on sales and brand perception

Throughout the fall 2011 semester my public relations writing and applications students are actively working to bring SCVNGR, the geolocation-based mobile application, to Morgantown, W. Va.

The first question many people as me is, “Why?” Quickly followed by “What will local businesses get from this?”

A recent study by Ogilvy & Mather and Chatthreads contains some insight into the possibilities of this project. Though their study deals with social media (and not mobile gaming) I believe some of their findings transfer.

First, they suggest that social media directly correlates with sales increases. Recent blogs suggest that gamification (via websites and mobile applications) does the same. Consumers get to interact with, engage with and be entertained by your brand. Does engagement lead to sales? An overwhelming majority say yes. Especially with a mobile gaming application like SCVNGR where promotions are designed to get consumers to interact with your brand in the best possible ways — thereby highlighting your brand attributes.

Second, the study suggests that your media should be integrated. For this project students are creating blogs, posting to Twitter, messaging via Facebook (social media) as well as creating news releases, feature releases, social media releases, short teasers, media advisories, and pitch letters for traditional media outlets. Everything is integrated — each piece telling different parts of the whole story. Findigns from Ogilvy & Mather indicate that by combining social media and public relations consumer spending could increase as much as 17 percent.

Third, Ogilvy & Mather’s study suggests that social media directly influences spending and consumption. SCVNGR users can immediately post photos, tips, and comments about brands directly to social media sites Twitter and Facebook — ways that can help influence other consumers in their networks. The 0-1-2 effect shows that the more people we observe doing something the more likely we are to do it. Visibly posting SCVNGR “challenges” to social media will result in this.

Fourth, and not surprisingly, the authors suggest that social media have the ability to rapidly change brand perceptions. Advertising “build-up” is long, taking forever to change brand perceptions. Seriously, don’t we still feel poorly about BP regardless of how many ads (see below) they show? Public relations works a bit faster. We feel better when we seen companies acting professionally and giving back to the community — even if they have done something “bad” (e.g., Phillip Morris donating computers to underprivaleged children).

Fifth, the study indicates that consumer exposure to brands via social media (24%) is much lower than that of television (69%). What this means is less clutter. So, when you look at your SCVNGR application and only see a few companies listed, it means your business is highlighted as one that is forward-thinking enough to include gaming in your marketing strategy. It means you don’t have a bunch of competitors taking away your customers. It also means that when customers use SCVNGR to earn rewards, they will come to your business!

On a different note, I would like to point out that through this service learning project the public relations writing and application students are getting some hands-on, highly relevant experience with:

  • developing mobile promotions,
  • meeting with clients,
  • pitching ideas to clients,
  • creating sales, marketing, and other “pitch” materials,
  • writing for social media,
  • getting media attention for this unique project, and
  • increasing student awareness through events, flyers, etc.
The work they do in this class will result in some very impressive portfolio pieces and will definitely set them apart from their peers.

Gamification and Social Media in the Classroom: SCVNGR and International Town & Gown in the PR Writing and Applications Course

Gamification and Social Media in the Classroom: SCVNGR and International Town & Gown in the PR Writing and Applications Course.

Chopped Off My Hair Because I Was Scared to Leave Campus

In the early nineties I left Avoca, a very small town of approximately 500 people (though I think they were counting cats and dogs as it never seemed that populous) nestled along the Wisconsin River, to go to college 580 miles away in Jamestown, ND. I had always considered myself to be a fairly brave person, but when I got to college I soon found that I didn’t have to leave campus for very many things — and that was just fine with me. I felt safe on the Jamestown College campus, with its population of approximately 2,500 students it was already bigger than what I was used to at home, and leaving the campus was a bit scary for me.

Before I left for college I visited our town’s beauty shop (which coincidently was just down the road from my house) and got my hair permed, cut, and colored. I didn’t consider how I would get my hair done when I got to college — perhaps I thought my hair could wait until I came home for Christmas break?

I wasn’t very nice to my hair my first semester, however, as I was on the Jamestown Track & Field team and was constantly running (putting my curl into a ponytail thereby pulling them out), and doing water workouts in the pool. Needless to say, my perm soon began to come out and I had a ton of split ends.

Determined NOT to leave campus I enlisted the help of one of the football players, who was well-known on campus for cutting members’ of the football teams hair. I don’t know what I was thinking — naively that if he could cut boys hair he could cut girls hair as well????

The football player began cutting, and cutting, and cutting. Unable to look at see what he was doing until it reached this stage (see photo below) I finally had to agree to let him cut off all my hair. After all, this chin length bob simply wasn’t a good look for me.

I ended up with a hair cut that looked a lot like a mushroom on top of my head. NOT a hairstyle I would have ever chosen for myself, but now one I would have to live with simply because I was scared to venture off campus and find a hairstylist in an unfamiliar town.

This semester at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism students in the Public Relations Writing & Applications (PR 324) course are trying to save students new to the West Virginia University campus, located in lovely Morgantown, WV from a similar fate. Their task is to encourage WVU students to leave campus and explore local businesses via a location-based gaming application called SCVNGR. This is being done via a partnership with the International Town & Gown Association whose goal it is to bring colleges and communities closer together.

Throughout the coming weeks these PR students will put together marketing plans and sales materials and make presentations to approximately 50 Morgantown businesses. The goal? To provide SCVNGR services to local businesses — including helping them build Challenges, Rewards, and Treks — all the while encouraging other college students to engage with, become loyal to, and “buzz” about Morgantown businesses via the SCVNGR game (and its social media partners Facebook and Twitter).

Needless to say, my students are VERY excited about this project and will be blogging, creating news releases, features, media kits, pitches, social media releases, and other forms of promotional materials as the project evolves and they get to know their “clients” better (and be able to help tell their stories). Throughout this course they will have the opportunity to work on their writing, selling, presenting, client relations, media relations, planning, and promotion skills — all the while connecting to local businesses and helping those businesses build engagement with their customers via SCVNGR.

Join us in this amazing journey. I’ll be blogging about the process as will they. Wish us luck!

Freshman Year

Football player cutting my hair freshman year.

My "mushroom" hairdo.