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Using Mass Media Models for Virtual Teaching Modalities

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2020 Fall ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Meeting


Virtual (hosted by Stevens Institute of Technology)

Publication Date

November 7, 2020

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November 7, 2020

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November 7, 2020

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Alex K Antunes Capitol Technology University

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Dr. Alex "Sandy" Antunes is a professor of astronautical engineering at Capitol Technology University. In addition to teaching online and on-ground classes, he mentors and manages undergraduate payload projects that are student conceived and student led, including the Cactus-1 CubeSat mission and two summers with Brazil's “Science without Borders” exchange program. His recent publications address open source satellite work, cheap deployable sensors, machine learning, and engineering education. In addition to scientific research on solar physics, X-ray binaries, and collisional remnants, he has written five "DIY" technical books for Make: on amateur space and machine learning topics. Prior work includes spacecraft science operations and astrophysics work at GSFC, solar physics at NRL under an NRC fellowship, and freelance science writing.

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We're in a transition to predominantly online learning, in which educators are sharing techniques for engaging students. However, there is also a core structuralism component required for effective teaching virtually, that is more than just pulling together techniques. While the content can (and should) often be surprising, the structure of the class should not be. To create a structure for each class session that is consistent, repeatable, and engaging, yet not repetitious, we recommend using evolved mass media models which have a history of engaging their audience for 90+ minutes on a nightly basis.

A source of models for creating effective class sections is drawn from mass media, specifically the TV talk show format (and its predecessor, the radio talk show). Pulling structural elements from media such as the talk show "The Daily Show", podcasts such as "Prairie Home Companion", or even fourth-wall breaking variety shows like "The Muppet Show" give you a template for creating your own online learning session experience. For this structure, you create 'segments' aka chunking of the content into bite-sized pieces. In between segments, you have transition elements, side-trips into interesting applications, and actual breaks, in order to maintain student engagement. The template (with rotation of elements) allows for a predictable structure while making each segment revelatory and experiential.

The structure must be pre-announced and kept consistent across class sessions, while the actual content can be as similar or wildly different as you require. By maintaining the 'show' structure, students will always have a reference frame so they can focus on the material and not be trying to figure out the content delivery. In addition, using predictable yet varied modalities for each class will lead to students self-identifying with the portions of the class that are more effective for them. It also helps address the digital divide by allowing teachers to differentiate between low-bandwidth 'core' portions and higher bandwidth 'side trips'. Thus a varied yet structured template using mass media modalities as a model can deliver virtual learning to students of different learning types and increase overall engagement.

Antunes, A. K. (2020, November), Using Mass Media Models for Virtual Teaching Modalities Paper presented at 2020 Fall ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Meeting, Virtual (hosted by Stevens Institute of Technology). 10.18260/1-2--36055

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