Technology in Teaching

MJF experiments by moving to hybrid and online classes
  • By Haley Donovan
  • CAS Intern
  • JRN '16


It’s something we love to hate, but can’t live without. As students rely more and more on technological advances, the university works to keep up with the times. One way Miami uses more technology is by transferring some traditional classes into online classes with the implementation of J-Term, a three week period in January where students can take classes. The Department of Media, Journalism & Film takes pride in its use of online teaching.

Currently, the department experiments with online teaching in 15 different classes. According to Richard Campbell, professor and chair of the department, professors tend to favor a hybrid method during the school year, because Miami is a residential campus.

In a hybrid model, a twice-a-week class may only meet once in person and once in the online classroom. James Tobin’s class for the Media Writing Scholars uses a hybrid method, as well as Patricia Newberry’s J-Term class.

Public speaking is also taught online. Three years ago, the department circulated a memo requesting someone to consider teaching public speaking online. Dan Behnke, instructor of strategic communication, says there were a lot of doubts about being able to do that but, “I love a challenge and I thought ‘that is something I’m going to try.’”

After a series of more successes than failures, Behnke continues teaching public speaking online during the school year. Behnke also serves on the Faculty Learning Committee: Shaping CAS Online Curriculum 2014 to 2020, a committee that makes recommendations to the Dean about how to move forward with the Miami Plan. The committee is also working on establishing a document that eventually help faculty who are considering moving their course online.

Campbell says it is difficult to teach online classes and do it well, but the department has a number of dedicated faculty who put in the time and effort to make it happen.

This semester, the department also invited two Miami alums, Terence Moore and Fred Reeder, to teach an online class called “Sports Writing in a Digital Age.”

Because the course is taught online, it allows Moore to teach students in Oxford from where he is living and working in Atlanta, Ga.

So what are the strengths of online teaching? Behnke says the online class provides more opportunity for interaction with students. “I’ve worked with students in New York, Los Angeles, China, and one in Italy. We are able to communicate synchronously via WebEx, and I find myself interacting more with my students in an online course than in face to face,” says Behnke. Campbell, on the other hand, finds that online teaching has different strengths. “Writing in particular can be really intense. Everybody has different writing problems, and online classes allow students to receive more individual attention on their writing.”