Tag Archive: MIT


“As well as teaching, examining and certification, college education creates social capital. Students learn how to debate, present themselves, make contacts and roll joints. How can a digital college experience deliver all of that?” – The Economist, The Future of Universities; The Digital Degree, June 28, 2014

After spending 16 years in Silicon Valley, the author of digital communications blog, Almost DailyBrett, and social media evangelist, fully gets it when it comes to destructive technologies.

Social, mobile and cloud have changed the world as we can self-publish and exchange views via the Internet to anyone around the globe instantaneously on a 24/7/365 basis.

When it comes to drinking the cyber Kool-Aid, there is one area in which I am pushing back and displaying a healthy dose of skepticism, not cynicism: teaching public relations online, particularly advanced courses.onlinegraduate

Couldn’t help but note the web ad for Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana), championing its only PRSA-certified graduate level PR program, about earning a master’s degree in public relations online. Check out the Ball State website language:

“Our online students have ongoing interaction with their instructors and classmates via e-mail, discussion boards, file sharing, online chats, web page posting, and other communications. These courses are typically taught asynchronously—meaning you can log on for class participation whenever you wish.”

My issues pertain to the incongruity of  (presumably human) “interaction” with the words, “online discussion boards, file sharing, online charts, web page posting, and other communications.” That doesn’t sound very touchy, feely to little ole me.

Making Love … Online?

Let’s get straight to the point: Can you make love online? … Real “From Here to Eternity” physical contact between two hormone-driven, amorous individuals? File sharing may fall a little short, when it comes to the real thing.eternitybeach

Now let’s take the discussion to the next logical step: Public relations is working with … target publics. Right? It is stakeholder relations. It is working in teams. It is making in-person presentations. It is motivating the public to take a favorable action that benefits your employer or your client. These are living-breathing human-to-living-breathing human interactions

There is little doubt that you can teach theory (i.e., Agenda Setting, Uses and Gratifications, Hierarchy of Needs, Diffusion of Innovation, Two-Way Asymmetrical, Two-Way Symmetrical) in the classroom, so why can’t you do that online? You can.

The same applies to ethics including responsible advocacy, honesty, guarding against copyright and/or trademark infringement, protecting intellectual property, and taking steps to avoid slander, libel and/or defamation. Yes, we can teach them all online.

In fact, I should come clean and tell you right now that I am indeed teaching online COM 270 Introduction to Public Relations and COM 280 Advertising Fundamentals, using Panopto recordings, Canvas and old-fashioned email at Central Washington University this summer. CWU’s School of Education this week was honored for its online teaching of School Administration master’s level curricula. As Martha would say, “This is a good thing.”

Where I am getting off the bus comes to the absence of eyeball-to-eyeball (Skype or FaceTime are not the same) human communication associated with online-only curricula. Sure, it may work wonders for more reclusive disciplines, such as statistics, accounting, software code writing, but when it comes to qualitative interplay with target audience Homo sapiens that needs to be done face-to-face. And that’s where online teaching falls short … it just has too.alonetogether3

Grading, Not Teaching? 

In my last few years in Silicon Valley, your author remembers the opinions of C-level publicly traded technology executives pontificating and bloviating that online schools were essentially degree factors, selling diplomas for a King’s ransom.

The Washington Post recently reported about the 20 colleges with one-fifth of all the federal student loan debt in the 2013-2014 academic year. Number one was online superstar, Walden College at $756 million. University of Phoenix was second at $493 million; Capella University was sixth at $399 million and Kaplan University was #13 at $226 million.

These numbers represent serious student loan debt and what are these mostly online students getting in return? Are the faculty at these institutions merely grading or are they actually teaching?

Another concern that comes to mind is the recent book by M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle, “Alone Together: What We Expect From Technology and Less From Each Other.” Her main points pertain to the literally hundreds of thousands, who are in physical proximity with other humans, but their full attention is on their mobile devices. Some even sit in restaurant tables, pay attention to their smart phones,  ignoring their dinner companion(s).alonetogether1

Successful public relations professionals must be knowledgeable and practiced in digital communications – blogging, social media, websites, images, video, infographics – and must be adroit enough to adopt the next round of destructive technologies … they are out there. We must know them all.

Having made this point, we still must interact with people. We need people. We need to see the look on their faces. We need to see the reaction in their eyes. We need to deduce the inflection of their voices. We need to experience first-hand their culture.

This is the essence of public relations.

There must be a real face time component, when it comes to teaching and mentoring.

Online is good, but not good enough. 

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21605899-staid-higher-education-business-about-experience-welcome-earthquake-digital

http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2015/02/27/4-questions-to-ask-before-enrolling-in-a-for-profit-online-program

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/07/09/these-20-schools-are-responsible-for-a-fifth-of-all-graduate-school-debt/?tid=sm_fb 

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21646986-online-learning-could-disrupt-higher-education-many-universities-are-resisting-it-not

http://www.cwu.edu/cwu-online-education-master%E2%80%99s-programs-rated-among-best-country

http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/journalism/graduateprograms/mapublicrelations

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/the-rebirth-of-pettiness-the-death-of-conversation/

 

 

 

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” – Winston Churchill

It (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speech) called into question the efficacy of any deal the administration might strike with Iran over its nuclear program; it likely renewed momentum for another round of Iranian sanctions on the Hill; it positioned the GOP politically as the party more worried about Israeli security, and, despite the White House’s best efforts, made the president appear petty and churlish.” – James Oliphant, National Journalbibicongress

To Almost DailyBrett, it appears to be a new dawn of pettiness.

What happened to taking the high road?

How about some Churchillian “tact”?

Seems like all the above is in short supply these days.

Drifting Further Apart

Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” – Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”

Let’s face it: There are 7 billion+ inhabiting our planet and everyone has a derriere and an opinion too.

Some we don’t want to hear; there are just as many that we don’t respect.

In the case of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the former made it absolutely clear that he tuned out the speech of the latter. Aren’t the U.S. and Israel strategic, democratic “allies”?

The reason for the presidential tune-out? The former (e.g., executive branch) didn’t invite the latter to speak before a joint session of Congress (e.g., legislative branch). They (e.g., Obama and Netanyahu) also don’t like each other … pass the sand shovels and plastic buckets.

Is the White House’s behavior “petty and churlish?” The answer is “yes” according to one major publication and presumably others think so as well.

There is the far more important global issue of Israel’s survival and whether or not the warm-and-fuzzy Mullahs of Iran gets their hands on nuclear bombs.

There is also the mounting inability-to-converse behavior that is being exhibited as we seemingly grow further apart, even as technology is rapidly improving our ability to instantaneously “communicate.”

“Alone Together”

The Economist in its cover story this week, “Planet of the phones,” reported the 2 billion smart phones in circulation right now will grow to 4 billion in just five years-time. The stately British newspaper also projected that 80 percent of adults will have smart phones by 2020 as Moore’s Law holds sway and the number of apps/features doubles each-and-every 18-24 months.

The computing/communicating power of these hand-held mobile devices is awesome. What is not so fantabulous is how these devices in far too many ways help us in avoiding each other. M.I.T. Professor Sherry Turkle wrote her latest book: “Alone Together, What We Expect From Technology and Less From Each Other.”turkle

Taking a page from Rene Descartes and moving it to the 21st Century, Turkle told a recent TED Talk Conference (Technology, Entertainment and Design) that the new mantra very well could be: “I connect, therefore I am.”

And while we are digitally connected, we can avoid analog interaction (e.g., actual conversation) with others … and best of all, we conquer our fear of being alone. Yes we are in the presence of our fellow humans, but alas they have their faces buried in their smart-phone screen just as we do.

Is the barista taking too long making your grande no-whip mocha?

Do you feel alone?

Do you feel exposed?

Quick: Pull out your smart phone.

Turkle also said the smart-phone obsessed have a solution for being in the same room with those, who they may not want to know. It’s called the Goldilocks Effect for the Alone Together crowd, all present, but at the same time not there: “Not too close. Not too far. Just right.”

Maybe President Obama could have stopped by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, and brought along his Blackberry? He could have texted, surfed golf course websites for tee times, checked his approval ratings etc. He would have been there, and yet not been there at the same time. Perfect.

From a public relations standpoint, his press secretary could proclaim the president while irked by the proceedings and the message was big enough to be there … even though he was mentally elsewhere.

Aren’t there executives who claim to be listening at board meetings, while they are texting at the same time, the ultimate in multi-tasking? Why can’t the über-chief executive do exactly the same thing?

At least the National Journal would not be accusing him of being petty and churlish.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/white-house/netanyahu-delivers-just-what-obama-feared-20150303

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/obama-aide-calls-netanyahu-visit-destructive-to-relations/2015/02/25/1f1d5b0c-bce6-11e4-9dfb-03366e719af8_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/netanyahus-churchillian-warning/2015/03/05/60ae7fd4-c366-11e4-9ec2-b418f57a4a99_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33365-tact-is-the-ability-to-tell-someone-to-go-to

 

 

 

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