Developing new teaching resources brought about by the CoP project – a successful experience and practical tips

We invited a guest post that continues a conversation begun in the last issue of the newsletter (15th issue of the Teaching and Learning Connections) wherein we featured articles about Communities of Practice (CoP). In this invited article, feature a successful CoP project which pushes the CoP boundary beyond the campus to involve industry practitioners in developing practice-informed learning materials based on “real-world” contexts. Our guest contributor, Professor Kara Chan, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University, shares her experiences and practical tips in the article below:

Developing new teaching resources brought about by the CoP project – a successful experience and practical tips

peter cobb
Professor Kara Chan,
Department of Communication Studies,
Hong Kong Baptist University

A common challenge in educator professional development is the lack of a platform with enough people who understand our teaching discipline and the specific challenges and opportunities. What if there was a place where teachers could go to get support, tap or share new ideas, and connect with their peers? Better still, that the members are keen to adopt new teaching strategies into their teaching context. Communities of Practice (CoP) has become a practical and robust strategy for professional development.

Background – PRA CoP, overall output and learning outcomes
A disciplined-based CoP
Upon the grant of a funding from the Hong Kong Baptist University, we formed a collaborative Training & Learning (T&L) network CoP for the advertising and public relations (PRA) educators at the start of 2020. Altogether 13 PRA educators in Hong Kong joined forces to explore how to enrich and enhance our teaching resources.

Videos as a focus for teaching resources
In the digital era, students’ learning culture is highly multimodal. Use of videos in teaching was found to be an effective tool for students to formulate real-life problems (Poikela and Poikela, 2006). Videos interviewing industry practitioners provide students with examples of application of theories (Chan and Tsang, 2018).
The teaching videos interviewing industry practitioners stood out as a clear choice as an educational tool to develop as an additional teaching aid. Bringing industry into the classroom is valuable in that it transfers classroom learning to real-world application. We see the potential of these practice-informed learning tools that can help ground theoretical understanding in ‘real-world’ contexts and a deeper understanding of the subject contents.

Millennials, the vast majority of our students, typically have a shorter attention span. The market believes they make up more than 90% of the digital video viewing audience. That underpins why teaching with videos is becoming more popular. The benefits of using videos in an educational setting are numerous. Their convenience and versatility make them an asset to students and teachers, including:

  • Studies have shown that short video clips allow for more efficient processing and memory recall.
  • As a complementary tool, videos are great for teaching concepts that are practical and which are best explained step-by-step.
  • The visual and auditory nature of videos appeals to a wide audience and al-lows each user to process information in a natural way.
  • Abstract topics can become more accessible and understandable.
  • Videos increase student engagement, which in turn helps boost achievement. If students are interested in the material, they will process and remember it better.
  • They offer the flexibility to pause, rewind, or skip throughout the video to have class discussions or review particular areas.

Each CoP member committed to producing a video – identifying the interviewee candidates, drafting questions, and preparing the opening and closing remarks. The CoP made a total of 12 videos, with duration ranging from 15 to 35 minutes. These prominent professional practitioners and corporate leaders shed light on the current topics in the local PRA sector and provide a local context for debating contemporary social issues. They are hosted in a then newly built section under the COP site: The team also enhanced teaching resources such as 30 assignment briefs, from individually to blended learning assignments.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Topics covered by the teaching videos
List of teaching videos produced

  1. Convergence of traditional and digital public relations strategies in corporate brand promotion
  2. Roles of media in marketing communication: The channel, the agency, and the product
  3. Corporate and marketing communication in the digital era
  4. Experience design and audience engagement: Tai Kwun
  5. Using OOH advertising for consumer engagement
  6. Social listening and crisis management
  7. Business transformation and agency in the digital era
  8. Brand building and marketing segmentation for LEGO®
  9. Using digital media for corporate social responsibilities communication and stakeholder engagement
  10. Design thinking for media innovation
  11. Public relations for technology companies
  12. Social media marketing strategy for virtual insurance in the digital era

Use of template
We chose to use a former video as a template to keep the video materials look consistent, recognisable, and professional to the audience across the institutions. The production was supported by the in-house production team and the same set-up. The additional benefits came in the form of productivity and speed.

The video template was an industry-academia interview with JCDecaux Transport managing director Ms Shirley Chan in 2019. JCDecaux is the world’s largest Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising company, reaching relevant audiences in over 80 countries. That video title was “Using OOH Advertising for Consumer Engagement.”

When starting the PRA CoP, one question came at the forefront of our mind – how will we measure the project success? We decided to collect feedback through questionnaires and two focused group discussions.  We analysed the data to measure the effectiveness of the project, allowing us to verify the assumptions about the needs and values of stakeholders, both educators and students.  The feedback collection allowed us to measure if the CoP and the new teaching resources are working to achieve the goals and identify future efforts gaps.

After watching the teaching videos, CoP members asked students to participate in a short questionnaire. Two focus group discussion sessions were conducted in November 2020 with 18 students who had watched the teaching videos and some had been exposed to the assignment briefs created by the CoP.

Questionnaire survey
The overall mean of the student questionnaire was 3.86 with a standard deviation of 0.67 on a 5-point scale survey.

Results on questions related to the teaching videos
5-point scale (1= strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree)

Statement Mean S.D.
The interviewee knew their subjects very well. 4.10 0.69
The interview was relevant to the course contents. 4.09 0.64
The interview helped me better understand the communication practices in the digital era. 3.86 0.66
The interview touched on the development of communication practices. 3.81 0.66
The interview provided me with diversified communication contexts. 3.79 0.68
The interview enhanced my understanding of the contemporary communication issues in Hong Kong. 3.74 0.66
The interview stimulated my interest in the topics under discussion. 3.64 0.69
Overall mean 3.86 0.49

A score of close to 4 indicated that students are primarily positive with the new teaching videos. At the same time, it also signified that there is room for improvement. We added focus group discussions to gather more in-depth insights, attitudes and opinions. We asked students open questions related to the use of the teaching videos in learning.

The feedback was again positive. Students appreciated the expertise of the interviewees. They found the videos practical, concrete, and complementing theories learned in the lectures. They found them relevant to the course contents, and the interviews helped them learn about current industry practices.

One comment from Focus Group 2 was, “The video featured how the company’s management responds to technological development and launches new digital Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising opportunities and interactive audience engagement campaigns. It is practical and a good supplement to the theoretical knowledge covered in the class.”

Students reported that several videos changed their perception of the traditional media and brands. For instance, a student of Focus Group 1 initially thought that nobody nowadays listens to radios. After watching the video, she realised that the Commercial Radio is very creative in marketing the channel and reaching out to the audience of different demographic profiles. Another student in the group expressed that “I like the brand LEGO® a lot. That’s why I choose to watch the video about LEGO®. I realise now that LEGO® adopts different branding strategies for different markets.”

Besides the contents, most focus group participants reported that they found the industry practitioners professional, creative, passionate, adaptive, and convincing. They developed a positive impression of the public relations and advertising industry. Here is a representative quote. “The interviewee is very convincing. She articulates the concepts clearly. She presents the argument in an organised and logical manner.” (Focus Group 1)

Key takeaways
Positive experience among CoP members cascade
One possibility of the positive feedback from students may also stem from the positive experience the CoP members felt. As individuals, teachers are susceptible to the same influences as all of us, including students, as well as being influenced by their training, support and career development. From the survey we conducted among the CoP members, there was clear evidence that the changes in personal attitude could affect student learning outcomes. The overall mean was 4.61 (s.d. = 0.35). The educators found the CoP experience inspiring, revitalising, and reflective. As one member pointed out, “…the students were more engaged in learning how practitioners work in the industry on different media platforms. They could identify the characteristics of different media after exposing to the videos.”

Teaching videos suggestions
One important observation from the focus group discussion was that students evaluated teaching videos no different from other videos on digital and social media. In addition to the functionality of the content, they also assessed the production quality, visual presentation, and length of the vidoes.

Here are a few of our suggestions to improve on in teaching video productions. They addressed the feedback from students and our afterthoughts:

  1. Video length: Showing video clips in short segments and keeping the total length contained to a short running time helps keep viewers engaged. Shorter clips (around five to 10 minutes) help students learn the information without overloading or losing focus. If we need to use a longer video, break it into short segments by topic or theme.
  2. Video presentation: Depending on the availability of resources, consider combining motion graphics and stock footage with the on-site interviews.
  3. Tone: Maintain a conversational and enthusiastic tone to keep learners engaged.
  4. Overall delivery: Properly balanced between auditory and visual elements.
  5. Include interactive and responsive features, such as a short quiz to promote reflection and ownership. Many videos now contain analytics features that enable teachers to track student engagement and attendance while viewing. This allows the facilitator to gauge the effectiveness of the video.
  6. Using captions and subtitles with videos has also been proven to be effective in helping students’ access and process information. This is especially important when considering diverse student populations, including non-native English speakers and those with special needs.
To conclude
This has been a rewarding journey to set up the PRA CoP, especially the collective efforts of bringing the current industrial expertise into the academic world. The positive feedback from students and cohorts is a promising sign that CoP effectively improves the learning experience of both the students and teachers.

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