Guest Post by Dr. Fred Kolb
Fred Kolb was a professor of Economics at UW-Eau Claire. He teaches ECON 703 Microeconomics Foundation, ECON 704 Macroeconomics Foundation, MBA 749 Incorporation of Exchange Rates in Strategic Decision Making, and other economics courses. He has been recognized twice by the students with the Outstanding Faculty award.
When the message comes telling me that it is time to create my upcoming course, and I am asked if I would like to include the announcements in the copy, I always say yes. Doing so reminds me not only of the questions that I answered in announcements during the previous offering—which can nudge me to make some adjustments so that the questions need not be raised again—but also of topics beyond the basic course material that came into the course. After a review, most of those recycled announcements get deleted, a few (usually videos) remain, and I am set to go. Well, set to go until I get that email reminding me to update the dates in the course!
For me, announcements are an opportunity to reach out to the students and share items that perhaps might be truly news items, such as the April Employment Report (which tends to overlap a topic for that week in the course, a nice coincidence). I find that students respond enthusiastically to such items that connect the course material to real-world developments that they are following.
Sometimes I find articles or videos on topics that fit the course area but are not actually included in the textbook or normal range of topics. An example here would be the topic of negative interest rates, which I just recently posted about. Again the students have been very enthusiastic about gaining the knowledge—though less enthusiastic about the idea! Or, recently an individual in Australia has claimed to be the creator of bitcoin. Announcements allowed for a presentation made up of a YouTube video plus a media article that gave an introduction to bitcoins. It also gave me an opportunity to ask that if any of the students had actually used bitcoins to start a discussion thread on their experience. I never have myself and I’d like to learn from my students’ experiences.
Sometimes, my Announcements are just about me. The students do enjoy knowing about their instructor, and I have found those make students more willing to share about themselves. You might be surprised at how many emails I get about trips to Europe when I post a photo of myself with a Swiss cow while teaching from Switzerland.
Or it could be a video such as Doris Day singing Que Sera Sera (Whatever May Be, Will Be…the future’s not ours’ to see…) for my forecasting class as a reminder that some people really don’t have much confidence in forecasts.
What is common to the uses is that it sends a signal to the students that there is a very active and interested instructor there on the other side of the course platform. The students appreciate that, and my experience is that they respond with increased attention and effort. It is a great feature.