6 Nov 2011

Creating learning experiences

Before summer the curriculum evaluations had showed that most students were pleased with our classes being more directly related to learning outcomes, which were also linked to the professional profile of our studies written by me. But some had also expressed that they would like to be more actively triggered and involved in our classes.

With the latter in mind I made an addition to the bachelor course on Reputation (Maine). Next to the group assignment some individual contributions were arranged to be shown more clearly. As always students can get more out of class meetings by their own initiative. But now we added a videotaped individual statement at the end of the course. The group work consisted of a research report investigating the reputation of the organization with a group presentation, while the individual statement was a consultancy statement in which the student would present his/her main point of advice.
This ment that students were triggered to form their own opinion based on the research material and think how they would personally as a communication expert voice their main point of advice. As the focal organization this year was the EU, this was not an easy matter. Luckily a doctoral student (staff member) was involved who had in the previous period worked for the European Parliament Information Office in Helsinki.

Throughout the course the participants indeed seemed more personally involved. The fact that one long extra day was invested by 3 members of staff (two doctoral students and me) to tape the statements and for each of the 30 students individually role the tape to give feedback, also signalled the importance of their presentations. For the students, to address the name of this blog, it caused some commotion. But it made the course more intensive and possibly also affected the good level of the group assignments.

Normally I leave the forming of the groups to the students, but this time there were even more exchange students than Finnish students and most didn’t know each other, so I arranged mixed groups during the first class. This seemed appropriate for the topic EU, and it also matched our team’s as well as the student association Imago’s aim, to include all and support interaction of exchange students with our Finnish students. At first the students needed some more time to get acquainted and get the group work going, but they said that at the later stages of the work it was beneficial to exchange views.

So in this way, we will continue to evaluate our courses and experiment with ways to intensify the learning experience of the students, creating some commotion...

25 Sep 2011

Communication axioms

Some years ago I met emeritus professor Osmo Wiio, the first professor in our field at the University of Helsinki. He talked about the communication laws that he published in 1980 in a book. He gave me the idea to write my own laws. Wiio’s laws show his great sense of humour, and this would be hard to imitate, but I have now attempted to make communication axioms that we will gradually backup by research in this direction. The axioms show my approach to communication by organizations.
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1.             In postmodern society communication occurs in dynamic networks.
2.             In networked communication organizations have lost dominant voice and need to more actively monitor changing contexts.
3.             Many actors compete for attention in market and issues arenas.
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4.             Online communication creates an abundance of data and opinions, but communication is often  only seemingly two-sided and true dialogue is lacking in the social media.
5.             Individuals tend to connect with those they share interests with, which further fragments audiences and creates polarisation in society.
6.             Interactions are difficult to predict but may gain resonance fast and have global consequences.
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7.             Communication professionals need to develop smart strategies to exchange views in an open public debate and negotiate sustainable and inclusive solutions for wicked problems.
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This modern list of statements may inspire to, along these lines, together further develop the field. And if, after all of this, you would like to enjoy (re)reading Wiio’s laws, here are some links: Communication usually fails & A commentary
Marita Vos

24 Sep 2011

The tragedy in Norway

In the middle of this summer of 2011, on July 22th, we were shaken by the terrible news of the Norway attacks, the bomb in Oslo and the shootings on a nearby island. Our thoughts were with the many victims of the tragedy and their families. Because we do research contributing to crisis management and crisis communication, we also wondered what could be done to prevent such matters from happening, minimise damage and help victims in such a tragedy.

Our team of OCPR also had personal reasons to be worried about the bomb in Oslo, as one of our doctoral students has an office nearby. Luckily he sent word that he was okay and not in the vicinity at that time. This doctoral student happens to focus on crisis communication in the case of terrorism and followed all the news carefully. Then we made contact with a member of the international expert panel for our projects working for the Norwegian Ministry of the Interior. He told us he had been on holiday but that the bomb had killed some of his colleagues.

We will not lightly forget what has happened. Was the violence aimed at mass media attention? This should never be a means to an end. It is the definition of terrorism, killing innocent citizens to create fear, chaos and attention. Our team feels even more resolved to contribute, in our research and education, to crisis communication and resilience of communities. In January we will start with two new international research projects, one on community approach in crisis management and another on terrorism-related crisis communication.

Marita Vos