Asking the Right Questions

I am teaching Crisis Communication online for the first time in Spring 2016. There will be around 50 public relations majors in the course. It is not a required course but one of few that they are able to choose between. I’ve taught the class face-to-face once before and throughout the semester I had students sign up to present a crisis communication case study. I provided a list of options and then let students choose which one interested them the most. So, basically every class began with a student presenting on his/her case study of choice which was a great way to engage the class and encourage discussion from the start. (Note: this class was taught from 7-9:40 PM which presented its own challenges and I think starting with a lively discussion, while important in all classes, was especially important in this class.) For the online course, I would like to do something similar but alter it for an online format. My initial thought is that I will still have students be required to post their case study analysis on different days throughout the semester and everyone will be required to comment on one another’s case study. The purpose of the assignment obviously goes beyond encouraging engagement. It is about having the students learn from real-world examples of crisis communication cases (both historic and present). It really helps them envision what happens in a real crisis situation and how they can learn from these experiences of others.

For the assignment, I would still have them provide a summary of the case study so that all of the students reading about it had the basics. This summary would include an overview/background of the crisis, a timeline of the crisis (if possible), and crisis communication strategy utilized. Then, I would have them write a conclusion/discussion that relates back to the 4 C’s framework:

  • Connections: What connections do you draw between the case study and other concepts/case studies from this course?
  • Concepts: What do you think are the most important takeaways in the case study that are worth holding on to for future reference?
  • Challenge: What ideas, positions, or assumptions in the case study do you want to challenge or think could have been handled differently based on what you’ve learned throughout the course?
  • Changes: What changes in attitudes, thinking or action are suggested, either for you or for others?


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