Teach a Class from a Bridge

Tue, Aug 11, 2015

Distance Learning, Uncategorized

By Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth, Program Director, Government Contracts and Acquisition at American Public University
One evening while driving to one of my graduate courses in project management at Old Dominion University, I hit a traffic jam at the Hampton Roads (Virginia) tunnel. My class was assembling in a classroom and, as I assessed the miles of red taillights before me, I guessed I would arrive at least one hour late.
I called one of my students, an Army captain, and had him put me on speaker. The plan for that session was for each student to present a problem statement for a research project. Over the speaker, I instructed each student to go to the whiteboard, write the proposed statement, and explain it to the students. The captain was to take notes for me.
I listened to each student read his or her statement after writing it on the board. The captain led the class in asking questions and then I chimed in. One by one, the students presented what they thought was the perfect problem.
The class lasted nearly the normal three hours. I arrived just in time for the last presenter. I gave last- minute instructions to rewrite and resubmit the statements along with their research outlines.
That experience with impromptu distance teaching has stayed with me as I migrated into the totally asynchronous online experience at American Public University (APU). It reminds me that technology can be very effective as a tool, but the most important part of teaching and learning is to promote engagement among students and with the teacher.
I even decided to use the lessons learned from that day improvising from the tunnel in my senior Project Management seminar at APU, which requires a paper along with a slideshow presentation that describes the paper.
Each student must create a set of 8-10 slides to share with the entire class in the classroom discussion forum. The final paper is submitted to me in the assignment section of the classroom.
On the last Friday of class, each student calls into a school phone number and logs into the class. One by one, each student briefs the class on the research assignment. It takes about 10 minutes for each presentation and each student in the class must ask a question of the presenter. Since the slides have been uploaded to the class forum, each student can review and create a list of questions. And they do.
This phone bridge technique works if planned well and if students know that their participation affects their grade. The session runs three to four hours. What has surprised me each time is that, even in the last few minutes, the students are very involved with asking questions. They seem to really enjoy the live session.
As we explore the vast world of video, models, and simulations in our classes, it is still valuable now and again to try the old-fashioned bridge phone call. Students will appreciate a change of pace–a new view from an old lens.


About the Author: Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is the program director for Government Contracts and Acquisition at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of Reverse Logistics Management and Transportation and Logistics Management. Prior to joining APU, Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. His book, RFID Metrics, was published in 2007 by CRC Press and is in revision.

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