New Media Studies @ Thai University

One of my favorite classes of the past year has been the “New Media Studies” class I was lucky enough to teach at Thammasat University, Bangkok.

I took over the class after the midterm break and students were quite skeptical when I arrived at first. Their instructor for the first half of the semester was an older professor from the states who made them study media theories by heart and then write essays about it. While that certainly is one way to teach media studies I for once think that other ways prove to be more successful. At least for me. So my first task before starting to actually teach the heavy stuff: Make students believe and trust me and show them that New Media (studies) can be lots of fun.

On the other hand I have to admit that it wasn’t only students who were a bit biased but also myself. Their former instructor sent me an email before starting class telling me that they didn’t really live up to his expectations and that it was quite tough to communicate with them. Therefore I was a bit curious to see who this would play out in the classroom. Turned out it wasn’t a problem at all and I had an incredibly good time with them.

So what did we actually do in New Media Studies?

During the first lecture I introduced myself, showed a bit of the stuff that I did before to make them understand that I know what I’d be talking about it. It seemed to work and some of my prior projects even got some ‘wow’s’ 😉 Since class is not about showing off (at least not for the instructor) I then tried to talk to almost each and every student (50 of them) at least briefly and have them answer a few New Media related questions. That showed them that I value their opinion and that they actually have enough knowledge to engage in a real discussion. It felt like that really helped to set the playground for later. Taking away the fear of saying something ‘wrong’. In later classes we engaged in quite few intense discussions. That’s what it’s all about! [Tweet “It’s not about sitting back and just taking the lecturer’s opinion as a fact. It’s about thinking, understanding and discussing.”] Making up once own mind and understanding other point of views.

Once that was done the ‘real’ teaching started. I tried to switch between lecture and class style (since classes last 3 hours  here in Thailand). I would present some theories, show some case studies and then have students discuss it and come up with own examples / ad-hoc group presentations. This challenged them on different levels. They could not only sit back and watch the lecture like so many students like to do (I have to admit I did that too in some lectures back then) but actually had to understand what we talked about since they would have to use that new knowledge to solve a new issue each class and present their findings or solutions at the end. Besides that this also forced them to work in groups and to figure out how to work effectively in a group in order to come up with a solution in a short amount of time. Something that is not very common or familiar here in Thailand (at least from my experience). Last, but not least, it also increased their presentation skills and showed me what they understand and which points I had to bring across better or elaborate more on. Once more a win:win situation. From a lecturer’s point of view. I understand that some students would have liked to rather sit and sleep though 😉

If you’re curious about what content we actually discussed…well that remains a secret. But I can let you know what our final evaluation contained…

Final New Media Studies evaluation

Since it’s a University lecture I, of course, had to design an exam. That was one part of the overall grade in the end. A classical final exam. Consisting of multiple choice and open questions. [Tweet “You don’t always have to change everything in order to disrupt. “]

The second big part of the final evaluation however came as part of a final project. Students had to form groups and create a New Media strategy for a brand / product of their choosing. In order to complete this final project they would have to update me weekly about their progress (since I expected them to cover every topic we talked about in class in their project) via email, submit a final report (via email) and eventually present their New Media strategy in front of their class (I also tried to get some guest judges but due to the University being located far away from the city center where most professionals work this didn’t work out this time).

The outcome of the final project was diverse but lots of groups impressed. Some even a lot. One group didn’t take it serious and didn’t submit any update or report and presented what looked like a presentation created the day before. They felt the consequences later on then of course. The other groups however did quite well and three of them even amazed me. They created their products in physical form (branded!), shot commercial videos and used not only what we talked about in class but also did further research on the topic and used what they learned there. From SEO over Social Media Marketing, Tracking, Analytics to error handling and more.

I’ve never been that happy while sitting in final presentations before and while I wasn’t quite sure before the class started, at the end I didn’t want to leave.


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