Students and faculty reflect on virtual public speaking experience


Brynn Lundy/The Lion's Roar

D Vickers Hall is home to the Department of communication and Media Studies. Many students have had to take their public speaking courses online due to the pandemic.

Although the pandemic forced some classes to switch to a virtual format, virtual public speaking courses were already available prior to this semester.

While some instructors have noticed students struggling with the online format, other students find virtual public speaking classes to be more beneficial for today’s world.

Shawndee Fluker, instructor of communication, has taught a 100% online public speaking course in the past. She mentioned that she was able to adapt to a teaching style that was better for students who did not have the chance to take the class in person.

“I taught 100% online last semester,” said Fluker. “The only term people knew about online was that it was ‘asynchronous.’ So, after we were all forced to do remote learning in the spring, when it changed for the summer, I had learned enough things to do that adaptation for people who were forced to take it online.”

One of the ways Fluker was able to make her virtual classes more like her in-person ones was to create instructional videos for her assignments.

“Anytime they have a major assignment, that’s when students want to come see me for office hours,” mentioned Fluker. “What I found was helpful because I could mimic the actual experience and give them the assignment the way I did in class and have them ask me any questions if they wanted to in a discussion that went directly to me. Then, what I did was make an explainer video for like 20 minutes going over the assignment in detail.”

Fay Boudreaux, instructor of communication, shared that she thinks some students are struggling more with public speaking classes when they take the course online.

“Though there is a convenience factor and potentially less anxiety because the audience isn’t present, it doesn’t present the same experience or require the same skill sets needed to fully grasp the concept,” said Boudreaux.

Surrina Brandon, junior psychology major, is taking COMM 211H this semester. The majority of her presentations and speeches for the class are pre-recorded and then uploaded online.

Brandon feels more comfortable with this online format for her speeches.

“As an anxious person, presenting online is surprisingly more comfortable for me,” commented Brandon. “It is hard to explain, but not having to actually stand in front of people while I present puts me at ease, even though I am being watched through Google Meet or Zoom.”

As a future psychologist, Brandon shared that she thinks the virtual format of her public speaking class could be beneficial to her career.

“I don’t see any hindrances from this class being virtual, but I rather believe it is better preparing students to keep up with the ever-advancing technology of our day and time,” said Brandon. “Telemedicine, especially in the face of the pandemic, is now growing, and those studying to be mental health or regular health providers need to be prepared.”

Ashlynn Martell, a junior computer science major, explained that she does not think the class is negatively affected by the virtual format.

“It will be nice to give presentations from the comfort of my home, and I’ll be more easily heard without a mask on,” said Martell. “I honestly don’t think the class is hindered by the online format. Although, there was mention of a possibly pre-recorded assignment, and I think the audience aspect is important.”

Boudreaux explained what she believes are the major pros and cons of taking a public speaking class online.

“Some drawbacks are that students lose out on the real-time, human, interpersonal experience that comes with physically interacting with peers in a classroom,” mentioned Boudreaux. “There are fewer opportunities to engage in classroom exercises that acquaint learners with conversing with others. Some benefits are convenience, portability and the possibility of downplaying anxiety because a physical or live audience isn’t present.”