Quality Criteria for Digital Teaching: Macromedia Organizes ECREA Conference

At an ECREA conference at Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, international experts discussed approaches for successful teaching in the post-COVID-19 era.

The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed teaching at universities – even though students have recently returned to their campuses in many places. The hybrid conference “A New Era of (Digital) Teaching? Theory, Creativity and Responsibility in Communication Education” at Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Cologne.

It was organized by Holger Sievert, Professor for Media Management and Head of the Faculty of Culture, Media and Psychology at the Cologne campus. He moderated the event together with Evandro Oliveira, spokesperson for the Organizational and Strategic Communication Section (OSC) of the European Communication Education and Research Association (ECREA), and Florian Meißner, Macromedia Professor for Media Management and Journalism.

After the Welcome Speech by University President Prof. Dr. Dr. Castulus Kolo, the conference kicked off with a keynote address by Peter von Leusen, Learning Engineer at Arizona State University, on the topic “Now or Never: Tranforming Educational Practices Through Learning Engineering”. Afterwards, the focus for half a day was on the scientifically based presentation of a number of international best practices and examples of experience in digital teaching, including from Macromedia University of Applied Sciences (cf. the Book of Abstract available here as well as our previous news item). At the closing panel in the evening, in cooperation with PR-Magazin and moderated by Holger Sievert, four international experts discussed, among other things, the question of how to ensure the active participation of students when courses are held partially or completely digitally.

Danger of alienation and opportunity for a deeper new beginning

For Ana Verčič, co-organizer of the renowned Bledcom conference and professor at the University of Zagreb, the way forward is a return to more presence at universities: “After two years of pandemic, pure online teaching has become rather boring, both for students and for me. In this context, the panelists repeatedly noted the danger of disengagement, i.e., students becoming alienated from teaching and from joint interaction.

Ileana Zeler from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, for example, emphasized that it is not enough to “implement classroom teaching one-to-one in the online environment“. Rather, a particularly activating form of teaching is needed. Various approaches were discussed, ranging from interactive case studies to the use of virtual reality. The panel agreed that these approaches will offer students a high level of added value even beyond the pandemic. However, there was also agreement that such formats „cannot be developed by teachers on the side“.

Rather, systematic support is needed from the universities and their management – for example, in the form of appropriate release time, additional staff with learning engineering expertise, or appropriate additional compensation. “Without such structures, all of this remains superficial, since the time required for online and hybrid preparation, which is primarily oriented toward the long term, is much higher than it used to be in the analog environment”, says Ralph Tench, former president of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and Director of Research at Leeds Business School.

Lecturers: Turning more and more into “coaches, mentors and consultants“

Tench also described a change in the role of lecturers in this context. It is necessary, he said, to respond more intensively to students and their situation: “They are struggling with the current situation. We have also seen an increase in psychological stress. That’s why we lecturers now also act as coaches, mentors and advisors.”

Finally, looking ahead, Evandro Oliveira suggested the joint development of “criteria for good digital teaching”, for example between the relevant associations, for the training of communications professions. In addition, Holger Sievert, as moderator, also asked at the end, regarding the cooperation potential in the community, why there was actually still no Europe-wide and cross-university platform for the exchange of individual good teaching materials in the field of media and communications management. Oliveira and Tench as representatives of their respective organizations also saw a lot of potential here.

(Text: FME/HSI)