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Dr. Skye Cooley - Faculty

November 03, 2015 (Tuesday)
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication

Service-Learning Class: CO 4803 - Research in Public Relations & Advertising

Semester: Fall 2015

Course Description:
This course is intended as an overview of the research process involved in asking and answering questions about the mass media. This class is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to utilize research to be successful strategic communicators. Students should develop a better understanding of both quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as how to analyze data and create effective written and oral reports using that data.

Comments for Dr. Skye Cooley:

1. Please provide a brief description of the project.

My research class has conducted numerous service-learning projects, including surveys for local organizations and content analyses of web content for MSU extension offices.

2. Why do you use service-learning as a teaching pedagogy?

I believe students get more out of the educational process when they feel their work has some real-world value. Service-learning allows the classroom to be run like a business, with deadlines and expectations that have a tangible relevance to the students. The public relations concentration benefits greatly from service-learning, because it allows students to truly learn what it is to work in a professional environment. There is a great reward in seeing students learn, seeing them enjoying the learning process, and seeing the contributions that they are able to make to their community.

3. What advice do you have for faculty and students when considering service-learning?

The most critical thing for faculty is to make sure that you have a client that you can work with and who is invested in the service-learning project as a service to the students, as well as to their business. A client who is willing to work with the students and commit time to the project is absolutely vital.
Faculty should also make sure they set realistic objectives for the students, and understand that not every kind of project can be done in one semester. Students should enter into the service-learning class with a willing flexibility. They have to understand that with all of the benefits of service-learning, come some inconveniences as well: odd meeting times, out of class assignments, group work, etc. Both faculty and students need to establish the expectations of one another early in the semester, and the faculty member really needs to convey to the students what it is they will be accomplishing and what the benefits are to all parties.

4. Name something important you learned as a faculty member through your work with CASLE and service-learning.

I learned to challenge myself as an instructor. Teaching the same class over and over, over the course years, there is a tendency to find a comfort zone and stay within it. Service-learning semester are entirely different every single time! There is some stress in that some times, but there is also great reward whenever you can step outside your own established boundaries. I think the experiences I have had with CASLE have helped me to put new energy into all of my classes, even the non-service-learning courses.

5. What do you believe is the greatest benefit of service-learning?

The greatest benefit is to the students. They have to learn skills in service-learning that only life experiences can teach. Through each semester I watch students have to figure out workloads within their groups, set and coordinate meeting times, assign roles for one another, and, ultimately, come together to work for a common cause. There is a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the semester for the students.

6. Describe a moment from this semester that stands out to you.

The last service-learning semester I led my research class through, students in two classes conducted surveys with over 3,000 Mississippi residents in three counties. They worked the entire year building the project and constructing a validated survey instrument. I remember sitting down with a group of students to run the statistics from the dataset, once the students had converted the data over to an SPSS file. What stands out to me is how interested they were in statistics! I have tried to teach public relations students statistics for years, and nothing has ever worked better than having them be able to ask questions on a dataset they were so intimate with. It was a great moment to hear them ask for specifics tests they wanted to see analyses on.

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