One of the things I have tried to do in each of my classes has been to integrate both practice and theory together. This was one of my goals for my graduate crisis communications class this semester at UofL [or otherwise known as #FrebergGrads on Twitter].
I have eight master’s students in class this semester here at UofL and it’s been a lot of fun. Their main project is going to be a research case study where it ties in with the theories and practice in crisis communications. However, I wanted to make sure to give them an applied exercise as well for their midterm, which led me to create a crisis simulation exercise.
I did not use a computer simulation program [there are a lot of them out there to incorporate into your classes] – so I did the traditional mock simulation exercise that I have done in the past. However, I put my own twists to it to make it more personalized for the students.
This was going to take place during class time and I did let the students bring forth materials they feel they would need to be prepared. I also made sure to bring forth key snacks for them [and coffee] so they feel as comfortable as possible to do their best work.
The crisis simulation was broken down into three compartments: the first step was individual – the crisis planning stage. I asked the students to work on this individually (they brought their laptops to class) and were able to upload this to Safe Assign on Blackboard.
A few minutes later, I disclosed that there was a development in the situation and I broke the class into two groups – one was representing the university in question and the other served as the group of bloggers and journalists/social media representatives of the media. They had 30 minutes to brainstorm ideas for how to handle the mock press meeting (not necessarily a press conference, more of an exclusive media meeting), and the third step was the actual role playing for this mock crisis situation.
I was able to debrief the students after this exercise, and there were several things that came up that makes this a valuable exercise not only for crisis communications students, but practitioners as well:
- Getting hands on application of handling a crisis: Most of the students had not done a simulation before, so they were not sure what to expect. However, everyone afterwords felt more confident on what to expect as well as how they personally reacted to the situation.
- Timing was very apparent as the main challenge in the crisis: I set forth these tough time limits to show the students 1) how they work under pressure and 2) how preparation is absolutely essential so you don’t have to reinvent all of these ideas, documents, templates, and message strategies at the moment. Being proactive is better than being reactive.
- Allowing the students to apply what they have learned creatively: I was very impressed with how the students were able to apply what they learned in class and integrate this into their responses and strategies. There were additional factors they brought forth that I did not provide to them , but these were important to note.
- Evaluating team members and others who were involved in the process: I asked both teams to evaluate how they feel they did individually as well as their own team, but I also asked them to grade the other representative team. It was great to see how each group had their strong moments, and there were a few points where the other team brought forth a suggestion on what they can work on for next time. Peer collaborative team work and feedback is another evaluation method to consider for this particular exercise to get a comprehensive view of the results of this exercise.
In summary, would I do this assignment again? Absolutely! Lots of great lessons learned and it was an opportunity to see the students work on a project individually as well as in a group.
Plus, what struck me as a winning moment as a professor was to see the students have an “Ah Ha!” moment after the simulation and were able to see the connection of what we were covering in class and how it is applied. These are the moments that make what I do as a professor so rewarding.
Hope you all are having a great day!