Teaching in the Fall during the pandemic

For the past few weeks I’ve been re-learning how to teach. With the help of my colleagues at UMW such as Dr. Russell, Jerry Slezak, and Dr. Greenlaw it’s been an eye opening experience. As of this writing I know that two of my classes are going to be face to face (Mktg 460 & Mktg 417 – Section 2) and one is going to be online (Mktg 417 – Section 1). After Thanksgiving though, all my courses will be online. My challenge for the online course, and to a lesser degree the other two courses, is how to make them engaging and active while online. There are things I know for sure, things I’m leaning towards, and things I’m still exploring.

For sure

  • I will have class synchronously but I will record the lectures and put them on my YouTube page so that students who are not able to attend during the class will not be penalized
  • There will be quizzes after each lecture, this worked pretty well in the Spring. The quizzes will take the place of a mid-term
  • The final exam (if there is one) will be online. This goes for all my classes
  • I’ll be using Zoom, it’s user friendly and worked well in the Spring

Leaning towards

  • For the online class, I’ll do poll questions via Zoom to increase interaction
  • Making greater usage of break-out rooms
  • Sending material to students in advance that we can go over during the class
  • Using tools such as Padlet and virtual reality to enhance engagement and create discussion

Learning about

  • Bringing in more guest speakers. If the class is online then the guest speakers can visit virtually.
  • How to create virtual challenges that students can participate in

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Avoid Stubhub

The economics of this isn’t pretty for consumers so be warned. The ticket seller Stubhub has given itself a cash cushion from buyers who had events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally (pre-pandemic) consumers who bought tickets on the platform were guaranteed a refund if the event was cancelled but less than the two weeks after the NBA and the NHL seasons were put on pause, Stubhub quietly amended its policy (on March 25th) to give consumers who purchased from them a voucher worth 120% instead of a refund. They are now the subject of a class action lawsuit, read more about that here. However, here’s why this their voucher idea is good for Stubhub and bad for consumers.

  • The vouchers expire by December 2021, so if you had waited more than two years to see that band finally come to your city and they’re not coming back for a while, well you’ll have to choose an inferior substitute
  • If everybody that had tickets to MLB, NBA, NHL, or concert over the course of multiple months now has vouchers they have to spend by a certain time it’s going to increase demand for tickets. An increase of demand is going to increase prices that sellers can charge (they are free to charge what they want). So I may have paid $100 for tickets to a hockey game in section 211, Row J before the pandemic, if I want those same tickets for the same game a year later I may find that the price is now $130 or more because there are a lot of people who have vouchers that they need to use.
  • Stubhub charges a lot in service fees, for buyers they charge 10% the purchase price of the ticket and for sellers they charge 15% per ticket. So for a ticket that’s priced at $100 the seller will get $85 and the buyer pays $110. What is to stop Stubhub from raising their fees once sports resume? They were “ethical” enough to quietly change their refund policy, what if they raise the fees on customers to 15% to recoup the value of the vouchers? That means the ticket now costs $115 and coupled with increased demand that may further diminish the actual value of the ticket.
  • Similar to gift cards, people often receive them and forget to use them, so there will undoubtedly be some people who simply forget to use their vouchers and it becomes a gift for Stubhub.

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A student perspective of the strangest semester in over 50 years

It has undoubtedly been one of the strangest semesters in the past 50 years ago. We started out as a we normally do then things changed suddenly in late February. Cases of the Coronavirus had appeared in Washington State and schools there started to close to slow the spread. In early March there were reported cases in New York City and a few days later the first cases were found in Virginia. On the Monday I was having lunch with another professor and I suggested off-hand that we may have to switch to online instruction (I didn’t think it would happen). Just to hedge my bets, in class on Wednesday I spent the first few minutes of all of my classes talking about the plan to go online should that remote possibility come to fruition. I left campus at 4:45pm that day and a few minutes later I read the email from President Paino which told us that we’re going online and everybody that can leave campus should do so. So much has happened since then and it was undoubtedly strange to the students. I asked one of my outstanding students to finish off his internship by making a short documentary on how the changes have impacted him and other students. He put together this outstanding video to give that perspective. It’s quite good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFpbNKGOmnU

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We are in uncharted water

These indeed are strange days. COVID-19 has upended life here in so many ways and one of the challenges is that we’ve moved all of our classes to online instruction. This is the first time that I’m teaching an entire class online. Here’s how it went down, on the morning of March 9th a few of the faculty were talking about a couple of cases of Coronavirus found in Virginia. On a hunch I decided to mention online instruction to my classes on the off chance it could happen. That afternoon I meeting with some faculty and it dominated our discussion. On Wednesday I made a plan and presented it to my students on what would happen if we went online for instruction. I didn’t actually expect it to happen, a couple of hours after my last class and after I left campus I received word that the University would move to online instruction for a few weeks. I scrambled to get things ready for online instruction, my first day I forgot to share my screen, didn’t press record, and my system crashed. Things have since improved but we just received word that we’re going to finish the online semester online. We’re in the midst of upheaval right now but I hope to write more at a later time that reflects on what went right and what went wrong with the transition.

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My Solar Charger

Every year my digital marketing class (Mktg 417) finds a product that would have good sales online. The students are tasked with creating a Facebook ad for the product and then we create the website and run the ad. Then we track the audience to the page using Google Analytics. This year’s winner is a solar charger for your devices that you can use when you’re exploring the great outdoors. Our shop is located at www.mysolarcharger.myshopify.com, give it a look and enjoy.

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