Search for the top skills that employers are looking for, and you will consistently find good communication at the top of most lists. But good communication isn’t just crafting a clear and concise email. It’s the texts you send, the social media messages you post, and how you interact with those around you. It’s these non-traditional and ever-evolving methods of communication that excite Caleb Lamont, TEL’s instructor for Introduction to Communication.
“While we communicate in every area of our lives, the field of communication involves so much more than just how we interact with one another,” Caleb said. “While I have many interests in this field, I am mainly interested in things relating to the digital divide, media literacy, and pop culture. Right now, I am actually looking at celebrities’ use of social media to connect with their fan bases and how their fandoms evolve over time.”
The Communication Digital Divide
As the methods through which we communicate evolve, that evolution can create a divide between people who have access to and an understanding of how to use those methods and those who do not. In education, we talk about the digital divide between students who have access to internet-connected devices and students who don’t. That divide is similar for communication.
“The digital divide has always been an interest of mine as well,” Caleb said. “It is becoming increasingly important for people to not just have access to computers and the Internet, but also have the ability to know how to use them to their full advantage.”
This is becoming even more apparent as faculty scramble to create valuable learning experiences outside of a traditional classroom.
“We have so much technology available to us today, and many powerful learning platforms,” Caleb said. “However, if faculty do not know how to use these to their—and their students’—full advantage, learning will not be as meaningful as it could be. The same goes for students. If students are not taught and are not comfortable using learning platforms and supplemental technologies, they will be at a disadvantage.”
Online Learning as Traditional Learning
Caleb knows firsthand that online learning presents a different set of challenges compared to a traditional classroom. He has been teaching communication studies both online and in-person for more than five years. He even created some of the online courses he teaches.
“Online teaching is certainly unique, but at times I wonder if going forward, online learning will become more known as ‘traditional’ as classroom learning is referred to today,” Caleb said. “In an online class, you have the potential to include students from all over, both domestically and even internationally, depending on the class. In an online class, you also have the opportunity to provide students with more resources that will only aid them in their educational journey and beyond.”
One particular student need he sees with online students is time management.
“Getting students to develop better time management and study skills is critical and it can be a challenge at times,” Caleb said. “This is where technology plays a vital role. I use various channels to communicate with my students: texting, calling, Skyping, FaceTime, emailing, along with offering Fuze, Google Hangout and ZOOM meetings. By making myself so available to my students, they know that I am there and happy to help them.”
Incorporating multiple channels of communication is important for online learning, as is multiple channels for distributing course information.
“As all educators know,” Caleb said, “any given class will have a variety of learners, so having only one way to present information may lead some students to feel disconnected or underperform.”
In It To Make An Impact
Caleb knew as a child that he wanted to be a teacher. Originally he thought he would teach English in high school, but as he did his student teaching, he felt he could make a bigger impact by working with students at the college level.
“I love making a difference in the lives of students and helping them to realize their full potential,” Caleb said. “When a student has that ‘ah-ha’ moment, and you are able to see how far they have come and how much they have accomplished. It is such a great feeling!”
Caleb is focused on bringing student voice into his classroom through a student-centered approach to teaching.
“I have always found this approach yields the best results,” Caleb said. “It allows students to not only understand the material, but also to apply it to various areas of their lives. Using a student-centered approach gives students more freedom to explore their voice and use their natural curiosity to help them learn the material, and to arrive at answers.”