Teaching a Class By Skype

Today, I had the opportunity to speak to a couple classes at the University of Texas - Arlington about entrepreneurship and digital marketing.  The students were over a thousand miles away, but I was beamed right into their classroom through Skype.  I’m obviously familiar with Skype (all too familiar, actually, after my girlfriend went to India for three months), but I had never used it as a tool to speak to a large group of students.

I’ve spoke to more than a dozen classes over the past few years, but this was probably the most nervous I’ve been.  It wasn’t the topic or the students, but the setup.  Being projected up on a wall in front of the class, while I am sitting in my office staring and speaking into my laptop didn’t seem like a recipe for success.  In my time in undergrad, we never had a speaker in a class by Skype before -- is this really the way things are done, now?

Without being there in person, how would people be able to pick up on my mannerisms, be engaged with what I was saying, or see how excited I was about the topic?  These things, along with a fear of looking like Big Brother, had me concerned about how this would play out.

In the end, I was really pleasantly surprised and had a phenomenal experience.  I felt like students focused more on my actual words than my pacing or powerpoint, and they were ultimately more engaged than any group I had spoke to in-person (maybe it was because I actually did look like Big Brother).  It was also an easy way for students to hear the perspective of someone close to their age and for me to get to encounter some great questions and thoughts.

I went in a skeptic and left a believer.  I hope colleges around the country are using this tactic, because I thought it worked very well for the speaker and the students.  It opens the doors for schools around the countries to bring in different lecturers and gives them the tools to still be effective and engaging in the classroom.