A PR blogger returns to the space

A lot can happen in 6 months. So I’ll celebrate my return to ToughSledding, today, with a summary of life since May 2nd, the date of my last post.

Teaching online

Kent State’s new Online PR Master’s launched in January and grew to 100 students in a blink. Come January, we expect enrollment to reach 150. Most students in the program are PR and media professionals with 5-25 years’ experience, and that makes for a delightful teaching experience.

We know the stock photos suck. We're workin' on it :-)

This past year, I designed two classes, one called “Social Media in Public Relations,” the other “Strategic Writing and Messaging.” Course creation + teaching = no time for unpaid pursuits like blogging.

How’s online teaching? Its friggin’ awesome. When students study online, they can’t be passive. They spend Mon-Thurs doing the normal things — readings, lectures, assignments and essays. But come Thursday at midnight, students post their work and spend the next 3 days reviewing it and talking about it with classmates. They learn as much from each other as from the course materials or professors. And that’s the idea.

As instructors, we log a ton of weekend hours facilitating the online experience. It’s what you do when your students have real jobs Mon thru Fri. I’m not complaining.

ToughSledding moved again

Last March I announced plans to move this blog off the Kent State server. It’s only a matter of time before I say something embarrassing, and I can’t ask university administrators to defend me when I go over the edge. Thank you, Ike Pigott, for finding a spot for me on your server.

Redesign, maybe a new template, will come. But I’m in no hurry. At some point, “Darth Blogger” will disappear from the header. I’m tired of looking at his sorry face.

Blowing things up

When I returned to Kent State in August, the dean called me to serve on a special committee. Our mission: To “blow up” the 4 schools in the College of Communication & Information and reassemble them to better serve students in a 21st Century world.

They didn’t give us real dynamite :-(¬† And our recommendations are only recommendations. But I’ve never been so excited about serving on an academic committee. I love change, and I love being immersed in the new ideas and experiences that are sure to result.

We’ve been discussing the potential for a “Strategic Communication” unit that would reside outside the School of Journalism and include experts from graphic design, user-experience design and communication research. A unit like that could produce problem solvers who are critical thinkers, storytellers and relationship managers, all of them fully engaged with technology.

After 20 years in academe, I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. We are most often victims of our own inertia. Academics find a thousand reasons to avoid risk. Ironic, since we reside in an environment where we have little to lose and everything to gain by trying new things.

The good life

Academic life offers three primary benefits: June, July and August. I worked through June and most of August this year. But in mid-summer, I checked out for about 5 weeks to clear my head.

Sharon and I traveled back to a favorite place: the Apostle Islands. We launched from Sand Bay amid 3-foot waves and 20-knot winds. But the zen of kayaking made us one with the boats as we battled our way to York Island. By the end of the trip, Lake Superior had turned to glass, making our 16-mile paddle almost effortless on the final day.

After a week in Wisconsin, we moved on to hiking and paddling on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Almost nobody goes there, a good reason you should.

While I prefer to be off the grid when traveling, our vacation north wasn’t entirely unplugged. I had a blast playing with my new smart phone and the GPS-enabled apps such as 4Square and PicPlz. And I didn’t return to 600 emails as in past years. I dealt with them on the fly.

My wife wasn’t amused with my new mobile device. She insists that she’s “a better navigator than that bitch on the GPS.”

Who am I to argue?

6 thoughts on “A PR blogger returns to the space

  1. Welcome back Bill and thank you for returning. God knows you’re busy but can you really ask for much more? The topics on your plate right now would make anyone of us excited to get up everyday and you get to train and counsel the next generation of PR professionals. Keep it up!

  2. Good to see you back! Eager to read more if you can find the time to post regularly. I’m sure there’s some content from the online courses you could “recycle” and post for the public to see, right? Producing new content can be exhausting, but good ideas and inspiration are everywhere if you look.

  3. Happy to see ToughSledding back in action. It’s been a little quiet without your voice in the space. Looking forward to reading your posts.

  4. Thanks for the good wishes, all. Now I’m really in trouble. It’s Tuesday, and I have no idea what to write about next. There was a time the ideas would come to me at 4 a.m. I don’t miss that!

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