Teaching for Social Good and Community Building

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Paula Barrett teaches in Conestoga’s public relations programs. In the past three years, Paula has launched a student-run public relations agency, and engaged students in the Creative Day for Social Good, a two-day marathon where students produce creative work for 20+ charities.

This past year has created new methods to teach and interact with students. Paula Barrett, professor and co-ordinator of Conestoga’s Bachelor of Public Relations (years three and four), expanded her course content so students could work with businesses outside Ontario.

In Winter 2021, fourth-year students developed a public relations campaign for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation in British Columbia. Their goal was to convert the foundation’s one-time COVID-19 donors into regular donors, since its three hospitals experienced an influx of new donors since the pandemic began.

Paula managed a virtual public relations agency, where she and a team of students produced videos, social media campaigns, podcasts and fundraising materials for Canadian charities. Alongside one of the charities, AgentsC, a non-profit consulting firm in Toronto, trained Paula and her agency on equity, diversity and inclusion, so they could provide the charity with communications support related to these topics.

“Along with learning, students are looking for something to do. There’s a personal motivator that helps them to apply course content. Contributing to social good is one way to achieve that.”

Paula Barrett

On eConestoga, she designed video tutorials for students to watch before attending remote classes, during which students would brainstorm on case studies. This worked well for students in years three and four, because, by those times, they understand public relations concepts. With students learning course content asynchronously, Paula used her classes to build community among students and have them solve problems using Google docs and Google slides.

At the end of her “Introduction to Public Relations” course in Fall 2020, Paula asked students to write a short letter to themselves from four months prior. Students reflected on how far they had come, and, on the feelings and worries they had when they arrived to their remote first year of college. Paula recalls one reflection from a student to their four-months-ago self:

“You’ve almost made it through the first semester! You worked really hard and did the best you could. I know you were really nervous about starting a new program after transferring, and if you would like it or not. I can tell you, after almost completing the first semester, that you will enjoy this program and it will challenge you in ways that your other program didn’t. I also know that you were pretty worried about how online learning would go and if you would be motivated. It may have been tough at times, but you did great and worked hard. Keep doing you!”

“For faculty new to remote teaching, consider talking to other teachers about their practices and what they’re doing for students,” Paula suggests. “Think about what sparks you as an educator and excites you about your craft. Take care of yourself and learn from others in the field.”

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  • Published: May 31, 2021
  • Word Count: 665
  • Reading time: ~ 2 minutes
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Wesley Butler

Wesley is the Teaching and Learning Administrative Assistant, holding a B.A. in Communication Studies with a focus on Adult Education, and diplomas in Journalism and Public Relations. Wesley coordinates Teaching and Learning’s operations and communications, creating promotional materials for initiatives using multiple platforms, managing social media outreach, and organizing logistics for events. Wesley is available for support with course registration, developmental observations of teaching, and publishing teaching success stories on the Faculty Learning Hub.

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