Heike Anne Dietzel teaches “Presentation Skills” in the Bachelor program in International Business at Munich Business School. In the interview, she explains how the switch to online teaching has affected her course.
MBS Marketing: When in mid-March it was announced that MBS lectures would be switched to online operation, how did that work out for you? Did you already have experience in online teaching?
Heike Anne Dietzel: It was good news because it meant that my work at MBS and my course would continue. MBS was the first university to switch its lecture schedule to online. I was pleased and at the same time also wondered how I could offer the topic “Presentation Skills” online in a good way. I have been giving webinars for several years now, most formats run for one to two hours. My MBS course is more complex and includes three to four hour sessions. So I was wondering how I could keep the students’ attention and motivation high over the long term.
MBS Marketing: You teach presentation skills and techniques at MBS. Being able to present is not only an important skill for face-to-face events, but is also highly relevant in an online setting. What effect did the switch to online teaching have on your course?
Heike Anne Dietzel: You make exactly the same argument with which I wanted to win the students over to the new online format. I am convinced that our professional life in the future will be characterized by many online meetings, online presentations and online training courses. The changeover to the online format has “thrown” us all into a situation that we have never experienced before: scattered all over the world and “only” connected to each other via a screen. However, I feel that this in essence is a valuable challenge, which we encounter again and again in life: something is changing, we have to readjust, learn new things and are challenged to change or adapt our behaviour. Especially in such situations we often learn important things. From the students’ point of view, the competence to present convincingly online. From my point of view the ability to give motivating lectures online. I regard this as valuable experience and profit!
MBS Marketing: Did you also face challenges in the online setting?
Heike Anne Dietzel: Yes, of course. Specifically, I have seen that I have to find new ways to see the students first. Instead of being in the same room together, I didn’t see them because many hadn’t activated their cameras. Then the students were scattered all over the world, which meant that it was much more difficult to create a sense of community and concentration on one lecturer and one topic. When you sit together in a lecture hall, you have much greater opportunities to create closeness through body language.
Moreover, everyone was very busy with the situation around the coronavirus. It was much more difficult to get them interested in the topic “presentation”.
In the beginning there were of course some technical problems with the tool, but these were solved quite quickly with practice.
MBS Marketing: What best practices do you draw from the experience of teaching online?
Heike Anne Dietzel: From my experience in March and April, I’m taking a few things with regard to the critical factors for online sessions: The topic “corona” was and is a strong “competitor” in terms of attention. I realized in the first session that the best thing is not to fight it, but to take the current situation into account. We are all very challenged and more or less stressed out right now. I decided to give time and space at the beginning of each session, as everyone is doing, and to address the students personally by name. This has helped a lot, because by sharing current experiences a sense of community has developed very quickly. This new beginning also helped that we were able to concentrate better on the actual topic of the lecture afterwards.
I was able to (almost completely) solve the problem of visibility and the video cameras being switched on and off by addressing the students personally and with a breeze of humour: “Hey, Maria, where are you? Munich is calling you..I would like to see you! What’s going on in Moscow?”. Everyone was very interested and it was valuable for everyone to see how it looks in a kitchen in Moscow or a living room in New Delhi.
In general I can say that I have invested more time in interactive elements with direct exchange with the students. These included, for example, the live presentations with feedback, questions and discussions, which meant that the students were actively involved in the online activities.
My experience has also been positive in giving my own new didactic ideas space and experimenting with them. There is – I think – always a very own, personal way as a lecturer, which may be especially apparent at this special time.
Thank you very much for the pleasant interview and the insights into your online teaching!