Public Speaking Professor Adjusts to Online Learning

MCC Professor David Cantos is adjusting his traditionally hands-on public speaking classes to online learning as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues. 

Cantos said he teaches two public speaking courses this semester as an adjunct professor. 

“Before we went online, there were four graded speeches and in between speeches there were lecture periods where I introduced new concepts or new requirements, including things like visuals and how to incorporate them in,” Cantos said. 

Cantos said these four speeches were varied: one was an introductory speech about the speaker, one was a how-to speech, one was an informative speech and one was a persuasive speech. 

Cantos said that most of these speeches spanned about eight minutes. 

He said he incorporated writing assignments, such as a ‘My Progress’ essay where students had to define their progress throughout the semester and evaluate the value of the classes and textbook. 

“That changed midway, and that was the result of distance learning,” Cantos said. 

“I needed to supplement my lectures and speech delivery. You can’t think of a worse way to deliver speeches than via Zoom,” Cantos said. 

Cantos said he decided to reduce the speeches to four minutes instead of eight and  that students’ preparation and delivery outlines would count for much more than they did originally. 

He said students will now talk the class through the speech as if they were presenting it in full. 

“The requirement is still the same, the delivery piece is so different,” Cantos said. 

Cantos said he plans to add an assignment called “Great Speeches”. 

He said students will have to choose a speech from TED Talks or the American Rhetoric Society and write a 300-word essay on it.

Cantos said students will have to explain why the speech was great, when it took place, what they learned from the speech and what they learned from the speaker’s style. 

“That’ll be their last presentation assignment in class…I’m going to teach persuasive speaking, but we’re not going to do an assignment [on it],” Cantos said. 

Cantos said he also plans to add more technological aspects to his Zoom classes. 

“What is very hard to do [in Zoom] is to do this [while]  [being] more than a talking head and bringing in technology,” Cantos said.

He said he was incredibly lucky to have a student who helped him project the Canvas modules, videos and online resources for the rest of the class during Zoom meetings. 

Cantos said that although he is comfortable with the class format now, it would have been very difficult if the class did not have seven weeks together before the transfer to remote learning. 

“My classes become a family…we get to know each other, we share stories, sometimes we share really important events that you wouldn’t in other classes,” Cantos said. 

Cantos said, “Distance learning for public speaking could not work unless you built a relationship with your instructor face-to-face and your classmates face-to-face.”


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