There are an amazing amount of student speeches on YouTube.

There are not many examples for public speaking students to watch for class, though. I’m looking specifically for examples that don’t have that polished, produced look common to publishers’ supplementary materials.

Unfortunately, most of examples seem to be videos of students delivering their speeches to their sofas. Clearly, this is the product of online public speaking classes, something I have mixed feelings about. Ever since I taught an Intro to Women’s Studies class through distance learning about fifteen years ago, I’ve been wary of online teaching.

An MSN Money article talks about whether or not the web will kill colleges. There’s also dispute about what and how students learn in online learning environments. The article suggests that online education provides better accessibility and value for the students than available from traditional universities and colleges. This is somewhat persuasive. As tuition is priced out of students’ pockets, online options make education available to those who might not otherwise have access for a variety of reasons. Moreover, someone posted to the POD-list some recent research demonstrating that students actually learn more from online classes than face to face, because it’s more collaborative and interactive.

When applied to public speaking, however, delivering speeches to your sofa is NOT an adequate substitute for addressing a live audience. So this bout of YouTube surfing is frustrating. Ironically, I’m privileging face to face over CMC. Still, students need to confront their fear of addressing live audiences, to engage the people directly in front of them, and to channel the positive and negative energy bursts that come from live speaking situations. Public speaking in front of other human bodies (that are not your parents or your romantic partners) is the only way to accomplish this experience, at least today.

On the flip side, though, public speaking does not exist in the artificial laboratory of the public speaking class. It’s always stumped me how to get students out of that environment. I’m not sure how do this without burdening everyone involved.

So, in the end, as I do with all these issues, I take the path of least resistance and teach the same ol’, same ol’, like everyone else.


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