Final Plan: Rationale + Online Interviewing Unit

The Rationale

This unit is a set of three lessons. The rationale is based on the taxonomy of “significant learning experiences” from Fink (2013) and the notion of “learning as an enculturation into a practice” from Brown (2006). Both authors put a focus on learning as an active process where the instructor is more of a mentor who engages with learners, who are more than passive vessels. Brown speaks of changing the “epistemic frame” of a course so that teachers show learners “how to be” in a field. The field in this case is business communication. In order to be a competent interviewer AND interviewee, learners need to practice “professional” communication, which will differ from the conversation and discussion styles they use in other contexts. Learners also need to be able to adapt their communication strategies to any technology that may mediate their conversations with potential employers and employees.

Originally, this unit had one set of overarching objectives. However, now that there are three distinct lessons, there are also three sets of more specific objectives. The three lessons are 1. a foundational unit on the differences between face-to-face and online interviewing, 2. practicing being the interviewer (R), and 3. practicing being the interviewee (E). This is a unit that takes place towards the second half of the semester. The learners are assumed to have mastered an earlier unit on best practices of being an R and E and how to write good interview questions. The focus in the last two lessons is on higher-level objectives of adapting what was learned from the first half of the semester to an online environment. To that end, I have responded to peer feedback by adding assignments that “check in” with learners along the way. This will help track progress and provide more opportunities for dialogue leading up to the final project.

I am assuming going into this unit that learners have a background in vocabulary and concepts from the first few weeks of the course (like the definition of an interview) but will also be learning some core concepts specific to interacting in an online environment. My focus in moving through the three lessons is to go from understanding and recall to application and adaptation. By the end of the unit, learners will have written questions and prepared for an interview that will be conducted as part of the “integration” of their new knowledge. The three separate lessons all come together in a “final project” interview when the learners have a chance to demonstrate competency at being an R and an E in an online environment.

One of the core premises of the course is that in order to gather the best information, set up potential employees for success, and ensure a good “fit” with the organization, it is just as important to teach interviewer skills as it is to teach interviewee skills. By having learners practice the process step-by-step and critically reflect on what’s happening, I can help learners build skills that will help them advocate for themselves and feel like they have more agency in the interviewing process. I value the interpersonal aspect of Fink’s taxonomy, so I will also ask learners to reflect on their own performance and that of their interview partner. Learners will also plan how to protect their legal rights, and reflect on the value of this process to them personally by thinking about how they can use interviewing skills to reach their career goals.


The Plan

Situational/Contextual Factors

Physical Context and Logistics

  • held at the main campus of UAF, a 4-year institution in Fairbanks, Alaska
  • 15 to 20 students will enroll
  • 200-level elective offered from the Department of Communication
  • open to all levels of undergraduate students
  • meets two nights a week for 1.5 hours per session
  • classes are primarily face-to-face in a traditional classroom, but online interviewing unit will begin with online class session to orient students to a videoconferencing environment

Social Context and Cultural Expectations

The course will be focused on employment interviews, teaching skills relevant for the role of interviewee AND interviewer. According to Forbes (2012) online, the average person stays at a job only 4.4 years, and millennials are expected to stay for an average of less than 3 years. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that employment interviews will be a recurring situation most people will face throughout their adult lives. Based on my experience, interviewees expect the interviewer to be prepared, attentive and fair. Those of us who have been interviewers expect interviewees to be confident, engaged and knowledgeable.

Because employment interviews can affect one’s income and career progression, it is also reasonable to assume that society places a high value on “good” interviewing skills. The UAF Dept. of Communication, realizing the need for instructional support of this skill-building, successfully argued to fund a class on interviewing. UAF’s curricular goals are reflected in the proposal document submitted for the course, in which the head of the Dept. of Communication wrote, “I do think that it may have a positive affect on programs such as Nursing, Marketing, Justice, or Business to mention a few. Basically any program that has an ‘interviewing’ component or necessity will benefit from the course.”

Learner Characteristics

The course is an elective and will be offered in the evening, so there is a chance that both full-time traditional students and working adults will be attending. The prerequisite is the basic English course, so students should have college-level writing abilities. However, their experience with interviews may vary widely, as can their reasons for enrolling. Some may be using it to bolster their degrees in professional communication or public relations; others may be taking it as professional development. I will survey the class at the beginning of the semester to learn more about their history and motivations.

Instructor Characteristics and Pedagogical Challenges

As the instructor, I am bringing some experience to the table, having taught the course (same book and format) for two semesters at Purdue University; this will be my first time teaching it at UAF. I feel that this is in my “zone of competence” because over the past two years I have presented on this subject for Staff Appreciation Day and for 4-H leaders and youth in order to keep up my skills. Overall, I’d say my “challenge” is that students often feel overwhelmed by or apprehensive of interviews because the power is imbalanced and the stakes can be high.

Sample Learning Objectives

This is a set of 3 lessons for a unit that would occur in the second half of a semester course on interviewing skills. Millennials are increasingly being asked to serve on hiring committees to provide perspective on their generation, so it is likely that interviewing is a responsibility they will face even at the entry level. Thus they practice the roles of both R (interviewer) and E (interviewee).

Lesson 1: Foundational Knowledge

Learners will understand effects of using computer software during interviews by comparing and contrasting face-to-face and online interviewing situations.

Learners will be able to identify potential pitfalls in the use of common videoconferencing technology.

Learners will connect this new knowledge with their prior knowledge by reflecting on their interviewing experiences to-date.

Lesson 2: Interviewer Role

Learners will adapt to an online environment by navigating videoconferencing software while conversing with classmates.

Learners will engage in problem-solving and critical thinking by designing contingency plans for how to address common pitfalls associated with videoconferencing technology.

Lesson 3: Interviewee Role

Learners will discern when best practices are being followed by critiquing peer performance in video-recorded online interviews.

Learners will apply knowledge of self-presentation to an online environment by writing an interviewee preparation plan that includes notes on time management, background selection, technology prep, etc.

End of Course Objectives:

Learners will be prepared for legal issues by discussing protected classes of info that may appear about candidates online, and assessing their own digital footprints for sensitive info.

Learners will apply their knowledge of online interview tactics in a final project by playing the roles of both R and E in an online environment.

Learners will reflect on the value of their interviewing experiences by identifying ways in which interviewing skills can help them reach personal career goals.

Sample Assignments

Using the required text of Interviewing: Principles and Practices by Stewart & Cash (2008), students can work through role-playing exercises with the sample interviews in the text. Then, those same sample interviews can be used as a template for generating learners’ own interview protocols. It is important for students to write out their questions or go-to examples beforehand so they can check for common pitfalls, clarity, and legal issues. In previous lessons, learners would have worked on activities like critiquing this sample interview protocol from Indiana and answering the question of how he or she would streamline some of the lines of inquiry so that both R and E are better able to keep track of what is being asked. The focus of this unit is to adapt that knowledge to an online environment.

Lesson 1:

Create a “Similarities” and “Differences” list of how interviews compare when conducted online versus face-to-face.

Create a “Pros” and “Cons” list of being invited to interview in an online environment instead of a face-to-face environment. Then contribute to class discussion: How do you feel about talking through video chat? What makes you nervous? How might you prepare your environment so you are comfortable?

Check-In Activity: What prior, if any, interview experience do you have in an online environment? What went well? What didn’t go well? What was surprising?

Lesson 2:

Write an interview protocol that will be used to interview a candidate at your most recent place of employment. Reflect on the differences between face-to-face and online, and include a section that describes what extra preparations you will have to make as the interviewer (time differences, equipment, contingency plans in case of technology failure, etc.)

Pick an activity partner and try out Google Hangouts. Have a conversation about a current event of your choice. Relay your experiences on the class discussion board, and answer this question: How would you change the way you spoke with your partner if this were a formal interview instead of a topical discussion?

Check-In Activity: What problems did you have with the technology? Do you have access at home to practice, or do you need class time to explore online environments further?

Lesson 3:

Keep practicing with the technology by doing a mock interview with a peer using Google Hangouts on Air. This time, make sure you are recording and that the Hangout feeds to YouTube. You will be matched with another activity pair and provide peer reviews of each other’s interviews. Pay particular attention to how you will appear on video, what background you choose to sit in, time management, the clarity of your audio feed, etc.

Check-In Activity: Turn in a draft of your interview protocol (as R) and your prepared examples and questions for the “company” (as E). The instructor will give you feedback on these documents and your sample video two weeks before the final project so you can make adjustments before the live role-playing event.

Final Project:

Apply your knowledge of self-presentation in an online environment by playing the role of interviewee in a mock employment-style interview. Your partner is interviewing you as a potential teaching assistant for this class. Each learner will subsequently serve as an interviewer for another student’s mock interview, and will receive feedback and points for doing so as well.

References

Brown, J. (2006). New learning environments for the 21st century: Exploring the
edge. Change, 38(5), 18-24.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Meister, J. (2012). Job hopping is the new ‘normal’ for millenials: Three ways to prevent a human resource nightmare. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/

Stewart, C. J., & Cash, W. B., Jr. (2008). Interviewing: Principles and practices (12th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill

11 thoughts on “Final Plan: Rationale + Online Interviewing Unit

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