Distance education, resiliency and coming out stronger: Q and A with Dr. Jim Eckert

Contact: Stacey Markin
Dr. Jim Eckert sits at his computer in his home office.

Dr. Jim Eckert delivers distance education from home.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Jim Eckert, Robert S. Kaiser Professor of Sales, has long incorporated video content into his courses. He shared with us how he is shifting his courses to a distance learning model and what students and faculty can gain from the experience.

What sorts of content do you normally deliver via video or other distance learning formats in your courses?

I record lectures to share the needed content, and I also record coaching and feedback videos to help students know what they need to do and what they could improve on for the future. Lastly, I record example videos for the various role-play and presentation assignments they are required to do.  

What do students like best about your video content and other content that they can access remotely?

Videos are the students’ most commonly consumed media, so they tend to like them. In addition, they have access to a pause and rewind feature that isn’t available when I teach live! 

The ability to work at their own pace and to review material multiple times is helpful to the learning process.

How are you now adjusting your sales courses, which often rely on in-person instruction in the sales lab or other contexts?

We have moved what would be our face-to-face interactions to WebEx meetings. We are unique in that this format can benefit students, as virtual meetings are a common interaction approach in today’s selling world. It is likely that I will keep some of my future role-plays in the WebEx environment even after this crisis.

We are using collaboration software like Microsoft Teams and WebEx to have ongoing conversations with the students. Nothing will replace the community that has formed via the physical Robert S. Kaiser Sales, Negotiation and Leadership Lab, but we are doing our best to keep the high-touch, coaching-focused approach we normally deliver face-to-face in the lab.

What do you think students will get out of this challenging experience?

I believe they will gain some additional skills in technology and working virtually. They will gain resiliency and toughness. These are important things for everyone. I also hope this experience helps them understand that being adaptive and kind creates more success in the long-run. 

What is your advice for faculty members who do not regularly record course content or provide distance learning options?

Keep it simple. Streamline your course and assignments to the absolute keys and then create the communication flow and resource availability to allow your students to succeed. Recording a video lecture is a funny thing—you miss the back and forth that occurs with a live audience, so act like that audience is there. Still use your examples, still be highly animated and have some fun with it. Don’t worry about being perfect. Ask yourself when you are done if the video will be a good learning resource for the students. If the answer is yes, publish it!

What do you think that WMU, as an institution, will learn through the process of delivering all courses and some services at a distance?

I think we will see that we have fantastic, adaptable and caring faculty and staff and that our students really do care about their education and want to learn. We will be stronger!

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