Picture this: you’re sitting in philosophy. The professor’s talking about Plato, going on and on about sophists and dialectic, and you’re wondering how any of this is going to help you tomorrow.
Ten minutes of the lecture pass and you realize you spent more time thinking about the next episode of The Walking Dead than Platonic realism. You know there are going to be some long study sessions in the future.
Welcome to college.
Chances are you have more than one class. You probably have closer to four or five classes in a semester. There is so much information to pack in 50 minutes, and so many concepts to lock away in your memory. You try your best, take notes every class, and study before the tests, but you only have so much time.
If you’re anything like me, hearing does very little. I can’t have someone tell me directions to her house. I’ll spend half the time wondering if she told me to turn right or left, and the other half wondering if I’m on the wrong road. GPS has become my best friend.
Reading is better. At least I can look over the notes and try to cram the material in my head. But something is still missing. It’s hard for me to take a bunch of terms and definitions and turn them into fully-realized concepts.
That is why I love doing. In all of my college classes, nothing has better settled the concepts into my brain than actually being able to touch them, to speak them, to experience them in some form of project or activity. I could probably open a book on auto maintenance and read it cover to cover, but I’d never learn how to take care of my car until I did it.
This year I’m taking Persuasion, taught by Dr. Jason Moyer. I learn about Aristotle, rhetoric, ethos, practical wisdom and more. And if it just stopped there, I’d be in trouble. But since day one, Dr. Moyer has framed the content of the class to a real and tangible application of our learning: crowdfunding.
Somewhat different than fundraising, crowdfunding is reaching out to our immediate networks—people we know—and seeking small donations from them to reach a larger goal. Also different than fundraising, our crowdfunding is done exclusively through the internet.
My group, for example, is in the midst of crowdfunding for the Pregnancy Support Center. We use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to point our audience towards our Rally.org page. Then they have to chance to read the entirety of our message, and choose to donate via our page.
It is our intent that by taking the concepts of persuasion from class, we are better able to craft an appealing message to our crowdfunding audience.
This just one example of what we can be done, but it points to an important idea: the benefits of applying our learning. A class that asks me to apply what I learned stands to benefit me more fully in the long run.
As a future public relations practitioner, crowdfunding may be exactly the type of work I do when I begin my career. Not only will I be able to use my work today as advertising points in an interview, but I will actually have developed skills to help me do the job I’ve been hired to do.
I don’t believe this is exclusive to PR classes or even the communication arts major. It works for any class. Imagine an English class designed to make you a better writer, but which never asks you to write. Or a music class that never asks you to perform. Application is at the heart of learning.
As a student, I encourage you to engage in these projects. Put as much effort into them as you can spare. Don’t simply work for the A. Try to discover the concepts through your work. You may very well find education to be much richer and much more rewarding than you’ve ever previously experienced.