By:  Heather Clark

Camden County College’s public speaking courses are implementing alternative strategies to benefit students more effectively and give them a more positive public speaking experience.

With increasing technological advances, students now have the option to take public speaking courses online. Students who are able to provide their own digital video camera to tape and upload their speeches, five adult member audience, and computer with internet access can take the course, but the online course is not for everyone.

“The online public speaking course is fantastic for the right student,” explains Professor Marjorie Sokoloff, instructor of the in-class public speaking course. “This course is ideal for self-motivated, well-prepared students who do not need much direction from an instructor,” Sokoloff adds.

Instructor of the online public speaking course, Professor Babij agrees, stating that “less motivated students may fall behind in an online course than a traditional one, simply because they don’t have to go to a specific place and get in a specific mindset. Also it is not for students who have a lot of commitments.”

In the classroom and online, the fear of speaking in front of an audience is a challenge for many students. In Sokoloff’s classes she tries to help students overcome that phobia by using something she calls “faking it until you make it” to help students appear calm and confident.

Babij, who also teaches public speaking in a traditional classroom setting in addition to the online course, says that “each [class] has its own ways of reducing tension. Some people feel more comfortable with live classes where they can see and be seen by everyone. Some prefer just interacting in their homes on a computer and delivering speeches using their friends and family.” He also tries to “help [students] see that public speaking is like anything else that people do on a regular basis. The more you speak in front of an audience, the more comfortable you feel doing it.”

Crystal O’Kane, an Elementary Education major at CCC, is one of the many students who feared having to take a public speaking class. Though her future career will involve a lot of public speaking, she feels that speaking in front of her peers is more “nerve racking” than speaking with the children she will be teaching. She had even thought about changing her major because she “did not want to give speeches in front of forty of her peers.” When she found out that she only needed five adults for her audience in the online course, she signed up.

When reflecting on the course, O’Kane says, “overall, [taking the online public speaking course] was a good experience” and that she “would recommend it to anyone who has a fear of public speaking because it did reduce the anxiety for [her].”

Each course, whether it is the traditional course in a classroom or the online course, is designed to teach you the necessary skills to succeed while speaking in front of an audience, and in both, professors are constantly finding new ways to help students change the way they view public speaking.  It is simply up to the students to figure out which course works best for their personalities and lifestyles.

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