It has been more than a year since I published an article about teaching in the academe digitally, where classrooms were suddenly constrained within the four corners of a mere computer screen during the onset of the pandemic. So, how far have we gone a year after?
I am writing this as I sip a cup of coffee, which I conveniently ordered online on a rainy Saturday morning. I just finished a busy week teaching – rewarding, but challenging. More than a year since we started shifting from traditional teaching methods and relying on technology, with students defending their thesis and schools holding their graduation rites online – I often wonder if what we are imparting to students are still relevant.
Virtual distance channeled everyone’s resourcefulness, even wittingly to some extent. Virtual weddings, seminars, job interviews, language classes, museum tours and watch parties on Netflix – I have never seen so much congratulatory messages and hundreds of faces in a single photo until recently. Sounds overwhelming, but I view these changes, albeit obvious limitations, as signs of progressive change. Unfamiliarity allows us to progress, and surprisingly, the pandemic has paved way to live through the new normal and simply find ways to make things work.
Rather than viewing current circumstances as deterrence to progress, being agile in taking action to present conflicts allows us to accelerate at an acceptable pace. The sudden shift in teaching style did not only force, educators to utilize technology, but it paved way to reevaluate methods and their relevance to students.
For instance, grades represent the performance of students. Perform well, get an A; fail an exam, get a lower final grade or fail – regardless of the circumstances.
Let’s consider Student A – a consistent dean’s lister and Student B – hopeful-to-just-pass-the-course, taking my Marketing Strategy class during a pandemic. Student A suddenly fails the final exam, bringing her final grade to a 2.8/4.0, which disqualifies her from graduating with Latin honors. Student B also fails the final exam, but is 0.001 away from passing. Technically, Student A passes, but is disqualified to graduate with honors, while Student B fails my class – no questions asked.
Becoming relevant means holistically looking at the overall picture and addressing concerns appropriately – as relevant and morally as possible. Will my actions present a desirable user experience to my students? Will this break the good relationship I have established? How will not graduating with honors or failing a class affect their future careers?
Abrupt decisions disrupt relevance. Relevance entails empathy, and empathy equates to having malasakit (concern) and understanding the entire customer journey. You have to fix an experience before it becomes totally broken – and that’s the only way you are able to connect with your customers.
The circumstances brought about by the pandemic taught me to deviate strategically – to connect from previously disconnected circumstances. No matter how many times I say this: connect to reconnect. Designing a superior customer experience entails turning these pain points and emotions into opportunities to craft and offer more relevant products and services. I would have personally messaged the students and understood their circumstances. By connecting and providing customer value, I was able to turn a conflict into something that now creates value to my customers. And this is how, by connecting and reconnecting, we become relevant.
Rajan S. Sadhwani is a professional lecturer of Marketing Management and Marketing Strategy at the Marketing and Advertising Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. In August 2019, he won first place in the Lasallian Excellence Awards Student Search for Outstanding Teachers Award. He is also a Doctoral candidate in Business Administration. He is father to son Martin and daughter Samantha. His email is [email protected]