Kate Cassidy

Assistant Professor, Communications, Popular Culture and Film
Faculty of Social Sciences, Brock University

With the 2022 Canada Games set to be hosted in Niagara, Assistant Professor of Business Communication Kate Cassidy saw a unique opportunity to involve Business Communication students.

Partnering with the Games became the inspiration for a new course — COMM 3V50 — Applied Projects in Communication — for students seeking real-world experience in their field of study while learning and practising the key competencies needed for employment today. The goal of the course is to improve students’ readiness to apply their education, lead collaborative projects and productively contribute to teams in organizational settings.

Cassidy says the feedback from the community partners so far has been very positive.

“The partners have appreciated the fresh perspective the students bring, and the students have expressed increased confidence, a more profound connection to their studies and an enthusiasm to get out there and start making a difference,” she says. “One student has already used the course as inspiration to start her own business.”

What is your Canada Games-related course title, code and description?

COMM 3V50 — Applied Projects in Communication

In this community-engaged course, students will learn theory in small group communication and project management. They will also gain real-world experience in the field of communication as they design, develop and construct solutions to an authentic challenge related to the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games. This unique and hands-on course builds academic knowledge but also helps students prepare to work in business and non-profit organizations.

Describe how you’ve integrated Canada Games-related material into your course.

This course was designed using an inquiry-based instructional method called problem-based learning (PBL), through which students learn about a topic area by working in groups to solve an unstructured authentic problem. In this method, the problem is raised first before students have been taught some of the relevant knowledge. As they work on the challenge, they become curious, and with feedback they learn how to bring structure to the problem, determine what they need to learn and identify where they can acquire the tools they require to come up with solutions. This mirrors real-world problems and helps students become adaptable, flexible thinkers while developing transferable skills and discipline-specific knowledge.

For this course, three different challenges were offered by community partners Chris Seguin (the Niagara 2022 Host Society) and Jonathan Younker (the Library at Brock University). They include:

  • Ways to raise awareness of the Games among tourists.
  • Ideas to create promotion partnerships between the Games and local businesses.
  • Ways to promote the use of digital storytelling to capture the Niagara narrative of the Games.

Students selected one challenge to dive into with their team. Theory in small group communication and project management laid the foundation for the course while professional skills in communications, public relations, marketing, events and advertising were explored based on how the student groups wished to address the problem. The activities and assignments in the course contributed to two major outputs: the deliverable for the community partner’s challenge and an analysis of the team roles, communication and work methods used as a team.

The students worked on their project via Microsoft Teams. Without skipping a beat, they created amazing video presentations and digital materials to send on to the community partners.

Why do you think the 2022 Canada Games present such a good opportunity for students at Brock?

Community engagement is one of the four pillars in the University’s Institutional Strategic Plan. The Canada Games offer a great opportunity for students to work as partners alongside community members on an initiative that will be very important to the region. Working with professionals and coming to understand how their disciplinary knowledge may fit with real community challenges gets students excited to learn and contribute. When real challenges are explored, students view how their learning applies but also build key competencies such as collaboration, communication, problem solving, intrinsic motivation, confidence and leadership. Additionally, an event this large also has so many roles that relate to careers students may be interested in. Through courses such as this and other volunteer opportunities, students have a chance to learn more about jobs that may interest them while networking with professionals in their fields.

Do you have any suggestions for ways your colleagues can use the Games as a way to enhance teaching and learning opportunities in their courses?

From research and interviews to case studies and problem-based learning, the opportunities are endless. I cannot imagine a subject or teaching method that could not find a meaningful connection to the Games.

Once the Games are finished, how do you plan to continue using this new idea in your course.

Once the Games are finished, the course framework will translate easily to other community initiatives and partners.

For more information about the COMM 3V50 ­­— Applied Projects in Communication course, students can contact kcassidy@brocku.ca