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TCC professor thrives using innovative online techniques

His classes sing and dance and talk – and talk back – yet longtime professor Russ Meade is hundreds of miles from any TCC campus.

For the last 12 years, Meade has taught business law, criminal justice and business ethics from a picturesque mountain town in western North Carolina, about 40 minutes from Asheville. The location overlooking Lake Lure is where many of the scenes from the movie Dirty Dancing were filmed.

“It’s pure heaven; I have the best job in the world,” says Meade, who has been selected to present his innovative online teaching techniques at the Society of Business Research Conference in Nashville. His presentation will feature audio and visual tools for creating a dynamic learning environment.

“I am constantly seeking new ways to improve the learning experience for my students,” Meade says. “Students require professors and their classes to be truly cutting edge. My students are now able to see and hear my lectures and each other on their computers, iPods or smart phones.”

An avid traveler, Meade often takes his classes with him. Among his favorite teaching experiences is a lesson taught from the Sahara Desert that allowed his class to interact with a group of Muslim students using Skype. 

“They talked for five hours, getting to know each other and sharing stories,” Meade says. “That was honestly one of my greatest days in college teaching.”

Tantamount to his teaching philosophy is interaction, as Meade admits too many online classes suffer from simply being dull with minimal contact among students and professors. He relies heavily on Voice Thread, Skype Groups and other web 2.0 tools.

Meade, who holds a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law, initially introduces himself to his students via video and has students introduce themselves via audio and video. Video discussion boards keep his students engaged, and he is responsive to any questions or issues that arise.

“If you need help, you should be able to get it almost instantly,” Meade says.

Former students laud Meade for his creativity, one noting he could make a class on watching paint peel interesting.

“His approach gives students a sense of being in a real time ‘digital’ class,” says former BUS 241 student Lanier Williams. “This has been my first formal classroom exposure to the legal field, and it has been a good one.”

Meade believes the future holds endless potential for online teaching and notes a recent MIT conference that featured a professor teaching in Hawaiian apparel appearing before students as a hologram.“The sky is the limit as far as what can be done,” says Meade, who promises he will be part of it. “I have a passion for teaching and ensuring community college students succeed.”