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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Communication Techniques for Blended Learning: Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, 2010-13

Caryn Coatney (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
Session Information
July 8, 2015 - 9:10am
Institutional Leadership & Strategy
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research and Evaluation
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Plaza Court 2
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Concurrent Session 4

This multimedia presentation focuses on communication tactics for creating online communities of active learners and citizens.

Extended Abstract

As educators involve more public audiences in blended learning communities, it is valuable to consider political leaders multimedia strategies to generate informed citizen participation in governance. During their alliance from 2010 to 2013, US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard developed multimedia strategies that are useful for creating a sense of community within blended learning classrooms. They developed more inclusive language to expand the national leaders communications and engage public audiences in their messages on fighting terrorism. This multimedia presentation delves into rarely researched online video talks and news links to show how Obama and Gillard created the semblance of involving a community of active citizens in their alliance. This analysis of their multimedia news strategies is relevant to blended learning practices because instructors promotion of a sense of community in courses can encourage learning and reflective thinking skills.

This paper contributes to the growing literature on blended learning practices within governments and corporations. Previous research has demonstrated that active learning activities within managements have succeeded when these have been relevant to specific audiences, generating higher knowledge and engagement with shared values. Organizations have increasingly used the online journalism elements of interactivity, hypertextuality, and multimodality to generate images of trust and a sense of connectedness with audiences. Online news content, with its hyperlink, multimedia structure, can encourage audiences to develop more in-depth understanding of issues beyond basic facts. This paper fills gaps in the research by examining how Obama and Gillard developed multimedia online news to convey appearances of interaction, trust, belonging, and emotional bonds with audiences, components that are often the basis of blended learning communities.

To evaluate the success of the two leaders multimedia techniques, this study has analyzed the accessibility of a selected sample of videocast texts. A readability measurement, the Flesch Kincaid score, has been applied to 13 of Gillards texts and four of Obamas speeches about the alliance (Australian Government 2010-12; Australian Labor 2010-12; Gillard 2012; Obama 2011a, 2011b; President Obama ... 2011; President Obamas News Conference ... 2011; The White House 2011, 2011b). The recommended score for most public documents is about eight, close to the reading level of middle-brow newspapers and suitable for an eighth-grade student. This paper also examines the leaders speech rates to ascertain their explanations to news audiences. Multimedia communicators prescribe that the ideal voice should utter no more than 164 words a minute.

For the purpose of ascertaining the public impact of the leaders selected talks, this analysis has determined whether journalists reproduced their messages favorably in the news (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canberra Times, New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal 2010-13). This analysis is based on the Pew Research Centers Project for Excellence in Journalism formula that a news text is deemed positive if two-thirds of the statements appear to support a leader. Therefore this paper uses a multimethod approach to identify the leaders abilities to engage citizens and contribute to public understanding of their goals.

Obama and Gillard cultivated online journalists support by selecting inclusive, relevant language and gestures to signify a sense of connectedness with audiences when extending news videocasting. For example, the two leaders indicated they preferred informally talking with servicemen and servicewomen during videocasting and they often raised their hands with their palms upturned to convey honesty and egalitarianism. Their messages generated more positive news coverage when these indicated a sense of emotional connectedness, meaningfulness, and relevance to national security. They conveyed visual signs to encourage citizens interactivity with their online messages. This presentation shows how the two leaders expanded tactics to create the sense of citizen engagement in their alliance talks.

Both leaders aimed their messages at appropriate levels for public audiences. The selected speech sample indicates that Gillards words were mainly suited for a ninth-grade reading level and Obamas messages for a tenth-grade audience. Although their texts were slightly higher than the ideal score, these were still targeted to a lower secondary school level. Their selected speech rates were well within the recommended range with Obama talking at about 130 words a minute and Gillard broadcasting at about 140 words a minute. Their selected texts generated mainly positive news coverage of their alliance. During these times, Gillard received popular support for strengthening Australias relations with the US.

An examination of these multimedia strategies provides more insights for educators when communicating in blended learning classrooms. Obama and Gillard generated more positive news about their messages when these were clearly communicated as relevant to audiences by linking meaningful information directly to a clear purpose. The leaders use of inclusive language emphasizing shared values, as well as their seemingly interactive visual imagery and gestures, also received favorable news coverage of their alliance. Their innovative techniques can benefit instructors when creating a sense of community in blended learning classrooms to foster motivation, interactivity, and a desire for higher knowledge.

Handouts with useful links and sources will be distributed at the session.

Australian Government. (2010-12). PM transcripts: Transcripts from the prime ministers of Australia, http://pmtranscripts.dpmc.gov.au

Australian Labor. (2010-12). Julia Gillard press conferences & speeches, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC44FCA2531E1C5C9

Gillard, J. (2012). We are serving our national interest in Afghanistan, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=istrJ69UuIQ

Obama, B. (2011a). The President's news conference with Prime Minister Julia E. Gillard of Australia in Canberra, Australia, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=97060

_ (2011b). U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Australian Parliament, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_hSqLEtX_Y

President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard of Australia. (2011). Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caRLlqm_mGk

President Obamas news conference with Prime Minister Gillard of Australia (2011). Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Aq9aRcQpAg

The White House. (2011a). President Obama speaks to U.S. and Australian service members, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pZLS1qa9aU

_ (2011b). Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard of Australia after bilateral meeting, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/07/remarks-president-...

Lead Presenter

Dr Caryn Coatney, PhD, is a journalism lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland. She coordinates blended learning courses in online journalism, media law, media ethics, analytical and opinion writing, and specialized reporting. Her research appears in such publications as Journalism History (Ohio University), Global Media Journal (University of Ottawa) and Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History. She has won the Outstanding Research and Best in Session Awards (The Institute for Business and Finance Research, USA) and completed a Fellowship at the Australian Prime Ministers Centre in the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra. Caryn has worked in journalism and public relations for many years, including as a news editor and staff correspondent for the Pulitzer-Prize winning Monitor news group, based in Boston, and managed the Sydney news bureau. Also she has been a bureau manager and journalist for the West Australian News Group, where she won the WA Media Award for community leadership. Caryn has a PhD in Journalism and History, MA (Research) in Journalism, and BA (Double Honours) in History and Literature.