Class with Instructor Ryland

By Mona Malacane

Lecturing. It’s a moment we all somewhat dread. You’re lying if you are a grad student and you say you don’t get nervous your first time.

When someone asks "are you ready?" before your first guest lecture.

When someone asks “are you ready?” before your first guest lecture.

Many of us have guest lectured in classes that we AI, or lead discussion sections every week. But last semester, Ryland Sherman received the rare opportunity to be an Instructor of Record of his own class. He taught T207: Telecommunications Industries and Management to a class of 112 students.

Thankfully Ryland wasn’t starting from a blank canvas though. “In terms of what I was expecting, I really am happy with all of the opportunities that the department has already given me, in terms of how much I was already able to polish that class.” In addition to having served as an AI for Mike McGregor’s T207, he has also taken Annie’s T540: The Compleat Academic: The History and Practice of Academic Life, wherein he had to develop a course syllabus. So much of the class was already planned, and then Ryland and Walt fine-tuned all the topics in the syllabus.

The main advice he received from other faculty? “‘It will take as much time as you give it.’ If you want to spend 20 hours a week doing it, you easily can do so. And it really is up to you to decide how to balance how good you want your lectures to be versus how much you want to accomplish in all of the different things you’re supposed to be doing in that semester.”

With that advice in mind, the syllabus finalized, and lectures written, Ryland began the semester just as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as the incoming freshmen. The first half of the semester was relatively painless, he explained. “I know they were bored with the telegraph, even though I try and make it as fun as possible … But there are some topics that are just sexy and that is when I win them back!”

For example, his lectures that married copyright and music. “There is a section of about two to two and a half weeks where I used the evolution of music industries to teach the evolution of copyright, and where also copyright ends up being a way to teach how new media industries have evolved in the music area … We were able to read fun stuff like Prince’s business strategies, and Danger Mouse’s gray album and the impact it had on the industry. We also get to talk about crazy things like parody, where I start introducing parody and fair use of copyright. I get to play them things like, 2 Live Crew’s ‘Pretty Woman,’ a somewhat satirical song of a hairy woman and her bald friend.”

Another favorite teaching topic of Ryland’s was content regulation; for example, how the MPAA regulates film, production codes, broadcast regulations, and even what can and cannot be put on the Internet. These topics were, in his words, “the sexier parts of the course.”

The second half of the semester was more a little more difficult. “When I hit the new media business issues and new media industries, it was really challenging because they are so complex … I was teaching [other] concepts and areas that I had not really ever seen taught before and I was also hitting a rough point with all my other activities. With that said, I definitely was exhausted by the time the course was over. But I loved it.”

Ryland around mid-semester.

Ryland around mid-semester.

So what will Ryland change for future classes? Reduce the reading by 30% and add more pictures and videos to his lecture slides. But one thing he won’t be changing is the lecture about business research. “In terms of a single class adding value, that was definitely the biggest value add. My hope was to teach them a bit of a skill set in addition to just the knowledge.” In fact, quite a few students frequented his office hours to discuss their own business plans for media endeavors.

Overall, Ryland was very pleased with his students’ performance on the papers he assigned and their final exam, despite the challenging topics he gave them. “I did have some pretty grandiose expectations about them in the end, and I’m really happy to have seen how well they did on that final because I asked them some hard questions.”

Ryland's reaction when reading the final exams.

Ryland’s reaction when reading the final exams.

He wants to give special shout outs to his AIs Feiran and Yongwoog, and Professors Waterman, Gantz, Sawhney, McGregor, and Lang for their help and input.

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