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Business Class Gets Creative with Virtual Networking

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Marketing Instructor Demetrius Jordan developed a virtual networking event that all eight sections of the Effective Business Communication course, undergraduate and graduate, could attend to practice their skills.

When classes went online in spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DePaul Business Instructor Demetrius Jordan (BA ’14, MBA ’16) wasn’t sure at first how he’d get his students to practice their networking skills when they could no longer attend networking events in person. It was an important part of his Effective Business Communication class, which covers how to network successfully in a real-world environment.

“In normal times I’d have students attend a networking event and complete a post-networking report, where they’d have to discuss how they implemented some of the strategies they learned ​to effectively network, like how to act in a room full of business people or overcome nervousness,” explains Jordan, who teaches undergraduate business students, though the course is also offered at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

With in-person events suspended, Jordan and other professors who teach the course were left in a predicament. How do you provide a hands-on learning experience during a time when you can’t be hands-on?

Demetrius Jordan
Marketing Instructor Demetrius Jordan

But the obstacle soon presented an opportunity. Jordan spent the summer months developing the concept for a virtual networking event that all eight sections of the Effective Business Communication course, undergraduate and graduate, could attend to practice their skills. The event went live on Zoom in the fall, encompassing four, hour-long sessions. Each session took place on a different day to offer students the flexibility to choose a time that worked best for their schedules.

During the sessions, Jordan and the other professors who helped facilitate the event gave students discussion prompts to get started and placed them into smaller breakout rooms, which rotated every 15 minutes, to maximize the number of people students could meet. By the end of the four days, approximately 200 students had participated and networked with one another.

The Zoom Networking Meetings, as they were called, garnered exceptional feedback from students. “They really appreciated the interactive experience, especially these days, where they’ve been missing direct contact with their peers,” Jordan says. “There were some instances where students wanted to stay in their breakout rooms for longer than the allotted times because they were enjoying the conversations so much.”

“The networking event was definitely the highlight of the class and it took me by surprise,” says Abbey Cerek, one of the undergraduate business students who participated. “I thoroughly enjoyed it and now feel much more confident.”

Looking ahead to the next installments of these meetings, Jordan plans to invite DePaul business alumni, focusing on those who have taken the course and therefore understand its objectives. “We’re not so much networking for careers or jobs, although that could be an outcome. We’re more so learning how to network,” says Jordan, who took the class himself as a Kellstadt student.

“As we’re moving to a world that’s living on Zoom, we need to teach our students how they can take their in-person networking skills and use them virtually,” Jordan says. “Even after this pandemic is over, we’re still going to be doing a lot of virtual networking and communications. These are skill sets that will remain essential, so I see this virtual activity being a part of the course in the long term. In business, it’s important to be adaptable and learn how to apply your skills to different situations.”

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