Business professor teaches via video chat

Business students taking class from Professor Christopher Mason are getting a jump start on the technology they will be using for the rest of their careers.

Mason, a finance professor, utilizes a video chat system, called Distance Learning, to teach classes from off campus.

In addition to his position at Concordia, Mason is the Chief Information Officer of Fontis Investments in Bloomington, M.N. and must frequently travel. Without the services offered through Distance Learning, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to teach, he said.

“This way I get to teach from Bloomington, Omaha, San Jose and Dublin,” Mason said.

Mason started teaching last spring after serving on the Global Leadership Council of the School of Business working to develop the business curriculum.

“I graduated in ’84 from Concordia, and I came back frequently to speak to the students,” Mason said. “I really enjoyed that interaction and wanted to do that more.”

Business-finance major Brandon MacLeod has had Mason as a professor all year and has not experienced any technical difficulties with Distance Learning so far.

“It’s been really smooth actually. It’s pretty much like having him here (due to) the technology we have in the room,” MacLeod said.

MacLeod has not found any major flaws in the classroom relationship with Mason, even with all of the traveling. Mason is in his office on Monday and Tuesday and is always willing to meet or talk, MacLeod said.

U.S. News ranked Distance Learning as one of the best online learning systems and is becoming widespread on college campuses.

At Concordia, Mason is the only professor to utilize Distance Learning.

“Call me the guinea pig,” he said.

On the class days where Mason is out of town, MacLeod is a designated student to set up the classroom for live chatting.

When MacLeod walks into the classroom, he taps the touch-screen by the door to turn the lights on. He then flips up a touch screen at the front of the room to lower a large projector screen.

Mason can be seen on the projector screen and because of cameras at the front and back of the room, he can see the students as well, MacLeod said. Each desk has a microphone that students use if they want to ask Mason a question.

“You have to get used to talking into a microphone, but it works out,” McLeod said. “It’s like he’s here. You almost don’t notice it once you get used to it.”

Since Mason spends a fair amount of time on the road, he said he works hard to form relationships with his students while he is here.

“I really need to have a good connection with the students, otherwise it’s really flat when it’s behind the screen,” Mason said.

Mason puts a lot of efforts into lesson plans and in-class interactions to make sure his time at Concordia is meaningful, he said.

Even though Mason is out of town Wednesday-Sunday, McLeod does not have any complaints about contacting his professor.

“If you have questions after class you can stay connected and ask him here. He’s also good at emailing a lot,” MacLeod said.

According to McLeod, the technology being used in this classroom is the future of business, and using it in school gives them an advantage.

“A lot of businesses communicate through this technology because it’s a lot cheaper than flying over to China,” he said. “It makes communication a lot more efficient and a lot cheaper.”

Mason is thankful for the opportunity to show his students what working in the business world is like. Without Distance Learning, teaching would not be possible, he said.

“People are looking to bring the outside world into the classroom,” he said. “The business world is open 24/7.”

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