New Business Italian Course, Digital Pedagogy FLC 2014-15
Instructor: Clarissa Clò, Italian Studies
Summary: Director of the Italian Studies Program, Professor Clarissa Clò, developed a new course in Business Italian (Italian 496) with the goal of helping students to acquire a commercial and entrepreneurial perspective on Italian culture with a strong digital component. This research-driven and project-based course featured a mixture of independent study, internship and service-learning for multiple and concurrent projects centered around event planning, cultural and content curation, management, data analysis and social media marketing. Collaborative group projects culminated in public exhibitions and digital archives documenting their project. In addition, students created individual digital portfolios to share their application process based on actual positions in Italy, including various documents and interviews entirely in Italian. Clò looks forward to further developing and refining this innovative course, with plans to integrate it permanently into the Italian Studies Program curriculum.
What I Did
I developed this new course, Business Italian, to be research-driven and project-based. Rather than learning solely the abstract terminology and theory of business in a decontextualized setting, I had students engage in hands-on, real life events that had a measureable impact, and allowed them to develop a final digital portfolio with the activities they built and the professional skills they acquired in the process. We paid particular attention to event planning, cultural and content curation, management and social media marketing.
Students worked on the following three projects, all involving extensive work with different departments on campus and with the local Italian community in town:
- Digital curation of the Italian Hip Hop Archive housed in the Special Collections of SDSU Love Library
- Social media marketing campaign for the San Diego Italian Film Festival
- Planning, management, curation and promotion of the Circolo Italiano’s cultural program for Spring 2015 entitled “CineMaDonna,” funded with Student Success Fee funds ($2,900), featuring recent films by Italian female directors and guest speakers.
For each project students worked collaboratively to:
- Conduct research, assess and analyze the field and make recommendations on how to develop/implement their projects using different digital platforms.
- Develop the project through planning, curating, managing, marketing and implementation.
- Create a digital archive or showcase of their collaborative project open and available for consultation.
- Present the results of their final projects in a public exhibition at Media Center of the Love Library.
In addition, assessed on an individual basis, we studied Italian commercial language and business practices in Italian. Students selected a real job position in Italy, wrote their CV and cover letter in Italian, and had mock job interviews via Skype or Zoom with native Italian speakers, which they recorded and saved. They included this information in their digital portfolio using a platform of their choice illustrating their tasks and contributions to the collaborative project and the competencies and skills acquired during team work along with their own personal branding and interests. Students received a digital badge via Moodle at the end of the course to post on their LinkedIn account which was also developed during the course.
How It Went
This course was unlike any other I ever taught in that it was a mixture of independent study, internship and service-learning for multiple and concurrent projects. We assessed and developed content and tools as the semester unfolded. We have definitely gone down some blind alleys, but I took this as an opportunity to discuss failure as an inevitable component of innovation and transformation, as both frustration and feedback.
While teamwork was challenging at times and brought students out of their comfort zones, what we developed as a class was also a sense of community. I wanted students to understand that they are not just part of a class, but of our whole Italian Studies program and that they are helping build it because they are our most important resource even beyond graduation. Our motto is: “Italian with a Cultural Attitude.”
This was not a traditional course by any means. It did not have traditional exams, essays and homework (though it included reflections on the work completed) and its outcomes were not as predictable. As a result, despite the excellent score of most evaluations, some were also below my usual average. I am choosing to take this as a compliment, as I believe that a certain level of discomfort and of uncertainty is also part of transformational experiences, otherwise there would be no growth.