Students learn in many ways. Some classes should be lecture-based and some classes should be flipped,
meaning that class time is solely devoted to learning activities while most of lecture portion moves
outside of the classroom through online study, reading reports, and other activities. Dr. Lindsey
Gibson (Hawaii Pacific University) and Dr. William Sodeman (Martin Methodist College) suggest
gamification, or a game-like approach to improve millennials’ critical thinking and problem-
solving skills. I don’t believe that students learn in only one or two ways. I also don’t believe that all
classes need to be entertaining. I do believe, though, that a class like sports public relations needs
to be fun, at least for a little bit, because many students in the class will work in sports or another
entertainment industry. This led me to think of using fantasy football in my class.
Fantasy sports are becoming more popular. According to the
Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 56.8 million people played
fantasy sports in the U.S. and Canada in 2015. This is 15
million more people than in 2014. From 2011 to 2014, the
increase was 16 million people. When I used fantasy football
in class for the first time in 2011, many of my students did
not understand what it was, and, for the next couple of years,
I received student feedback that they did not understand the
rules. For the last two semesters, though, all of the students
said they understood the rules. Even though 66 percent of
fantasy players are males, female students in my class also
enjoyed playing. I have only had one female-only group so
far, but they had fun and finished the regular season fifth
in the league of ten teams. Now, students know they will
be playing fantasy football in my class and look forward to
draft day. Quite a few students said in the evaluation that
just playing fantasy football made the class interesting; one
student said, “If I can get a class credit by playing fantasy
football, I would take the class at any time.” Nevertheless,
my job as a college professor is to make sure that students
also learn from this fun experience.
As a 300-level class that is required for students seeking a
sports communication minor, the course had five learning
objectives. I wanted students to learn about the roles of public
relations practitioners in sports and about the professionalism
and ethics that public relations practitioners need to have.
Students are also expected to be able to distinguish differences
between sports public relations and sports marketing or
promotions. I also wanted them to practice skills to produce
communications materials based on public relations plans.
Overall, I expected students to learn to critically view sports
issues and problems, and to solve the problems as future
public relations practitioners.
This course was taught at the Enhancing Pedagogy Through
Innovative Classroom center at James Madison University,
in a classroom with six pods with television monitors.
Students studied players they wanted to draft, franchise cities,
and characteristics of the city (e.g., big businesses, history,
population, etc.). They had to choose a city that does not have
an NFL team and has a legitimate football stadium with a
capacity of more than 30,000. After organizing a group and
studying a city, they built their team by deciding players to
pick in a live draft in a classroom.
After drafting players, the first assignment was to make a
media guide with the franchise city’s history, major employers
and centers of commerce, unique characteristics, and stadium
information along with short biographies of the players. They
also had to create a schedule based on the one offered by the
hosting site, NFL.com ( http://j.mp/jmuscomfc). Students also
had to provide a mission statement for the team and make
promotion schedules. The purpose of this assignment was to
practice figuring out important organizational stakeholders.
Stakeholder knowledge is critical for any organization and
especially for public relations professionals, who need to