Instructor (Communications), College of Online Education- Humanities

Minnesota maven Sarah Allen makes an intriguing contribution to the College of Online Education with her communications expertise. She is an online instructor for Life University (Life U) in the Humanities Department, teaching Intercultural Communication.

“We cover a lot of different aspects with culture, from understanding racial differences, language differences, non-verbal differences, interracial and intercultural relationships, and dynamics of that,” Allen elaborated.

“Demonstrating across the board and understanding that culture is beyond just when you think of different countries. People can be living in the same community but have different backgrounds, heritage, things like that.”

Allen brings a fresh, informed perspective to her students. Her thesis for her Master of Arts in Communication Studies from Minnesota State University focuses on protest rhetoric in music.

“I’ve been really interested in music and how it influences the brain, but also rhetoric, the language and how we express things, so I was able to combine those two for my master’s thesis.”

Allen compared 1960’s protest music as part of her research, analyzing the rhetoric and language found in those songs in contrast to protest music related to the more recent 2000’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s interesting to see how [conflict] influences music culture,” Allen said.

In regard to her online education with Life U, Allen strives to “create a personable experience online”, in spite of the challenges being more significant as opposed to in-person instruction. Video and Zoom meetings help to bridge that gap somewhat, though Allen mentioned that online students may have more of a hesitancy to reach out. The hope is that while she makes an effort to remain pro-active, her online students follow suit and approach her with questions or issues.

Her advice for online students to succeed focuses on time management, going so far as to suggest creating set dates and times in a student calendar to complete online classes and assignments. With regard to communications specifically, Allen notes how she and most other professors have had to be more aware of inappropriate vs. appropriate AI use for classwork. Plagiarism screening is becoming more and more rigorous and competent at AI spotting, so students need to start learning now how to ethically use AI while in school. It is an ever evolving and complex quandary that professionals working in any content generation capacity will have to wrestle with.

For Allen’s part, she is utilizing more video or audio-recorded response assignments as opposed to written ones in order to combat possible AI plagiarism. Allen laments this, however, as writing is an important skill and learning tool, but it makes sense to pivot in this way for now.

Additionally, Allen teaches full-time in Minnesota at South Central College and as an adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State University, working in the Communication Studies departments for both institutions.

Faces of LIFE is a story campaign that showcases members of the dynamic Life U community, including faculty/staff, students, alumni and health science professionals. Interested in being featured or nominating a candidate? We want to hear from you! Email Marketing@life.eduRead more Faces of LIFE stories.