RNC 101, part of an introductory course for all University of Tampa freshmen when classes are in session again, will teach students everything from the history of political conventions to a rundown of daily happenings at the August convention here.
Fall semester begins Aug. 27, the first day of the nearby Republican National Convention downtown. The convention is expected to draw about 50,000 people and might snarl traffic, forcing UT professors and commuter students to miss class time.
As a result, it seemed a natural fit to squeeze online learning and coursework into a required semester-long introductory course for the roughly 1,600 incoming freshmen this fall, said Joe Sclafani, interim dean of UT's college of social sciences, mathematics and education.
Because the RNC is a major political event and the potential cause of the traffic mayhem, it made sense to teach about the convention as part of an online course, Sclafani said.
Administrators asked Scott Paine, associate professor of communication, government and world affairs, to design a 20-hour RNC 101 course.
The nonpartisan class isn't crafted to focus just on Tampa's convention, Sclafani said. Its greater purposes are to teach students about online learning while engaging them in the political process and instructing them on the basics of civics.
"We want it to be an engaging experience," Paine said.
UT's roughly 400 transfer students likely will be encouraged to take the course as well, Sclafani said.
Students will physically attend the RNC component of the class for an hour a week, for two weeks, Paine said. The largest component of the course is online, where students will be taught on online course management system Blackboard, a software application they will use throughout their college careers.
RNC 101 will teach convention history stretching back to the first convention. It will explain delegate selection and convey to students how the nominating process for presidential candidates has transformed.
It will discuss demonstrations, civil disobedience, security issues and the security challenges prior conventions faced.
It also will go into depth about recent conventions — especially the 2008 Republican convention that set the scene for what is planned for August.
The online component will allow students to remain engaged in real time.
"We'll be interacting with the students about things that are happening at the convention," Paine said.
Through Blackboard, students can take quizzes, participate in chat rooms or be launched to various websites, Sclafani said.
Many people starting college — and, indeed, many older adults in the community — probably don't understand the intricacies of the nominating process, Paine said.
RNC 101 will be a valuable civics lesson and a chance to help form citizens, Paine said.
He said he also hopes it will put the convention news of the day into better, larger context.
"Our opportunity is to take all of this stuff going on and all the bits and pieces they'll see in the news and see on the street and help give it context and shape," he said.