Friday, March 22, 2013

Business School’s Innovative Way of Blended-Learning Approach

The idea of this innovative teaching in business school is generally based on the blended-learning approach or “flipping course,” which means “Traditional inclass lecture material is delivered out of the classroom through the use of online technology, while the traditional ‘homework’ is done in class with even greater potential for student learning through the use of Active Learning/Experiential Learning activities using a group/team approach. Technology can also be used in the classroom and assessment can be done both online and in class.”[2] What’s more, the course reform in business school also has its own innovative features.

According to Business School Dean Assistant Suzanne Dove, the motivation that drives this educational innovation is to solve the obstacles that the professor Morris Davis have encountered during the teaching process. “Macroeconomics for Managers” is a course that require students to have advanced macroeconomics knowledge and understand how macroeconomics may influence the larger economy, how macroeconomics drive business to make certain decisions, better strategy or effective strategy. However, many MBA students are non-experts in macroeconomics. Meanwhile, professor Morris Davis hopes to teach both complex theory and analyze current events in economy in class, so that the students would know how economic indicator should affect different business decisions, but he only have 10 weeks to teach this course. Thus, Several limitations drive him to think of using videos to help him better perform teaching goals.

Business school’s innovative solution has some similarity to the blended-learning approach, which takes advantage of videos that help convey knowledge content that require students watch before classes. Faculty members are content experts and also performers in video. After watching videos, in a class session, faculty members use quiz questions to make sure students understand the material they watch. If students have confusion, faculty members will immediately clarify and answer specific question about video materials. After that, students will do discussion and activity based on the information they have learnt. 

     The advantages of blended-learning approach include helping improve students’ effective time-on-task by making learning environment and assignment active and increase students’ flexibility in using their time. Besides, it would also reduce lecturing and grading time, which is very suitable for the course, such as “Macroeconomics for Managers,” which has limited teaching time but advanced knowledge and non-expert students.

The innovative features in Business’ school lie in two aspects: first, the short and engaging multimedia videos; second, the design of classroom discussion.

According to Dove, Business School produces short videos for this course, and each piece is about 8-10 minutes. Because short video is more engaging and would help students better focus on the lecture content. Typically, a 75-minute traditional lecture will be divided into 4-5 pieces of short videos. And the innovative part is,  they do not adopt the normal lecturing method in videos, like an instructor stands in front of a white board or directly talk to a camera. “That is boring,” said Dove, and they want to make the video more engaging and helpful. So, instead of teaching knowledge in front of a camera, the instructor behaves more like “performing knowledge” in face of audiences. Videos contain animations, music, pictures, designed scenes, with which the instructor creates stories to help students understand the essence of theories. 

For example, one of the main concept in this course is “trade,” the advantages of trade between nations. In the lecture video, with the aids of multimedia tools, rather than talking about trade between nations, he starts talking about the trade between two individuals, and he explains why you and I would trade something with each other. Then he introduce the third individual, who is a kind of metaphor for the market, why there is a benefit to have the third person helping trade each other. “Once why you understand two people would trade, you can understand why countries would trade.” said Dove. The innovative teaching is actually a different way of learning, which obviously increase challenges for instructors. Thus, Dave need to be very clear about “what do my students really need to know and be able to do by the end of this course., and how would I assess that, how would I know that they have gotten the content, if they do not get it, how would I do to help them," said Dove. 

Another shinning point in the educational innovation is the instructor’s design of classroom discussion. Dave expects his students are able to actively learn and critically discuss the current business event in world. Instead of just free discussion, he assigns students into two teams: "pro" team and "con" team, to debate against each other about a particular issue in economy, and what they think business should do.

“It is more engaged and active learning. Because, the students would first work at their table and decide the different points, if he assigned them the pro team, then they have to decide different points in support of that position or that question, they probably will also need to think of what the other team might say against that position, and then be prepared for argue, back and forth. And so, it is a different way of learning, because it is not simply sort of memorizing information, or simply being able to describe a position, it is actually being able to adopt that analyze why a company would do a certain thing, sort of a higher level of thinking.” said Dove.

From the educational innovation in Business school, we could see how they use multimedia tools and story-form lectures to engage students and arise their interest in learning, as well as save teaching time. We could also see how the active interactions (in-class learning activities) rather than one-way lecturing between instructors and students, students and students play important roles in inquiry teaching and critical learning, and sometimes lively forms such as role-play discussion will help improve students’interest in learning and encourage their analytical thinking.

According to Dove, right now the innovation plan in the course “Macroeconomics for manager” is just a pilot, if proved to be effective and successful, Business school expects its usage in more business courses


[2] Moses, G. A., Spanngler, H. D.“Flipping Courses: Transitioning From Tranditinal Courses to a Blended-Learning Approach.”

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