Editorial: Taking Management Education to a Whole New Level
The Era of the Play-by-Play Man!
Imagine a management education learning environment where the student is fully engaged and where the instructor serves as a Play-by-Play-Man! This sporting allegory is not a pipedream, but the new reality in enhancing learning opportunities and outcomes throughout schools of business. The empirical evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that pro-active students outperform their passive counterparts. Today, the technology exists to transform the sleepy old classroom into a dynamic learning environment. Many of these technological advances can be linked directly to the strides being made in professional sports.
For example, the NBA is presently using SportVU cameras to capture and process terabyte volume data to enhance fan interactions through the distribution of information rich graphics. This same technology can be applied to the classroom, where performance and engagement data can be captured, processed, and presented. This approach would not only archive faculty presentations and demonstrations for subsequent review, but student interactions and participation as well. This information could then be used to provide additional student feedback and possibilities for additional engagements. To that end, performance quizzes and team exercises (e.g., simulations) can be administered near the end of each session (traditional or online programs) with the results being displayed and also integrated into subsequent learning plans. This methodology would be similar in context to examining the score-board during and at the end of a sporting event. The goal would be to increase the students’ competitive spirit and thus improve learning outcomes. Although some students might be intimidated, team work and technology could be used to help ameliorate this challenge. In this new active learning environment, the role of the instructor would morph from the classical pedagogical style to a facilitator of interactive, real-time learning, if you will—The Play-by-Play Man! This format also opens up the potential for including color commentators, for example, a virtual analyst who could bring thoughtful perspective to the learning process.
Many business managers believe that there is a growing gap between the business universe and the management education community. Today, organizations are looking for web-savvy, problem-solving oriented graduates that can hit the deck running. Alas, the academic brotherhood continues to come up short in this regard. The business community now spends billions of dollars in retraining new college graduates, an expense that forms part of the estimated $200 billion spent annually on corporate learning. Obviously, something is amiss. Creativity, innovation and critical thinking are but three key proficiencies required by modern business. Sadly these skill sets are often in short supply in many of our business school graduates.
Team work and collaboration are also highly valued by organizations. These capabilities can be developed via a team learning environment. Specifically, team learning promotes the development of shared vision, innovation, and responsibility. Thus one of the roles of the Play-by-Play-Man is to cultivate individual as well as team learning through the use of collaborative data-rich systems.
These systems are seeing widespread use throughout the business community and can be easily adapted to higher education. One aim of student-centric collaborative learning is to expose learners to tools and practices that both support their studies and reinforce individual and team competencies. Another objective is to make group members’ more aware of their own progress and that of their peers in performing learning exercises via the collaborative process.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke
These types of learning experiences can help facilitate a smooth transition from the classroom to the workplace. Collaboration can provide students with the technical competencies necessary to effectively manage and utilize the expanding growth of new technologies as well as understand the associated business implications. Both individual and team learning can be further elevated through crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing, as applied to management education, involves the process of connecting with a broad-based group of external resources, e.g., students, faculty, researchers, and the business community, for the general purpose of problem solving and developing new capabilities. Typically, the crowdsourcing paradigm is facilitated through social media. Social networks have improved workplace productivity by enhancing the communication and collaboration between employees, which aids knowledge transfer and consequently makes organizations more agile. This same approach can be applied to improve the learning process. Specifically, social networks encourage students and student groups to work collectively and with other groups on an international basis, which better prepares them for employment opportunities in the global marketplace.
Only about one-quarter of four-year college graduates are perceived to be excellent in many of the most important skills, and more than one-quarter of four-year college graduates are perceived to be deficiently prepared in Written Communications. – The Conference Board
The use of sports-based technology can also improve student team performance. Recent analysis of NBA performance data has revealed thirteen new positions beyond the traditional five, e.g., offensive ball handlers and three-point rebounders. These kinds of insights have led to improved outcomes on the basketball court. This same technology can be used to assist in the formulation of study teams based on specific student characteristics and interests. Furthermore, team assignments in the form of cases and education to business (E2B) projects can be better aligned with both team and institutional learning objectives. In some learning applications it may well turn out that the optimal study group design will consist of members across educational institutions, rather than simply being limited to members of one institution.
The experience gain from virtual student groups suggests that transactional leadership behaviors improve the task cohesion of a team, whereas transformational leadership behaviors improve a team’s cooperative climate. This finding is no different than what has been observed in sports teams. The transition from a passive to a proactive learning model does require a significant shift in both faculty and student mindsets. For example, Question Walls represent a distinct discussion forum in the online universe that can feature different questions from students and instructors. Question Walls are designed to minimize traditional divisions between instructors and students with the result of augmenting communication and interactivity. Some specific areas of responsibility for the student and student teams include:
- Take ownership of learning in exchange for multiple modes of engagement
- Accept a communal obligation and provide mentoring in a quid pro quo environment
- Expand outreach into the broader social community
As seen increasingly on most televised sporting events, the Play-by-Play Man utilizes a wide range of data presentations in describing the action. Some involve the actual play while others incorporate fan responses, such as from Twitter. Student tweets, like fan tweets, which can be quite voluminous, need to be filtered and displayed in a manner that the viewing audience can quickly understand. Fortunately, a low-cost solution is underway in the form of 3-D printers—yes, 3-D printers. Research presently being conducted at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory suggests that combining data streams with 3-D printing can significantly consolidate the process of translating massive data sets into understandable information within the learning environment. But wait there’s more—similar systems are available to track student and team performance over the entire course of study, which allows for both timely institutional intervention as well as designing content around student and team characteristics and interests.
The proactive learning paradigm is not some pipe dream, but an emerging reality. Recently the University of South Carolina received a federal grant to construct active learning classrooms and train faculty. The initial experiences revealed: 1) The importance of communicating with stakeholders interested in active learning and 2) The identification of technologies that enhance interactions between students and faculty. Looking ahead, the fundamental challenge for the management education community is to better align its product lines with the ever-demanding requirements of the business community. In this new learning zeitgeist, faculty members become designers, coordinators, moderators, mediators, and mentors, rather than traditional instructors. The goal of enhancing the synergism between the management education world and the business community can be better achieved through a more entertaining and engaging learning paradigm via the Play-by-Play Man!
The game’s in the refrigerator, the door’s closed, the light’s out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the jello’s jiggling. – Chick Hearn
Cartoons by Randy Glasbergen at http://www.glasbergen.com
About the Author(s)
Owen P. Hall, Jr., PE, PhD, holds the Julian Virtue Professorship and is a Rothschild Applied Research Fellow. He is a Professor of Decision Sciences at Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business and Management. He has more than 35 years of academic and industry experience in mobile learning technologies and business analytics.