As a business school student, if you knew that your assumptions and answers for a case-study assignment were going to be displayed on a screen, to be scrutinized, and debated with the entire class, would you engage and prepare more for the case-study? Would you think more carefully about your underlying assumptions?
The global education technology industry is huge, and continues to grow at a rapid pace – poised to exceed $250-billion in size by 2020. This remarkable growth is the result of a number of education technology companies like Udemy, Blackboard, Chegg and 2U and many others trying to address different parts of the how-to-improve-education puzzle.
An MIT engineer and a marketing professor
Yogesh Joshi, an MIT engineer, McKinsey alum, and professor of marketing at Smith School has been toying with a simple approach to engage students better. Business schools commonly use the case-based method of teaching. Students analyze a real-world business situation that is documented in the form of case studies. Students often record their conclusions along with a set of recommendations for the simulated case as a part of their analysis. The professor then discusses details of the case in the classroom, and during such case discussion, tries to elicit alternative commentary, analyses, and recommendations from the students. The idea is to encourage peer-to-peer learning, moderated by the professor.
How can technology enhance engagement in these classrooms?
As an example of how technology can enhance engagement, here is one of Prof. Joshi’s interactive exercises based on the Bass Model aimed at forecasting demand for the Segway over the coming years. The dashboard uses three simple input assumptions: the expected market size, the innovation coefficient and the contagion coefficient (the latter two parameters specific to the Bass Model). As part of their pre-class assignment, students take time to enter their assumptions for these three inputs on this interactive dashboard. They then share their work with the professor before coming to class. The professor can then project the dashboard interface in the classroom – showing students’ alternative opinions along with the consensus, for everyone to see. This changes the game. It’s easy to see who thinks differently, and invite them to argue their perspectives, while contrasting with others.
The thinking is, students will show up to the class with not just an intent to share their views, or find out the right answer, but also with curiosity to better understand their fellow students’ thoughts – all up on the screen to debate and dive deeper into. This can also be supplemented with details of what actually happened in the real life situation highlighted by the case. Prof Joshi believes this will raise the adrenaline in the classrooms (in a good way).
You want objectivity in analysis, but much of the real-world decision-making is subjective as a practical matter. Students know their classmates – many of them close friends. They come from different backgrounds, and learning from a diverse set of views is integral to the enriched classroom experience at business school. The thinking is, with this interactive dashboard the experience can change from a dispassionate objective one, to a passionate exchange of views.
A possible win for all
The approach has another advantage for the professor, too. The interactive dashboard – with each scenario being created by a student – is a quick way to see the students’ assumptions and recommendations without having to pore through individual write-ups – freeing up a considerable amount of time.
When it comes to engaging students, there is really no one-size-fits solution that works across education levels. There is also no denying that technological innovation has helped improve (and ease) various aspects of education, including perhaps the single most critical aspect of them all – the ability to better engage students in a classroom. Continuing to innovate will allow professors and students to get more value out of time invested. For additional questions on the case example above, feel free to reach Prof Joshi here.