When a Problem Comes Along…You Must Flip It

I have two objectives for my final project. First, I want to learn how to teach online in a way that engages students and helps them learn. Second, I want to create a course syllabus which not only includes on-line elements but also reflects principles of good college-level instruction and student engagement I’ve learned in AHE 603.

I’m working on the first objective by completing the College of Continuing Studies Online Instruction course. The course consists of seven required modules and six elective modules from which I must complete at least two. I’ve completed the first seven, but unfortunately have made little progress on learning how to use online technology. These modules primarily teach general principles of good instruction. In other words, they function as a very stripped down version of AHE 603. Modules discuss topics such as learning outcomes, engagement, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and use of rubrics. So far, the course has provided only minimal information about teaching online. The titles of the elective modules, however, offer some hope. I plan to complete the Blackboard IM and Collaborate Fundamentals modules to quality for a certificate of completion but may also choose to complete the advanced modules as well. There is also a module on Designing Interactive Content which looks promising. I’m hoping the elective modules teach what I need to know to place engaging content online.

For the second objective, I’m modifying my syllabus for a 400-level management course I sometimes teach as an adjunct. The course, Operations and Supply Chain Management, has been a challenge to teach. Classes meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00AM. What college student doesn’t want to sit in a classroom at 8:00 in the morning and learn about managing factory operations and logistics? The former dean of the business school developed the course and, since he specializes in the subject and was…well…the dean, he made the course mandatory for all business majors. He also set the class meeting times, justifying the decision with the argument that seniors need to start learning how to be somewhere early in the morning other than in bed. A significant majority of our business majors choose marketing or accounting; very few choose management. These facts conspire to put me in front of a class of 25 or so sleepy seniors who have no interest in learning material which requires knowledge of mathematics, statistics, and analytical techniques. They seem to want to know just enough to get their desired course grade.

The primary teaching challenge has been lack of time. Ideally, the students would already have a good baseline knowledge of math and statistics on which to help them build their ability to analyze managerial processes. These students, however, have largely forgotten what math they once knew. Only a handful even know how to use Excel. As a result, I spend much of my classroom time explaining simple concepts, leaving very little time to teach them how to solve real-world industry problems such as critical path analysis, demand forecasting, and process control. In order to truly teach them how to solve these problems, I need the entire class period. I’m not convinced I can teach the entire class online (and my institution wouldn’t allow it anyway), but I think the online medium would allow me to implement a flipped classroom approach. Instead of listening to an hour of lecture followed by 15 minutes of problem-solving, I can provide learning materials online for students to review outside of class, saving classroom time for a brief review followed by problem-solving activities. These materials will include videos, recorded lectures, and links to sites such as Kahn Academy. For example, instead of spending an hour of classroom time attempting to explain to marketing majors why streamlining operations is important, I will post videos from companies like FedEx who advertise their optimized processes. This could help my marketing majors see the link between marketing and operations.

In summary, I am completing the online certificate program and am in the process of selecting content needed to flip my course. Flipping the course should 1) allow students to learn the basic concepts on their time, when they are more receptive, and 2) allow me to use classroom time to get them engaged into the hands-on work of solving problems.


4 thoughts on “When a Problem Comes Along…You Must Flip It

  1. Mike,
    I think your flipped course sounds like a really smart approach to the class. Another idea for engaging marketing students is to demonstrate how it affects them if their future company streamlines. Efficient processes is generally good news for customers because it means reduced prices for the same or better quality, which makes the marketer’s job a little easier. And it could mean more room in the budget for marketing activities. I don’t know much about accounting students (I was a marketing undergrad and only took the required accounting classes), but perhaps emphasizing the stronger bottom line and how that is achieved will help?


  2. Thanks Teagan. I found a video in which a brickmaking company markets its operations as not only efficient, but modern and environmentally friendly. Also FedEx is all about marketing their processes (when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight). I’m going to use these in the course. Accounting majors tend to be a little better at seeing the relationship between the course and what they will be doing. They pick up on the idea that efficient processes save money. They also have a better understanding of the math.


  3. Mike, I think flipping your management class is a great idea to combat the issues you mentioned. I am unfamiliar with the mathematics involved in supply chain managment and logistics, but am very familiar with having to re-teach simple concepts just to be able to get to the actual content for the course. In utilizing a flipped approach, you can likely cut out the vast majority of the classtime you spend on reviewing those topics. I also like your idea of showing ads from companies as a way to connect your student’s prior knowledge and interests to your course content. Good luck and happy flipping!


  4. Hi Mike,

    I’m so glad you are finding a practical use for the Online Educator Certificate. I’m excited to see how your final project ends up and hear your thoughts about adapting a class for online instruction!


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