Education at Poole College of Management continues to evolve as faculty incorporate new and innovative methods of teaching.
By Caroline Barnhill
While COVID-19 forced many teachers and faculty across the country to pivot to online instruction, at Poole College of Management, incorporating new and innovative ways of teaching were already part of the culture. We sat down with Beth Shepherd, Poole College’s director of instructional design, to learn more about how course delivery has evolved in recent years.
Q&A with Beth Shepherd
How has the educational delivery model changed over the last 10 years?
I think back to when our online Jenkins MBA program launched 10 years ago and then compare that to where we are today, and it’s encouraging to see how we’ve evolved as a college. There is so much more flexibility in course delivery. Before we’d have students choose an online-only or in-person option, whereas today we have students at both the graduate and undergraduate level creating a more customized program for themselves based on their individual needs and preferences – as well as faculty across disciplines who have looked beyond the traditional lecture format to educate their students.
More and more, I believe there’s going to be a movement of humanizing teaching – meeting students where they are and getting them to where they need to be, acknowledging the need for mental health and wellness in education, and giving supplemental instruction to those who need it.
What does Poole’s Instructional Design Group do?
There is a large body of research around instruction. The lecture format most of us think about is not the only way of delivering content. Our department is focused on online and blended learning and we provide support to our faculty to deliver quality instruction. We meet them where they are and suggest practical ways to transition material online and sometimes present options for those looking to stretch themselves into new delivery methods. If they want to shake things up, we’re going to present emerging technologies and new ways of doing things. We also offer workshops to our faculty so they can learn about the latest in instructional design.
What is an example of an alternate method of instructional delivery?
Some of our faculty have implemented what is called a “flipped classroom,” where the lecture material is presented online for students to watch outside of the classroom, and the class time is reserved for discussion, activities, problem solving and group work. The typical cycle of a flipped classroom has students prepare for class (including reading and videos), then they participate in active learning in the classroom, applying what they learned and finally students reflect on or assess their learning.
Research has shown that freshman or transfer students generally perform better in person.
So we have in-person courses, online courses, hybrid courses… which one is “best?”
It depends on the subject matter and the needs of the individual student. There is no one perfect way of teaching. For instance, in-person instruction is helpful in courses where it’s discussion-heavy or where a faculty member needs to regularly engage with students. Research has shown that freshman or transfer students generally perform better in person. However, we have student-athletes or students with families or jobs who may need the flexibility of online courses where they can work around their schedule. We have MBA students who are young and single and would prefer to knock out the program in two years coming to class every day, and then we have others with full-time jobs and kids to raise who need the flexibility that comes with an online program. So we try to provide a range of offerings to best fit the unique needs of our students while still delivering quality instruction.
To what extent is technology helpful when we learn?
Technology is never the purpose – technology is used to enhance or help improve learning. Technology can be extremely helpful and convenient in disseminating information. For example, at Poole, every classroom in Nelson Hall has the capability of capturing lectures so that students have access to lectures even if they weren’t able to make it into the classroom. And I think we’ll see that technology will continue to evolve and get better.
What do you see as the future of instruction?
Students will continue to demand flexibility, so I believe we’ll need to continue offering different options for learning. For me, I see education evolving due to our evolved understanding of the need to see the student as a whole person. I think there will be continued development of using technology to address individual needs while having to deal with mass quantities of students. I think we’ll see greater incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, universal design for learning, and embracing students as a whole person with different identities – rather than separating the student “self” from other versions of self. More and more, I believe there’s going to be a movement of humanizing teaching – meeting students where they are and getting them to where they need to be, acknowledging the need for mental health and wellness in education, and giving supplemental instruction to those who need it. Instead of weeding students out, the goal is helping each individual student succeed.