Students Blog as They Learn about Business Processes

Their blog assignment – seven posts are required for the semester – is “a way to incorporate instructional blogs and writing into the course,” said their instructor, Dr. Art Padilla, professor in the Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “It enables students to experience a new form of expressing themselves and also to learn directly about the latest forms of communications technology.”

Each student blogger is reporting on a company that he or she has picked to study throughout the semester. The students chose from among the companies that are publicly traded on one of the three major stock exchanges, reporting on various aspects of that company’s operations and its industry, as well as monitoring changes in its stock price.

Text posts are supplemented with stock market graphs, YouTube videos, pictures, and anything else that adds interest to the content, Padilla said. All information included from outside sources must be documented, maintaining an honor code in the classroom.

The course itself is designed to instruct students about various aspects of business processes. Each blog provides a real world example of business processes and often serves as a base of classroom discussion. In a recent lecture regarding logistics and supply chain management, Padilla used several of the blogs to show different examples of supply chain operations.

Kalie Porterfield, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, is writing her blog about GlaxoSmithKline. In one of her latest blog entries, she focused on the H1N1 vaccine, which is a big supply chain management problem. Porterfield’s blog said “the extensive logistical planning required to produce the vaccine (think millions of eggs) could be a huge impediment to production with an exponentially increasing demand.”

A blog about Apple, written by Taylor Tharrington, sophomore in business administration, led to a discussion about the outsourcing of supply chains. The class members inspected the Apple products that they had with them that day to see whether they were made in the United States or in a foreign country. They discovered that the iPod is assembled in China.

Their blog posts about the changing levels of their chosen company’s stock is also part of a classroom competition, to see which company’s stock rises the most during the semester.

About 11 weeks into the semester, Netflix, the company chosen by Caitlin Melvin, a freshman majoring in civil engineering, was in the lead.

A video that she posted to her blog from CNBC’s “Mad Money” described the movie rental service as “the ultimate vampire stock.” In her blog post, Melvin said that Netflix is “taking advantage of new technologies like streaming and partnerships with video-game console companies at a time when other movie rental companies like Blockbuster and Redbox are declining. All of these factors have caused Netflix to grow by 28%; this puts the company on the same level as major corporations like Apple and Google in terms of growth.”

Other companies being tracked by the student bloggers include Wilson Sporting Goods, Starbucks Coffee Company, Marvel Comics, and IBM.

The students are watching their companies’ stocks carefully, and not just for new content for their blogs and the resulting classroom grade. The winner of the stock competition will get to pick a restaurant of his or her choice for a meal with the professor.

A blog post by Anuja Acharya, a sophomore studying business administration, puts the class writing experience in perspective.

“The Internet has become utterly indispensible. It is 2009, and we use the Internet for, quite literally, everything. We use it to conduct business, shop, communicate, network, research, play, and learn. The development of this worldwide connection of computers can be credited to a global community dedicated to technological advancement,” she writes. She cites Cisco – the company she is following – as one of the key players in this global community.

Through their blogs, the students are both tapping the resources of the Internet and learning to use them to process and pass along what they are learning.

Blogs for this class are hosted on WordPress, a free online publishing platform.

Other Applications of Classroom Technology

  • Dr. Jonathan Bohlmann, associate professor of marketing in the Department of Business Management, has started a Twitter account and invites (but does not require) his MBA students to follow his tweets about innovation and marketing. “It’s a convenient way for me to post links to things happening in business right now that relate to our class topics and discussion. For now, it’s an experiment, but some of the students seem to enjoy seeing how class topics are reflected in current business activity.”
  • Students in Claudia Kimbrough’s Social Media class for MBAs are using all the various social media – Ning, blogs and more – as they learn about the online communities and tools and to communicate with each other throughout the semester. Her undergraduate Integrated Marketing and Communications students use Facebook to recruit participant for their classroom marketing research projects and to promote events – with good success.
  • Ed Weems, marketing instructor, is one of the NC State faculty using the Moodle (course management system) Pilot for his distance learning BUS 360 class and VISTA for his auditorium class. He plans to use Moodle Pilot for all classes next semester. “I am moving them to all assignments being on line, all instructions and materials being provided on line and their individual grades being accessible on line. I am also establishing chat capability between students and with me through Moodle as well as e-mail. I am really just scratching the surface for where I want to go with this.”
  • Peter Janca, adjunct lecturer in the Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIE), uses both Moodle and Elluminate for his distance education version of Strategic Management Foundations (BUS 590), one of several graduate business courses for non-business graduate students. He uses Moodle to distribute information, including his weekly video class lecture, collect assignments and generate discussions among students, who are expected to post comments about the lecture. Elluminate provides a means for student teams to conduct virtual meetings. This application supports audio, video, and screen sharing. The sessions can be recorded and posted for students in other groups to view and comment on, facilitating the interactive learning that is typical in classroom instruction.
  • Among other Moodle users in the college are Dr. Richard Warr, Dr. Bartley Danielsen, and Dr. Srini Krishnamurthy, associate professors of finance in the Department of Business Management; Dr. Keith Brouthers, professor of strategy in the MIE department; and Shelly Hoover-Plonk and John Hutchings, assistant directors in the college’s Career Resources Center, who teach the Career and Managerial Effectiveness Course for the college’s Jenkins MBA program.

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