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Why our teaching makes a difference

Our teaching practices incorporate award-winning expertise with a sense of the real world.

Tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit

Millennials are the generation who grew up on YouTube and think of Google as a verb. They instinctively understand entrepreneurial thinking. And they can quickly tap into consumer behaviour.

L-R: Dewi Tojib, Tristan Cui

So discovered Department of Marketing lecturer Associate Professor Dewi Tojib and Educational Designer, Tristan Cui, when they set their students a ten-week assessment course on the topic. The ideas yielded a slick online t-shirt brand and an offer from the Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Indonesia to commercialise tourist merchandise the students had designed.

"Our students grow up with successful startups like YouTube and Google, and these entrepreneurs inspire many of them," they say.

"We believe that a consumer behaviour course is the perfect means of introducing and encouraging this entrepreneurial spirit because it is primarily about consumer insights. And the key to being successful entrepreneurs is to understand consumers."

Their ten-week assessment task requires students to put their marketing skills into practice by undertaking market analysis, identifying gaps in the market, creating brand stories and marketing-mix strategies.

Students then have to build on these skills by applying the consumer behaviour concepts they have learnt in class. For Associate Professor Tojib and Mr Cui, it is all about preparing students to set up their own businesses or use their skills in the workplace.

Ideas are refined through group presentations, culminating in a final pitched product. And there is the added benefit that at the end of the project, students are given the opportunity to enter the early start-up mentoring program run by the Monash Generator – the University’s entrepreneurship program.

Among the success stories: the online brand, Simple Shirt; a jewellery line; and a collaboration with the Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Indonesia.

"Through their involvement in the commercialisation process, our students are definitely acquiring practical knowledge and experience that will be invaluable to them in their future endeavours," says Associate Professor Tojib.

Rockstar economist

Economics is often portrayed in popular culture as dry and boring. Dr Wayne Geerling turns that assumption on its head.

"Ben Stein's character from Ferris Bueller's Day Off is just one example of a popular caricature of this ‘dismal science' in the classroom, highly abstract concepts delivered in a monotonous voice, which ultimately sends the students to sleep," he says.

The economist, who was awarded a Monash Business School 2019 Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence, couldn't be more removed from that character himself. His lecturing style is dynamic, combining music, advertisement clips and movies, the internet and YouTube with in-class experiments, to create an engaging and relevant environment, while illustrating how economics relates to everyday life.

This includes exploring the unintended consequences of encouraging blood donations; the implications of the Australian government to push vaccinations; or the impact of global streaming services on music piracy.

"To keep lectures relevant in the 21st century, you need to add value – to give students something they can't get online or through reading a book," he says.

"The first rule of learning is engagement. Enthusiasm is the hook whereby you get students interested in learning. This starts with the lecturer. If you don't care about your teaching and show little passion, why would or should the students care?"

Using visual media in teaching rather than text alone makes concepts more accessible to a student, promoting deep learning rather than rote learning, he says.

"Switching learning styles refocuses the attention of the class and makes the return to lecturing more productive."

But it's also important to remain in tune with the class mood and be flexible.

"You have to be able to think on your feet, adapt to what's going on around you, to succeed in large classes. What works in one class may not work in another."

Dr Wayne Geerling

Embracing the machine

Monitoring technology can be perceived as disruptive – but can it actually help teachers better engage with students with divergent abilities? Or help bolster those struggling to keep up?

L-R Debra McCormick, Charanjit Kaur, Julie Luu and Tristan Cui

This was the challenge presented to the educational design team of Tristan Cui, Debra McCormick and Julie Luu with Charanjit Kaur, lecturer in the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics.

The team has been awarded a new Monash Business School Dean's Award for Technological Innovation in Learning and Teaching, for launching a new online engagement system designed to help both teachers and students.

For teachers, the tool allows them to analyse student engagement while providing personalised timely feedback to each student via email.

The system uses learning analytics collected by teachers from assessment results as well as online participation data to establish analytic criteria that sort students into different groups and flags early intervention.

"We found that by maintaining contact with students, instructors can focus the ongoing teaching and create a dynamic curriculum based on their feedback," says Tristan Cui.

"Instructors can invest in more face-to-face time, or create resources for all students to engage in self-study more effectively as needed by that specific student body."

The tool also allows scheduled online learning activities to be emailed to students who are falling behind, to prompt them to complete the work.

"Our data has demonstrated that given the communication is personalised and not sent through a general bulk messaging method, students are more likely to reach out to teaching staff to ask for help," he says.

And it also works across departments within Monash Business School to identify students who are struggling across a number of units, allowing earlier intervention or direction to appropriate support networks, such as study buddies, tutors, or mental or physical health services.

Out with the old, in with the new

How do you make an Introduction to Management course more exciting? That was the task facing Dr Jess Co from the Department of Management when feedback told her that this course was too theoretical and required a lot of memorisation.

For Dr Co, it required drastic change – swapping out traditional lectures for online interactive resources that she designed and created herself.

It was important that the online tool used for these classes allowed for a mix of interactive styles, in bite-sized segments that could be easily used on mobile phones.

“I designed the content videos to include theory and concepts of no longer than seven minutes,” she says.

“Instead of overloading students with information by presenting it only through text and images, videos allowed some of the essential processing to be moved to the auditory channel.”

A simple online layout with interactive online activities providing immediate feedback also consolidates student’s understanding.

Dr Co’s innovative and lively approach saw her chosen as another recipient of the new Monash Business School 2019 Dean’s Award for Technological Innovation in Learning and Teaching.

Rather than just focusing on content, Dr Co’s revamped course emphasises learning outcomes, standards and assessments. Now students learn management concepts online at their own pace and then apply these concepts to actual case studies used in a face-to-face context.

The unit is now part of a collaboration with the University of Queensland Business School with a shared curriculum across both business schools.