2021 EDSIG Proceedings: Abstract Presentation

Making Business Analytics More Engaging, a Three-Phase approach

Hoda Atef Yekta
James Madison University

Elham Torabi
James Madison University

Despite its usefulness to their careers, business students often consider introductory Business Analytics material difficult, overwhelming, and dry. This lack of interest lowers students’ engagement and motivation. When coupled with remote online learning due to COVID, these challenges create a recipe for disaster. We discovered that this new environment required us to design new ways of teaching. Here, we explain how we redesigned the Business Analytics II course in a unique way to increase student engagement. In this course, students are usually stymied by linear programming and mathematical modeling, either because they have never seen it before or get lost partway through. This material makes up a significant part of the course; it is significantly involved and contains various components, and (like accounting and programming concepts) the material cumulatively builds. Therefore, to succeed, students need to understand the big picture and the interrelation among the subtopics while staying engaged with the material throughout the course. Students who miss or misunderstand even one lecture quickly fall behind and end up repeating the course. As a sticky and ongoing problem, we are always considering how to better support students in this course. Inspired by the Just-in-Time Teaching model (Novak et al. 1998) and the continuous improvement cycle of plan-act-assess-reflect (Dahlgaard et al. 1995), we present our three-phase structure to improve this course, particularly how we implemented it online during COVID. In this model, we view the learning process as having three distinct phases revolving around class time. The before-class phase introduces students to motivating but simple examples of the topic, guiding students through an independent self-learning process. In this phase, students complete and submit an assignment before class, in which they write about or solve problems related to the day’s topic. In the second phase, the instructor reviews and clarifies solutions to the before-class problems and compares everyone’s answers. From this exercise, students receive instant feedback and can benchmark their progress against peers, motivating them to focus on what follows. During class, the instructor presents the material with more difficult problems. This phase is a good time to work in breakout rooms to encourage peer interaction. In the final after-class phase, students complete homework problems of intermediate and advanced difficulty. This recursive, semi-flipped process meant that lecture time was more efficient because we could focus on the challenging parts of problems and still allow time to review basic steps if students struggled with the before-class problems. The frequency and timing of feedback were helpful for both instructors and students to assess their performance and plan adjustments to the process. We implemented this approach using two different technologies: Google Sheets (Google Inc.) and Top Hat (Tophatmonocle Corp.) in five sections of Business Analytics II across two different instructors. We are in the process of analyzing the effectiveness of this approach through pre- and post-course outcomes. This presentation should interest instructors of business analytics looking for ways to make their course more engaging for students. Keywords: Business analytics, student engagement, online learning, active learning References Novak, G. M., Patterson, E. T., Gavrin, A., & Enger, R. C. (1998, May). Just-in-Time Teaching: Active learner pedagogy with WWW. In IASTED International Conference on Computers and Advanced Technology in Education (Vol. 1998, pp. 27-30). Dahlgaard, J. J., Kristensen, K., & Kanji, G. K. (1995). Total quality management and education. Total Quality Management, 6(5), 445-456.