In real life, there are rarely easy answers to complex problems, especially for business interns who must learn to cope in a sometimes frantic office environment.
However, students in Assistant Business Professor Don Leavitt’s marketing class at Corban University are gaining practical skills from their desktop. He is currently beta testing Vertical Learning Curve, a program integrating textbook modules with a simulated office world that allows students (interns) to complete tasks by working with virtual bosses and co-workers who often offer little help and critical responses.
“The thing that gets me really excited is the way things are presented in any given situation,” Leavitt said. “These are simulated situations modeled from real life. In the real world, someone may not have the time to help you so what do you do?”
This isn’t the first time Leavitt has used outside-the-box methods to teach otherwise ho-hum courses. He previously taught marketing and business classes that required students to read a novel and pull information from its pages. Instead of teaching what he thinks the students aren’t grasping, he said students took the initiative to ask questions in class about what they read and apply it to their work. Vertical Learning Curve works much the same way, but instead relies on software more than paper and guides the students through an online, three dimensional office environment.
“I believe they are getting the point on marketing and learning the other points, even if they don’t fully understand them yet,” Leavitt said. “They’ll definitely take home the practical aspects of the program.”
Sophomore Jordan Keck admitted the graphics are “sub-par” compared to modern video games, but said he has learned more than he could from a traditional textbook class.
“It’s very applicable and practical,” he said. “It keeps you thinking on your toes. I think it does a great job of reaching my generation despite the graphical limitations.”
For Keck, one bonus is the inability of a student to try to cram one semester of information into finals weekend. Instead, students are required to read the VLC’s 10 modules and work through the scenarios, a process that takes time. Additionally, Leavitt won’t summarize or recycle the information during class. Students must take the initiative to ask any questions they have before quizzes and exams.
The VLC program was initially designed for online MBA students. When Leavitt inquired about software for undergraduates he was told there were no options. Instead of sending him away, VLC designers decided to work with Leavitt to create a program that could be used at Corban and other college campuses. Leavitt is currently using the technology in one class and reports back to VLC designers regularly to discuss what worked well and what didn’t to refine and adapt it. He will also test VLC in a business class during spring semester 2011.
“I think it has the possibility of being widely used,” he said. “I would love to see this model in a number of our courses. I want to give students their education in a model they are interested in and that allows them to learn practical business skills.”
Corban University hasn’t committed to using the program, but Leavitt said once refined, it could be another advanced tool Corban can use to attract and train future business leaders.
“We would love for all of our students to get internships, but in this economy, it simply isn’t possible,” Leavitt said. “This virtual system is the next best thing.”
For more information about Corban University’s Business Administration program, visitwww.corban.edu/academics/busadmin/
For more information about Vertical Learning Curve, visit www.vlcglobal.com