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3 unique assignments given by professors in the College of Business

Thursday, May 12 2016 12:00am

These assignments are so innovative that you’ll wish they were given to you (whether or not you’re a student).

By Brianna Wilson

Our professors know that after graduation, learning is primarily on the job—not out of a textbook. That’s why they incorporate unique assignments into their curriculum.

Find out about three College of Business professors’ most creative assignments, below.

“Design an app for that”

Raymond Frost, professor of management information systems, is tasked with making data analytics in Microsoft Excel interesting—so he created an assignment that allows students to collect and analyze data they are invested in.

It’s called “design an app for that” and requires students to go through the entire business cycle in a third of the semester. Individually, they design an iPhone app, create a YouTube commercial, and then post the elements in a mock “class store.” 

“The majority of students build apps based on their own interests,” said Frost. “For many of them, that’s finding solutions to opportunities they see at the university.”

Once all student projects—between 400-600, depending on the number of sections of the course—are in the store, each student “buys” 15 apps, generating nearly 10,000 records to analyze.

“Students then find trends in the data,” explained Frost. “They look for which apps are popular with men, women, people who are organized or disorganized, even which apps sell well with other apps. It’s a great hands-on learning opportunity.”

For some students, the project is more than a learning opportunity—it’s the start of a business venture. Matthew Saxon, ’18 created an app called “Complete Fitness” for Frost’s class—but after the semester was over, he developed the app and began selling it on iTunes.

“Dr. Frost’s app assignment is the most entertaining project I’ve had,” said Saxon. “It taught me a lot about the app building process and how much work is actually involved.”

Complete Fitness now has at least 15 sales a day, and Saxton is in the process of building his second app, which he aims to release this fall.

Tweet tweet tweeting for class

College students worldwide are familiar with Twitter—but not all are required to use it as part of their coursework.

“In today’s digital landscape, it’s not only important to know how to write a research paper, but also how to write effective tweets,” said Alexa Fox, assistant professor of marketing. “Communicating well in only 140 characters builds a unique skill.” 

Fox’s students are required to tweet weekly in response to their assigned reading—and their comments must be insightful and grammatically correct. They’re encouraged to interact with each other online, and Fox does the same by tweeting questions or comments back to them.

“It also encourages participation because students are forced to think critically about the material,” explained Fox. “Sometimes students even engage with each other online and continue the conversation in class.”

In addition, once or twice a semester—usually when class would otherwise be canceled—Fox holds a virtual class through Twitter. Everyone signs on remotely at class time, and Fox curates the discussion. Students, in turn, are required to contribute at least once every 15 minutes.  

“At first, students are nervous and feel like the experience is hectic,” said Fox. “But once they get used to the fast pace, they love it.”

Fox encourages students to tag companies in their tweets—and sometimes they tweet back. Wendy’s interacted with Fox’s class last fall.

“The Twitter chats were my favorite part of the entire course,” said Allison Zullo, ’17. “Social media is everywhere these days, so it was really great to have a professor who truly embraced it and understood its importance in today's world and the marketing industry as a whole." 

“Breaking news”

Dan Dahlen, director of the Consumer Research Center and professor of marketing, begins each week of class the same way: with “breaking news,” where students present a piece of marketing news.

“If you’re in the agency business or working in marketing, the ground underneath you is changing hourly, so it’s imperative to keep up with industry trends,” said Dahlen. “I try to teach them that before they get to the real world.” 

Dahlen doesn’t have to call on anyone to present their news; students look forward to participating. They’ve brought up topics such as the upsides and downfalls of systems that measure Super Bowl Commercial success, effectiveness of videos, and product launches—just to name a few.

Last semester, they discussed Chipotle’s reaction to its E. coli outbreak in depth, while trying to determine why some students received their free burrito coupon quicker than others. The class concluded that the address entered determined when the coupon would arrive; larger markets received their coupons sooner.

“The breaking news section of Professor Dahlen's class is my favorite part of the class. We’re able to engage with each other and stay up-to-date with current events and trends,” said Sean Masters, ’17. “In college, I’ve never had time to really sit down and see what is going on in the world, and this is a great way to change that.”

Still don’t believe it’s effective? Do the math. Six or seven students present each week of class, and there are 15 weeks of class per semester. All in all, students learn more than 70 things they wouldn’t have otherwise from “breaking news.”