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3 unique assignments given by professors in the College of Business

Thursday, May 12 2016 12:00am

Innovative assignments that you’ll wish were given to you

By Brianna Wilson and Bri Schoepf

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.”

It’s called “design an app for that” and requires students to go through the entire business cycle in just one 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, ranging from 400-600, 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, in which he actually developed and began selling on iTunes, after the semester concluded.

“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.”

From the textbook to the real world

Jamie Lambert, assistant professor of instruction of marketing, helps her students develop relevant skills and grow professionally by giving them the opportunity to combine what they learn in the classroom with a unique, hands-on experience.

Her students spend the whole semester working with a real nonprofit client, which allows them to implement the methods they learn into the real world. Each team works together to create, execute, and evaluate a marketing plan for their client.

The students are encouraged to take control of their projects by setting their own goals, while also ensuring that their goals align with the expectations of the client. After completing the project, they focus on reflecting on their success and overall experience.

Since the students meet with their clients at least three times throughout the semester, they are able to receive consistent feedback and be assured that they are on the right track. This project goes beyond simply thinking about marketing techniques in a hypothetical manner because it also requires students to see their recommendations throughout the entire process.

“This project not only gives students the opportunity to accomplish a complete marketing plan, but it also provides a chance to give back to the community,” Lambert explained.

“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 even have to call on anyone to present their news because students are so eager to participate. They’ve discussed various topics, including the upsides and downfalls of systems that measure Super Bowl Commercial success, effectiveness of videos, and product launches.

One semester, they had an in-depth discussion about Chipotle’s reaction to its E. coli outbreak, with a focus on trying to determine why some students received their free burrito coupon quicker than others. The class concluded that larger markets received their coupons sooner and the different addresses of students suggested different arrival dates.

“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.”

The effectiveness of this exercise is proven through the participation rates. More specifically, six or seven students present each week, and there are 15 weeks of class per semester. Overall, students learn about more than 70 new topics during “breaking news,” that they otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to.


Updated in May 2019 with new formatting and in March 2020 with a new assignment highlighted