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SEED projects 2017 – Writing, Writing Everywhere

From ‘thinking like a manager’ to ‘writing like a manager’: The use of online course delivery options to promote effective, industry-relevant communication

Dr Gavin Northey

Dr Gavin Northey

Drs Gavin Northey, Michael Lee, Rebecca Dolan, and Yuri Seo (Faculty of Business and Economics)

The modern business world is a complex, dynamic environment. It demands high level information processing and requires advanced analytical thinking and cognitive flexibility to integrate theory and practice into cogent, actionable business plans. The ability to write effectively and efficiently at each step along the business pathway is fundamental. However, current course delivery methods are lacking in their ability to teach students the different writing styles required in the business world. This project has enabled students to develop a diverse range of writing skills, beyond essay writing, through an interesting and novel approach to marketing strategy which mimics a real-world, business scenario.

Many university courses are synchronous and instructor-centred. Student assessment typically involves a combination of formative and summative assessments revolving around students’ abilities to write essays. However, in modern marketing departments, writing will more likely take the form of field notes, brief reports and summaries, minutes from periodic strategy, planning and implementation sessions, briefings for creative and media teams, and campaign reporting. Courses may be designed so that students learn how to “think like a senior manager” but there is no mechanism where students can learn to write ‘ like a senior manager”. Perhaps some type of real-world experience, in the form of a business/strategy simulation, can perform such a function. The objectives of the current study were, firstly, to identify, evaluate and implement a strategy simulation with the flagship Marketing Strategy course and, secondly, to evaluate the effectiveness of such a simulation on student writing and academic outcomes.

The simulation required a significant time and commitment from students to learn how to use the software. Some students relished this but others found it burdensome and thought it did not provide enough value for time cost. Interestingly, many students reported seeing the value in the course delivery only at the completion of the semester.

Overall grades and distribution increased 5-7% compared to previous semesters. Our initial analysis of the data collected during the study suggests the competitive nature of the simulation influences student engagement (cognitive, affective, and behavioural) in different ways. Moreover, male and female students reacted differently to the simulation and their academic outcomes are influenced by their engagement levels.