Dr Al Marshall
Peter Faber Business School
Masters of Accounting, Masters of Professional Accounting, MBA.
BUSN600 International Business Environment and MKTE600 Managerial Marketing
International students, mid-20s
This case study explores how the School is working to embed their relationship with these partnerships in the curriculum, via the use of ‘Virtual Classrooms’.
The School uses the term ‘Virtual Classroom’ to refer to their approach of having teams of students at a university partner, work with teams of students from ACU on a common assessment in a particular unit.
This case study maps to the following Objectives within ACU’s Postgraduate Strategy (2018-2020):
Building relationships with staff at the partner universities is essential for the project to work. This typically requires an initial visit to the offshore institution to establish relationships, brief the academic partner and discuss the shared student assessment task.
One way Dr Marshall (pictured) is able to encourage participation in the project by the partner academics is by designing the common assessment task and offering to write the brief for students. The partner academic is then invited to provide feedback on the task and the brief. This minimises the time involved for academic partners.
It is essential to ensure that lecturers at the partner institution:
A key aspect of the preparation is ‘selling’ the concept of doing a cross-cultural assessment to all students involved. This is achieved by making the benefits of the opportunity explicit, such as how it can contribute to their CV’s by giving them an ‘international culture experience’. The students can also receive a certificate of participation in the project for their work portfolios (this is going to be trialed).
Both the ACU academic and the partner academic need to create groups of 3-4 students who are matched with each other. The culturally diverse ACU students are paired with the more homogeneous American and Indonesian students into integrated teams.
The process that the academic follows to arrange students into teams is:
* Equity: obviously if an opportunity of this nature was only offered at one location on an ongoing basis there would be an equity issue for a multi-campus unit. The current solution is for the international cultural opportunity to alternate between cohort locations for the unit/s (e.g. Melb Sem1, Syd Sem2…). This is something that is continually being explored, and needs to be considered in future related projects.
Students are encouraged to use whatever communication tools suit them (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack, Snapchat, email, Google docs etc). This does make it hard for the academic/s to monitor the student team’s progress on the projects, but the payoff is that the students feel comfortable and in control of the communication process for their project.
The lead ACU academic ensures there is a contingency plan, in case difficulties eventuate for the partner academic in terms of timing and logistics of the project. In the Extended Unit Outline for the unit, the assignment has the major project details, but states that ‘further details will be made available’. Once the partner academic confirms their involvement in the project, it runs with the paired overseas teams. If the partner academic cannot confirm their participation in time, the ACU lecturer runs the project locally without the partner institution’s students.
BUSN600: International Business Environment - the teams researched and analysed different business meeting and negotiation styles between countries. For instance, one integrated team researched, compared and contrasted US-China meeting and negotiation styles, whilst another team focused on Australian-Russian meeting and negotiation styles.
MKTE600: Marketing Management - the teams researched and analysed selected marketing case studies. Teams worked on cases as diverse as the Natural History Museum, London, Barbie in the Chinese market, and Apple’s approach to staying innovative.
Al won the 2018 vice-chancellor’s postgraduate teaching excellence award for this initiative.
International universities have varying semester timetables, and their long summer break can occur at different times to Australia. These differences make it challenging to get sign-off and approval at the required time, as the timing of courses may not align.
It is important that the units chosen have a ‘matchable’ number of students in order for there to be enough students from one university to pair with the other university. The current approach has been to pick one campuses' student cohort.
In multi-campus units, it is important to provide an equity of student opportunities. The current solution is for the ACU campus involved to alternate the offering across the unit's different campuses by semester.
Considerable setup time is required in:
Many students from the ACU partner institutions had an expectation that ACU’s students would be domestic Australian students, (some have a ‘Home and Away’ type impression of what our students will be like.) They are surprised that ACU’s cohort for these courses is predominantly international students (at the postgraduate level).
The greatest fit for international partnerships within units/course is with institutions that have an international or cross-cultural focus, or where an assignment item can be internationalised. The Peter Faber Business School is keen to continue the development of these initiatives right across campuses and with other partner universities. For instance, discussions are currently underway with the Paris School of Business.
The current approach relies on the passion and drive of the lead ACU academic. Therefore, to increase sustainability of the approach and scale it to other units, the Faculty of Law and Business is interested in involving other ACU academics, training them and building their enthusiasm and skill sets in this area.
Delivery of the shared assessment task would be easier if there was a shared learning management system (LMS) and prescribed/shared communication tools between the two partner universities. Having different LMS’s and having students using different communication tools makes it hard for the lecturers involved to track progress. Communicating a shared message is also difficult without a prescribed/shared communication tool.
Currently, all partnering institutions use a different LMS, managing this has involved communications between academics to facilitate updating each local LMS, with information relevant to each virtual classroom initiative.
In the future, the lead ACU academic is interested in lecturers from partner institutions sharing recorded lectures on each other’s LMSs and sharing synchronous delivery of materials eg. having online group lectures/workshop that both local and partnering overseas students can participate in (time zone dependent).
Please contact the Learning and Teaching Centre for professional development, resources and advice for your learning and teaching needs at ACU.