Learning Effectiveness Blended Learning Practical Application This presentation discusses the innovative integration of competency development into an online MBA course in global business. Those who attend this session should expect to come away with an understanding of how competencies-based learning can lead to greater student faculty/student collaboration and personal/professional development. A practical discussion will highlight the innovative use of Faculty Assistants in working with students to develop competencies at various levels, and the application of competencies to graduate level work. The UMUC online MBA program features the integration of competencies into instruction, assignments and feedback, as a key part of its innovative curriculum design. By emphasizing ten specific competencies, faculty encourage students to connect classroom experiences with real-world skills and promote increased collaboration, personal growth, and greater depth of learning.
Introduction University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Since 1947, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has focused exclusively on the education and professional development needs of adult students, offering classes at times and locations convenient to students whose busy schedules require that they balance school with full-time jobs and full-time family or community responsibilities. UMUC has earned a worldwide reputation for excellence as a comprehensive virtual university and, through a combination of on-site and online learning formats, provides educational opportunities for lifelong learning to students in Maryland, as well as throughout the United States and around the world. The university currently has more than 80,000 students worldwide. UMUC serves its students through undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, noncredit leadership development and customized programs, and conference services in Adelphi, Maryland. UMUC is one of 11 degree-granting institutions of the University System of Maryland. UMUC is also under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense as the leading education provider for the U.S. military, offering on-site classes to active-duty service members and their dependents at bases throughout Europe and Asia, while also serving members of the military in the United States. UMUC is the winner of the esteemed Prize of Excellence from the International Council for Open and Distance Education. UMUC has also earned several honors from the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C), including the UMUC MBA program’s “2005 Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program”.
Introduce the active FA role within the program. Faculty assistants are experienced professionals with graduate education in business FAs provide input for competency development and post their own write-ups to assist students Competency development is one of the primary responsibility areas for the faculty assistants who pass their knowledge and experience on to students. Closely monitoring effective conferences, teamwork, peer evaluation, competency incorporation, and executive summaries FAs add their own perspective to student development that is different from traditional student-faculty relationship and TA coaching that takes place in other graduate programs
Discuss FA/instructor relationship. Discuss details and competency development. FAs write to 10 competencies and integrating into coursework
As a result of changes in graduate level instruction mandated by the State of Maryland, UMUC implemented the concept of competency development for students. Accordingly, the MBA program adopted a more competencies-based level of instruction and development. Competency development is particularly strong in the UMUC AMBA 606 seminar, “Organizations and the External Environment” (Global Business). This course is global in scope, emphasizing major theoretical approaches and issues such as sustainability, ethics, trade and investment, and the impact of politics, economics, and technology on a global stage. This course requires a significant shift in conceptual development from local and national focus, to one requiring global thinking and a more international perspective, and from individual performance to effective teamwork. Ten core competencies are integrated into weekly assignments, readings, and discussions. The use of competencies encourages students to think critically about the relationship between the assignments and their own competency development. Select competencies are highlighted each week; students must illustrate within each week’s assignment how their skills are expanding for the given competencies. Within the constructivist approach, the instructor and faculty assistant act as a collaborator and facilitator, supporting students to determine their own goals, learning, and education. The student is an active participant who constructs knowledge, is self directed and is self assessing. Students have the opportunity to exercise many of the competencies while working on a semester-long team case study. Faculty members focus on competency development when providing feedback to team members regarding ways to improve overall individual and team performance and the quality of team assignments. Competency development is stressed when faculty members provide requested guidance for team conflict resolution and discussions on the global business project assignment. This presentation will discuss various challenges and successes associated with implementing a competency-based approach in the learning environment.
Multiple sources of input should be used Government resources, faculty experience, industry leaders’ input, participation of alumni employed in the field of study UMUC’s MBA program has a unique structure that brings together faculty members employed in many industries and located in different countries of the world Competency development curriculum is continually enhanced through incorporation of faculty feedback, new research, and consultation with industry leaders Executives in residence (EiR) are successful professionals, businessmen, and entrepreneurs employed in the industry EiRs are active contributors to teaching and curriculum design activities, in addition to lecturing and answering students’ questions EiR role is well integrated into the course and competency development process, providing in-house industry expertise and outside “real world” perspective Instructor, EiR, and FA work together to ensure students achieve the level of knowledge and competency needed to enter or re-enter the business world and produce valuable outcomes. Faculty diversity is important and UMUC has the ability to pull in faculty from various geographic locations with many different backgrounds, primarily due to online content delivery method and the school’s reputation. This is related to competencies because our faculty’s wide range of experiences and diversity translates well into competency-based learning and an effective skill acquisition process.
We are preparing our students for the world that will be. In some cases, we are preparing students for jobs that didn’t exist three years ago, often using technology that is brand new – and we need them to be able to solve problems in the short term future that we don’t even know are problems at this moment! Each week, students are asked to reflect about that week’s competency – how they define it, the ways in which they may have worked to further develop that competency, how they may have demonstrated that competency. Competencies are either aligned with an assignment (systems thinking – week 1 conference activity) or relate to how the teams must operate in order to complete an assignment (decision making – weeks 1 and 2 – choosing countries and companies). The student’s reflection is submitted as an addendum to the week’s assignment, which causes some students to overlook the importance of the competency; however self-reflective writing allows students “to connect theory to personal experience” and “makes education personal, practical and relevant to a student’s goals.” 
Competency goes beyond skill acquisition to ensure that one is able to accomplish a task and produce an acceptable outcome. One goes through several levels of knowledge, from novice to expert, to learn a task or trade. Being competent means progression from one level to another and understanding of the process. It is difficult to develop specific competency content or competency dictionary. The skills managers need to acquire in several fields and industries are different. This is a challenge in business education, especially MBA programs that focus on preparation of well-rounded managers for a variety of industries.
Since Faculty facilitate learning, diversity in the student body is stretching this facilitation. How can we teach the same course to a growing student body with very different needs, levels of student preparedness, abilities, even desire to perform, intellectual skill, etc. We have to deal with a mix of experienced and less experienced students who require different methods of teaching and coaching, including approaches to competency development. Students’ inadequate understanding of their role in competency based learning r equires extensive communication and applied integration of studies and careers. Some more experienced students do not accept competency requirements once they understand what competencies are about – this varies with the time in the workforce and level of management. As online education gains popularity, our students are increasingly younger professionals in their early stages of career development. They need more help and attention than “traditional” adult students UMUC used to educate in the past. They may also be a bit more open to integrating competencies, but they can certainly learn from their more experienced classmates. Developing competencies among less experienced students requires more attention, as well as frequent and effective communication through variety of mediums Students tend to view competencies only in light of materials being presented for each particular week, unit of the course, or subject. FAs and other faculty attempt to push this knowledge from graduate school learning to the workplace. Assignments require students to bring in their career experience and provide examples of these competencies in action. Less experienced students can, of course, also learn something from this exchange. A big challenge for us and many of you in the audience is teaching the same course to a much wider audience than ever before. Many schools such as ours are blessed with increased enrollments in programs, pulling from a much wider demographic and geographic base than ever before – this alone creates challenges to ensure that all students more or less begin at the same level or catch up fairly quickly.
Question for the audience to think about – the use of rubrics in competency development. Tendency to confuse “implicit thinking” about competencies with fulfillment of the competency coverage. Being creative about competencies, either doing it students’ own way or coming up with new competencies that are not part of the program in place of the required ones. Assignments and weekly class discussions fail to properly address competencies Failure to refer to assigned competencies when writing papers and participating in weekly discussions. Major challenges require extensive communication with students, ongoing research, integration of materials, coordination with other courses and departments in the program, and close collaboration between faculty, assistants, and executives-in-residence Minor challenges are easy to overcome and can be dealt with through e-mail, chat, class announcements, or short conversations. Minor challenges can also be acted upon proactively through announcements, instructions, and documentation posted in advance of the weeks when competencies are due. Discuss why there has been fewer lost points on competencies in the program now versus when we started placing more emphasis on competencies in our learning and the curriculum. This leads directly into the Practical Application examples.
Discuss the benefits and importance of connecting in real time with a diverse student body and faculty. Elluminate helps us do this through its innovative technology. Additional details about Elluminate. Next is using technology, leading us directly into the Practical Application examples.
Faculty members promote this by encouraging team members to work together to overcome obstacles (Team-building, decision making, communications, ethical leadership, critical thinking, systems thinking).
Practical application of our studies to our careers. Continue with student examples of integrating competencies. Practical examples: On ethical leadership: We had a student who struggled to understand the need for competency development as it relates to on-the-job performance for busy mid-career professionals. While objecting to “excessive workload”, she continued on her learning path and toward successful completion of the course and MBA program. A few terms later she emailed her professor to thank her for laying the foundation for understanding ethical principles and social responsibility in the context of sustainability and how important honing her business skills in Executive Summaries is now to her career. She was able to explain to her boss all about sustainability, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and how ethical leadership was related to doing business successfully. Her integration of this ethical leadership and its importance to their project got the points across to a busy boss and highlighted the importance of this initiative at her work. On technology fluency: One mid-career professional employed in the financial management field was wondering why acquisition of basic technology skills was important and relevant in his work. Despite lack of motivation to help his team along with online knowledge sharing efforts through building a team web page, he realized how powerful it was to understand the technology concepts and how it can help managers utilize the benefits of modern communications to expand one’s network, reach, and information research abilities. Focusing on development of technology skills alone would not help this student look beyond the tasks he was performing in the classroom. He needed something more than just a task-oriented view to realize how powerful technology can be even in the hands of a non-IT professional. Technology fluency development is one such instrument that helps putting technology in a wider business perspective. Helps outline the differences between skills acquisition and competency development. On teambuilding skills: As has been noted, our program has grown very quickly. Such growth brings students of varying abilities, commitment and dedication. Students form teams at the beginning of the term, and they work together on a series of individual and team assignments, culminating in a final globalization case study. Some teams gel, while others must deal with a member whose performance is not on par with his/her colleagues. During one term, four (out of five) team members contacted the faculty assistant and the professor to express their concerns about the performance of a fifth member. This student was missing deadlines, his written contributions for team assignments were sub-par, and his team members feared that the student's work was bordering on plagiarism. Both the Professor and the FA talked to the student. The faculty assistant encouraged the team members to communicate their concerns with the student and attempt to determine what was going on. The FA also likened this situation to what they may face in the workplace, stressing that teamwork is increasingly the way of life in business today. FA notes: “You may not always like who is on your team, however you do have to learn how to get along with different people - and dealing with conflicts or misunderstandings right away is strongly advised - in our classes as well as in the workplace”. In the end, the student withdrew from the course. Having recognized and addressed the emerging problem using communication and team-building skills, the team was better able to rebound from the loss of a team member, and successfully completed the seminar. On communication skills: One early-career student was doubtful of the importance of executive summaries and graduate-level writing skills in the business world, relating such skills to academia and the ability to convey information to the Professor for the sole purpose of passing the course. Yet she had an opportunity to present a new project to a high-ranking executive while she was still a student in the program. All she was able to do is present a concise summary and results primarily based upon an executive summary prepared for the report (due to the tight schedule for her presentation). The report left a positive impression on the executive, eventually leading to the green light for further research and later project approval. The conclusion is that focusing on writing alone would provide this student with just that - writing skills. Emphasizing application of the writing skills in the context of effective communication (through competency development aided by the class projects, executive-in-residence lectures, and faculty communications) helped make a logical connection between acquisition and application of the skills.
Competency development in blended and online business learning environments with the practical application of Faculty Assistants
Competency Development in Blended and Online Business ...
Competency Development in the Blended and Online Business Learning Environment of the MBA Program at UMUC Faculty Assistants make a difference! November 2007
Contributors <ul><li>Jacob Krive, MBA, MS, Faculty Assistant </li></ul><ul><li>Lee Ann Graul, MBA, Faculty Assistant </li></ul><ul><li>Jomarie Bliss, MBA, MS, Faculty Assistant </li></ul><ul><li>Jane Ross, PhD, Program Director </li></ul>
Outline <ul><li>Faculty Assistant role </li></ul><ul><li>FA / Faculty relationship </li></ul><ul><li>Competency based learning </li></ul><ul><li>Competencies </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges / solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Practical application </li></ul>
<ul><li>Practical application of Faculty Assistants </li></ul><ul><li>to foster </li></ul><ul><li>Competency Development </li></ul>
Faculty Assistant Role <ul><li>FA as “first line” in student contact: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Close monitoring of student performance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assist with linking competencies to assignments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Help students construct their own learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timely completion of effective assignments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Questions or problems with assignment deliverables </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Effective team work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Guidance for working/writing at graduate level </li></ul></ul>
Faculty Assistants / Faculty Team <ul><li>Open communication and teamwork </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty Assistants: value and integral role </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Instructors and Faculty Assistants maintain transparent communications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work together in student support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course Manager updated on any issues Proactive stance is best. Prevent problems! </li></ul></ul>
Competency Based Learning <ul><li>MBA Program </li></ul><ul><li>Students </li></ul><ul><li>Instructors </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty team </li></ul><ul><li>Competencies </li></ul>
Competency <ul><li>“ a knowledge, skill, or attitude that enables one to effectively perform activities of a given occupation or function to the standards expected in employment” 4 </li></ul><ul><li>International Board of Standards for Training and Performance Instruction (IBSTPI) </li></ul>
Competency Selection <ul><li>Multiple sources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State, University, Faculty team including Executive in Residence and Faculty Assistants </li></ul></ul><ul><li>MBA program Faculty bring worldwide experience to competencies needed in this global era </li></ul><ul><li>Competency-based curriculum is continually enhanced through faculty feedback, new research, and consultation with industry leaders 1 </li></ul>
Competencies <ul><li>Why are competencies needed? </li></ul><ul><li>Link “real life” and assignments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>feedback from business community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>bridge studies and professional development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>stimulate self reflection and assessment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>business needs people who are able to apply these critical skills on the job </li></ul></ul>
Competency Characteristics <ul><li>Competency Based Instruction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Competency goes beyond skill acquisition </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reflects knowledge base and its application </li></ul><ul><li>Content-Specific Competencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Different management skills are needed 3 </li></ul></ul>
Acquired skills, abilities, and knowledge Developed in the learning process Traits and Characteristics Skills, Abilities, and Knowledge Competencies Demonstration Assessment of performance Foundation 5 Integrative Learning Experiences Learning Experiences
Challenges / Solutions <ul><li>Diverse student base characterized by range of student preparedness and abilities </li></ul><ul><li>Students often do not understand competency-based learning and importance of competencies </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty may not understand competency-based teaching and learning nor how to apply it </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty Assistants are vital in bridging the gaps </li></ul>
Challenges / Solutions <ul><li>Inexperience (of faculty and students) in applying competencies to course assignments, discussions, and professional development </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Thinking, Planning, Application, Improvement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At the course level, this is reflected in quality of student work, summaries, and wrap-ups </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty Assistant involvement is critical to process improvement and their value increases each term </li></ul>
Challenges/Solutions <ul><li>Connect diverse student-faculty body in an online environment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>– Use of technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Elluminate to connect student and faculty around the world </li></ul></ul></ul>
Practical Application <ul><li>Competencies foster continuous reflection </li></ul><ul><li>Term-long team case study provides opportunities to practice competency development in relatively risk-free situation </li></ul><ul><li>Experiences of MBA program alumni </li></ul>
Practical Application <ul><li>Enhanced learning </li></ul><ul><li>More self-knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Contributes to professional development </li></ul><ul><li>Fosters ‘thought leadership’ </li></ul><ul><li>Real-life experience </li></ul><ul><li>Student examples of competency value </li></ul>
Value of critical thinking competency applied in my work - Barbara Jones, AMBA 606 <ul><li>“ I had been trying, literally, for months, to spend some time with our CFO to present some critical insurance proposals. It was incredibly difficult to schedule time with him, and I finally asked for a maximum of 30 minutes. I had to present months of research and proposals, but I did it by creating a bullet-format Executive Summary listing challenges and possible solutions, as well as a corresponding table. </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, I included a three bullet recap of my recommended solution. The meeting was over in well under 30 minutes and I had his full support. </li></ul><ul><li>Later he called, complimented me, and thanked me for distilling the facts down to manageable bits of information. I just wanted to let you know that the Executive Summary skills we have practiced this semester can indeed serve us well in our careers.” </li></ul>
Lessons Learned and Discussion <ul><li>Competency development in blended and online business learning environments is hard work for faculty and students alike </li></ul><ul><li>Practical application in competency-based teaching and learning is enhanced by Faculty Assistants working with students and instructors </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion - we welcome your views! </li></ul>
References <ul><li>Waner, K. K. (Dec 1995). Business communication competencies needed by employees as perceived by business faculty and business professionals. Business Communication Quarterly , 58 (4). </li></ul><ul><li>Brown, W. S. (Fall 1998). Power of Self-Reflection through Epistemic Writing (business students evaluating their education). College Teaching p135(1). </li></ul><ul><li>Chyung, S.Y., Stepich, D., & Cox, D. (2006, Aug/July). Building a competency-based curriculum architecture to educate 21st century. Journal of Education for Business , 81(6), 307-314. Retrieved September 22, 2007 from Education Full-Text Wilson Web database. </li></ul><ul><li>International Board of Standards for Training and Performance Instruction. (2005). Competencies. Retrieved September 22, 2007 from http:// www.ibstpi.org/ competencies.htm. </li></ul><ul><li>National Center for Education Statistics. (2002). Defining and assessing learning: Exploring competency-based initiatives (NCES 2002-159). Retrieved September 22, 2007 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/2002159.pdf. </li></ul>
Competency Development in the Blended and Online Business Learning Environment of the MBA Program at UMUC Faculty Assistants make a difference! November 2007