Collaborative Learning Exercise in facilitating writing a “ Marketing Plan”SLIM changed its syllabus and the methodology of assessment with its repositioning drive. Almost all thesubjects have an assignment as an integral part. As a result in addition for the exams every student hasto write an assignment which carries about 20% of the marks. However, the subject Marketing Planningdoes not have an exam and it is totally an assignment. Every student who takes up this subject has towrite a marketing plan for a specific product or service of his won choice. Writing and forwarding themarketing plan bears 60% of the marks and making a 20 minute presentation on the plan written bears40% of the marks.An excellent test book and proper guidance to write the selected marketing plan were given to thestudents. General Format of a Marketing Plan was given to students to adopt with changes to suit theirproduct or service.After few weeks of basic lectures and discussions, students were asked to present the work donetowards the marketing plan in stages. On the day of presentation, students were asked to makecomments of the content and the presentation skills of the presentations made during the day. Thestudents who presented learnt a lot from the comments made and the participants also learnt as towhat should be done and what should not to be done. However, most of the students found it difficultto meet the deadlines given in the class for presentations. The attendance to the class became decliningday by day as student who had not finished as per the deadline were reluctant to come for classes.My dilemma as a lecturer was how do I motivate and facilitate their writing a rather extensive marketingplan where they had to use almost all the subjects that they have learnt throughout their DiplomaProgram in all three stages. All what I could do is to provide them a proper format, guide them andclarify points when questions were raised. But that did not really work effectively. If it was like a case study that is commonly meant to find the answer, I would have separated them togroups and let them find the answer. But this issue was not that type and each and every marketing planwere different from each other. There was no similarity. It was like supervising dissertations. But in suchcases a supervisor is given only few dissertations to supervise. But here I had more than 50.I read few articles on group based methodologies in teaching but could not find a proper answer.However, I knew one thing for sure, that students tend to work more even on their individual projectswhen they are taken into a different environment and let them work in groups. So a proposal was madeto SLIM Education Division that I need to take students out of SLIM and have a one full day residentialworkshop. They were positive and the request was granted.Everyone was asked to bring all the material they have collected towards their assignment. Almost allhad their laptops. They had their information collected towards the assignment in digital or hard copyform.The students were offered food, lodging and transport at a cost of Rs. 2500 (much lower than the realcost). The workshop was announced in three weeks in advance. However, most of the students were not
convinced that they would be able to write the Marketing plan even with this arrangement. They couldnot believe their own capacity as they have not experienced of doing something that is required muchmore than average work. Only 7 students confirmed until the closing date of the confirmations for theworkshop. But few students who confirmed and the Education Division of the SLIM did not give up andcalled all the students several times and got the confirmation of 25 students. That’s about 50% of thestudents who just came for sake of going out or having fun but not in the belief of completing theassignment.We took them to MAS Fabric Park Training Center at Thulhiriya on 7th April. All came in time and couldleave Colombo by 6.00 pm. and reach Thulhiriya at 8.15. We commenced the program at 8.30 a.m asscheduled.Methodology used was as follows 1. A concentration exercise was conducted to set the minds of students for a 12 hour nonstop learning exercise. All phones were taken and announced that it will be given only after the completion of the academic work. 2. Presence of SLIMs Assistant Manager Education and later the Manager Education also showed the seriousness of the session and students really realized the seriousness of the workshop. 3. Motivational lecture to summon courage to work in one place and finish the job as the objective of the days program were effectively made. 4. A motivational video was also shown. 5. Then students were asked to line up facing each other and were asked to discuss about the status of their writing the marketing plan. 6. Then each student was asked to sate about the status of the other student who discussed with him or her ( this made everybody to realize that no one has done well but everyone has done something) 7. Each student’s status was written on a flip chart. 8. The students were grouped as per their status and also of the industry that they were writing the Marketing Plan. Still students did not have confidence about the exercise. 9. When students start working together they were asked not embark on the substantial work initially but to sharing ideas and experiences that they had in attempting to write the assignment. That really helped them to appreciate the work they themselves have done individually. Further after some time I observed that some were advising others how to do certain parts of the assignment. That was the expectation of the exercise and was the beginning of getting to work seriously. 10. I welcome their questions and clarifications as and when it arises and I went to each and every group and asked their progress. 11. Whenever I came to my desk, they did not allow me to relax for even five minutes, each and everybody started coming to me asking various clarifications and explanations. That made them realise that there is a person to help them in all their problems. That forced me to talk for more than 10 hours leaving 2 hours for breaks.
12. They started writing the substantive part by step by step. They were showing each other what they have written. That made them more interactive and participative. It also put them into a kind of race running together. Nobody wanted to leave the other and go. A team effort environment was automatically created.13. When the scheduled tea time was announced, nobody got up for tea. They were unanimous that they will have tea after they do further work. Finally several announcements were made for tea before they got up from their seats.14. Soon after tea, few more motivational videos were shown. Some jokes were shared.15. Then students were asked to comment on what they have experienced so far. A student got up and said, he really did not believe what I said at the initial stage but now he understand that it really works and he was on track to finish the job which he had never thought that would work.16. Many shared the same sentiments and they seriously settled to work towards their assignment.17. Late lunch was taken as nobody was worried about lunch as they were engrossed in work.18. Soon after the lunch, we had a “sing a song session” and it was fun. Some entertaining videos were shown and all enjoyed.19. They settled for work and everybody was worried about the level of work and the stage of the work they were in. They just had a quick cup of tea but worked without stopping until 8.00 pm. Before we concluded the sessions.20. After conclusion an opportunity was given for the students to share the experience. All of them endorsed that the session was a tremendous success and the result was beyond their expectation.21. After dinner, students celebrated what they did and had lot of fun and frolic till midnight.22. Although they slept late in the night, everybody came for the early morning meditation scheduled.23. After the meditation, everyone was asked to make a plan for the rest of the work and they did so and confirmed that they would finish the assignment by end of the month and forward it to SLIM in time.24. After breakfast, all of us left at 9.00 a.m. and arrived at SLIM by 11.30 a.m.25. It was a pleasant experience and realization of a new methodology “Collaborative Learning” which could be used for difficult assignments like Marketing Planning. Maxwell Ranasinghe.