Monday, January 12, 2015 at 4pm

WBS Looking to Make Classroom Experience More Dramatic: MBA News

WBS seeks creativity in active learning

As the debate over MOOC technology’s potentially harmful effects on traditional seats of higher learning continues to rage, business schools have been keen to stress that an online course or MOOC can never measure up to the classroom experience students receive on campus.

But, repeating this mantra may not be enough in itself – students have to be convinced of the on-campus value for it to ring true.

In this, the MOOC threat may ultimately end up helping business schools by forcing them to reassess the way in which they deliver MBA programs, ensuring that a classroom experience remains attractive in the face of online alternatives - in the eyes of those who pay the tuition fees.

Is enriching campus learning best response to MOOC threat?

At Warwick Business School, an entire department has been charged with enriching campus learning and the classroom experience. WBS Create is turning to the creative arts - drama, music and design – in looking for new approaches to teaching, approaches that focus on ‘active learning’.

“Faculties everywhere want to be creative but they don’t have the time or the mandate, so we have a department that engages with them and asks that of them,” WBS Create assistant dean, Ashley Roberts, explains in a press release.

“Using arts-based methods like dance, drama and music allows them to have a much more interactive learning experience, it is richer and in the end more enjoyable than passively taking in information,” adds Roberts, who teaches organizational behavior on Warwick Business School’s EMBA program.

In the search for adding active learning to the classroom experience, Warwick Business School is now collaborating with Harvard University’s Terry Aladjem - a social studies professor and an executive director for Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning – a principal aim of which to drive research-based pedagogical innovation.

Aladjem believes that passive learning isn’t nearly as effective as a class that allows students to immerse themselves in a subject:

“The goal of education is to remember what you have learned. It is one thing to hear a story or read a story, but it is another thing entirely to be in a story - students will remember it,” he says.

Warwick Business School turns to Greek tragedy

SophoclesOne such story being used at Warwick Business School is Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone, one of his three Theban plays set in the era of mythical king, Oedipus.

The play provides the setting for a case study in which Warwick Business School students are to find investment opportunities in the ancient city of Thebes and its sphere of influence, dubbed an emerging market.

“It [the case study] sees students work together and to work to real-world specifications and expectations. The playfulness of the imagined task and roles encourages students to look for possibilities, experiment, not be afraid to be wrong and find an effective consensus,” says Roberts.

The Greek tragedy is just one example of how WBS Create intends to add a bit of sparkle to the school’s classroom experience and set it apart from its online offerings – something that could prove vital in addressing the perceived threat of MOOCs. As Harvard’s Aladjem observes:

“Universities have to figure out and articulate what we have to offer that is different from the online world and why it is special, engaging with each other and engaging with the physical space. This use of theater as story-telling with students actively involved in the process is wonderful.”

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Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).