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Guest Post: Using Excel “Active Models” at St. Ambrose U.

October 25, 2012

Our Guest Post today comes from Prof. Rick Jerz at St. Ambrose University, in Davenport, Iowa. The video series he has created is terrific and we encourage you to look it over.

Many students who do not seem to like OM feel that way because they struggle with the mathematical models.  In my courses, I take a different approach.  I use the Heizer/Render text’s Excel Active Models to teach and reinforce modeling techniques and math.  Realistically, business students are typically not going to develop math models. But they might take the models and create more user-friendly ones by using a powerful business tool like Excel.  So why not introduce students to this approach in your course?

For many professors, modeling with Excel can be time demanding.  I encourage you to look at these Active Models provided by the authors. If you give them some time, you will see that they work fine in your class.

One challenge is how to teach students how to use these models.  I  solved this problem by creating my own instructional videos.  The videos give me time to teach the model and provide some tips about using Excel.  The Excel models, combined with my videos, became a great learning environment for students.  Instead of students dreading the OM course, they actually enjoy it and appreciate that they are learning more ways to use Excel creatively in business.  (See some student comments at

By the way, these Active Models are “active” because they use scroll bars to quickly change data and observe a graphic dynamically changing.  This might be the best and easiest way to teach sensitivity analysis. I have found that this approach pulls together the many pieces of OM: concepts, mathematics, modeling, sensitivity analysis, and decision-making.

Here is a link to some examples of my lecture videos,2,3,4, as seen with my “Flash” player.  If you want to move these examples to iTunes and your iPhone/iPod/iPad, here is the feed URL (  that you should copy, then paste into iTunes (Advance|Subscribe to Podcast.)

Judge for yourself.  Watch my videos!

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