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Guest Post: Two Active Learning Approaches When Teaching Large OM Classes

November 11, 2015

Chuck MunsonOur Guest Post today comes from Chuck Munson, Professor of Operations Management at the Washington State University. Chuck joins us as coauthor of our new text editions, due out Jan. 1st.

Despite a call for more active learning and engagement in the classroom by the education community, many instructors believe that to be an impossibility in large classes. Here are a two activities that have worked for me.large class

  • E-Counting Game Pass out an excerpt of the Heizer/Render text containing about 400 words. Offer $20 to the first person who calls out the exact number of times the letter “e” appears and $1 to anybody else matching the correct response after that. Students can only respond once. I always keep my lunch money—students miss about 10-25% of the e’s the first time through. (You can verify the number of e’s by using the Find function in Word.) A histogram of their responses (automatically generated via Excel) shows how horrible the group would be as professional inspectors and the fallacy of 100% human inspection. Automated inspection or acceptance sampling is much better in practice.
  • Group Opinion/Strategy Either provide a topic with many possible strategies (e.g., how to implement JIT production when suppliers are located overseas) or present some sort of problem/game whose outcome can quickly be evaluated via computer after knowing student choices (e.g., best number of servers in a queuing problem). Split the class up into groups of five students each. Give them 10 minutes to discuss. There are various ways to report results: (1) all groups can report, (2) a subset of groups can report, or (3) all groups can turn in write-ups of their decisions. In any case, this is one activity where nearly all students will have participated in class because they’ll talk to a small group of peers much more readily than they’ll talk in front of 100 people.           If you’ve had success with other activities in large classes, we’d love to hear about them!
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