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Guest Post: Designing the Effective OM Classroom

February 1, 2016

Matthew_Drake-1Today’s guest Post comes from Prof. Matt Drake, who is the Witt Faculty Fellow in SCM at Duquesne University’s Palumbo-Donahue School of Business.

Most of us have heard the common refrain that a student “has never been good at math.” But I have found that the vast majority of my students possess the analytical capabilities that my courses require. Some just need to gain the confidence in these abilities.  My courses are largely still lecture-based on the surface when I present new material. However, I do try to turn the class into active problem-solving sessions wherever possible to keep the students engaged.

When I present example problems, I sometimes get feedback that I go too quickly for some of them to keep up with me. As a compromise, I post the Excel files that I build during class on our course website so that students can download the files and compare their notes to mine.

I also try to use at least a few cases in each course. In my experience, students enjoy and appreciate considering the real-world decision scenarios that cases offer. I have 3 additional thoughts for designing effective OM courses:

  • Be understanding and flexible with deadlines and attendance, especially with part-time students. I always accept late assignments with a point deduction to be fair to other students.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” No one person can be an expert in everything. If students ask questions to which I do not know the answer, I tell them that I do not have an answer off the top of my head. I then try to follow-up after I have had the chance to research the issue. Students seem to appreciate this honesty.
  • Students appreciate rapid feedback to their questions and to their work on assignments. I try to return all graded assignments within a week, and I reply to emails as soon as I can.
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