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December 8, 2008
By Claudene Wharton
Knowing your market and customers is a main tenant of marketing. One University of Nevada, Reno marketing professor showed that she practices what she preaches recently, as she received a national award for her innovative online marketing class, which received high praise from her students this fall.
Judy Strauss, associate professor of managerial sciences in the University's College of Business, authored the online Principles of Marketing course that prompted Nick Bugbee, one of her students, to stop by and thank her one busy, pre-finals afternoon this week.
"I just wanted to thank you. I really liked your class," said the 19-year old business management major. "I cooperated and participated more in this class than others, because of the Google group and your other methods. Your videos, demonstrations, everything was so effective and easy to follow, and I could manage my own time."
It was Strauss' use of technology, rigor and personal touch that earned the new course the Helen Williams Award for Excellence in Collegiate Independent Study, presented by the American Association for Collegiate Independent Study at its recent annual conference. It is the only such award given by the group, and the first time a University of Nevada, Reno course has received the honor.
By creating introductory flash videos to each of the 10 learning modules and filming herself in YouTube-like fashion, Strauss was able to make a connection with the students not often found in online courses. She also took many photos for the course, kept text to a minimum, used humor and narrated content herself, giving instruction a personal touch.
"I had photos of the class mascot, 'Barbie Buyer,' a Barbie doll demonstrating different concepts, such as consumer behavior," said Strauss, who co-authored the book Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online, published earlier this year. "I think it was entertaining for the students and gave the course personality and a human touch.".
In addition, the assignments were interactive and involved things that keyed to students' interests, such as doing research involving television commercials and Nielsen ratings, and analyzing their own class survey data regarding College of Business programs. Students interacted through the Google group and discussion boards, and developed individual marketing plans from this collaborative research.
"It was exciting to have an instructor who was excited about technology, and it paid off," said Shannon Brown, assistant director of Independent Learning at the University, who assisted with the project. "She was able to effectively transmit her knowledge and passion for the topic in a dynamic manner that the students responded to."
Strauss credited Brown with creating the environment needed for the course's success. She also said she shares the award with her academic colleagues in the University's Extended Studies unit, Amanda Anderson, the course editor; and Nere Amenabar, the course's technological developer.
"They provide such a supportive environment to do this," Strauss said. "I really didn't know how to do this and wasn't so sure about online courses. But now, I am so convinced that online courses can offer an incredible way for students to learn. They worked harder and were more engaged than many students I've seen in traditional classes. I'm a believer now."