It didn’t take me a long time to realize the huge difference between North American and Chinese classrooms. Active learning is one of the most exciting features that can be both challenging and refreshing for international students.
Our marketing professor in the first period was excellent at creating an atmosphere of active engagement in the classroom. I remember back to the very first class when we were asked to speak a little bit about where we came from and what our first language was. I was shocked by the cultural and lingual diversity in the classroom (one of my classmate’s spoke 5 languages!).
The first case of active learning was the observation of consumer behavior at a local Starbucks store. The project required my team to observe how customers make their ordering decisions. Observations we made included:
- As customers came into the store, what was their first reaction?
- What did they order?
- Who were they with?
- What was the service and layout of the store?
Instead of telling us why Starbucks was so successful, the professor let us figure it all out by ourselves. Two surprising observations we made was how feminine the decoration in the store was and how many people came into the store to use the bathroom. The key concept our instructor introduced in class was how to brand ourselves and how to position a product which provided us a new way of thinking about marketing and ourselves.
Of course, not all the instructors are this enthusiastic in class. To clarify, our professor for Business Strategy had great class engagement in a low-key way. I enjoyed his class because of the broad examples he used and the excellent analysis he illustrated. Further, comments from my classmates in his lectures were very well organized, clearly communicated and rich in content. An example was how he used case analysis to help us digest what we had learned in class. Further, he created a blog with different topics for students who were not comfortable expressing their opinions in class.
It has always been so enjoyable to listen to different comments and opinions in class (the creative and hilarious presentations don’t hurt either!). To close, the student-faculty interaction and active engagement in the MM program has truly enriched my academic experience.