MBA Student Survey Results


The students’ survey responses for the MBA core Operations Management course that ran last semester have been collated. To accentuate the positive, the course is more popular than the government, but the government is not very popular. However, the baseline quality criterion was met: the class did not rise up in open rebellion and attack me with staves.

The course is taught in four day-long sessions, with a case study discussed each week and on three of the days a talk from a senior operations manager. The philosophy of the course is to cover five issues in depth: innovation, lean operations, resource planning systems, operational risk and operations strategy, with the groups developing wikis on a range of current topics that are then shared across the class. The ideal is to get for students to read papers with topical insights in each of these areas. At the moment I can’t find a textbook with good current coverage of these issues and, as noted in the student comments, the cases used (BBVA, Infosys, Naniwa and Hydro One) are not perfect. The students show a need for real world examples of the techniques in use, but in most textbooks the case vignettes are too sketchy to give those insights to classes where some students have no knowledge and some have a great deal of practical experience, but I shall keep looking.

The particular stand-out lowlight of the course was the wiki exercise. For several years I have split the students into groups and had them prepare a wiki on some modish topic in operations mangement, with the topics this year including EFQM, cloud computing and Investors in People. Up to this year I was using Confluence as the wiki-platform linked to student groups created in the university’s Webct virtual learning environment (VLE). After completion the wikis could be opened up to the internet and there was a wide range of options for embedding media and editing the pages. In the summer the university upgraded its VLE to Blackboard Learn 9.1 which seemed to have lots of new useful built-in facilities, one of which was an integrated wiki. Setting up the groups was very straightforward due to the integration with Blackboard, but then things went downhill once students started to use it. Simple page formatting and embedding of images/sound/video that I expected were either tricky or impossible. The interface to the Blackboard wiki was so far removed from the standard encoding used by wikipedia and the other packages I have used that it could even be questioned whether it actually is a wiki platform: as one of the student comments notes “it really was terrible – perhaps in future allow students to find their own platform or improve on the existing one”. I can’t argue with that. Then just to upset me more I found out that the Confluence service had not been discontinued, so next year it will be back to Confluence. Understandably this gave some of the more perspicacious students the impression that I didn’t know what I was doing.

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