Technology and its Impact on International Business Education: A Perspective
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This fall, my wife and I took our daughter to start her freshman year in college. Our vehicle was loaded with the goods vital to freshmen: jeans, CDs, and a PC with 500 mhz, 128 ram, zip drive, etc. A long way from the portable typewriter I took to college. My daughter's iMac can do so much more than just word processing, such as spreadsheets, graphics, Web surfing, and even games. Yes, the technology of students and their professors has changed a lot in the last twenty years. Here, I demonstrate how technology has altered the work of college professors in the past decade, but first I provide my technological background in order to reveal my perspective and possible biases.
Although a professor of international management, I come from a liberal arts background. As an undergraduate, my technology was a manual typewriter. My first exposure to the computer in graduate school was with a mainframe using punched cards fed to the machine by an operator. I received my first PC in 1988 after twelve years as a faculty member. During the nineties, technology has proliferated with the advent of e-mail, presentation software, and the ubiquitous Internet.
The technologies employed so readily in 2001 are largely less than a decade old, and I have used them for about 40% of my professional life. Below I describe how current technologies are used in my field.
The PC is indispensable in preparing notes and spreadsheets for class use. Today, I prepare lectures with
PowerPoint. The color slides
can be integrated with pictures, video, and animation for presenting material.
Students can access these slides on the network anytime for review.
E-mail has enabled me to more readily communicate with students on assignments. I also require group projects, whereby, students must exchange information by e-mail to prepare for class. Additionally, many individuals use e-mail in lieu of office hours.
simulations have been developed for international business. For example, I use a
simulation (Keys & Wells, 1997) in which groups of students compete as a
multinational firm in four world markets. Each group makes relevant company
decisions as well as copes with tariffs and exchange rates. Using this simulation
via the Internet, we competed against other schools from Brazil, England,
Pakistan, South Korea, and the U.S., a truly international
experience! My students have found
simulations to be a useful to their learning as indicated by their course
comments. "The [simulation] was a great learning tool and I think every business
student should have to do it." or "[The simulation] was interesting - a good way
to apply what we are learning in class."
My students have found simulations to be a useful to their learning as indicated by their course comments. "The [simulation] was a great learning tool and I think every business student should have to do it." or "[The simulation] was interesting - a good way to apply what we are learning in class."
Teaching with Online Technologies
The Internet's interactivity is especially suited to higher education (Katz, 2000). E-mail is possible worldwide, world library sources are accessible to most students, and Web sites for courses are possible. My students have found the Internet to be an excellent source of information for both short country reports and term projects. I have developed Websites for all of my courses; these can be accessed at Hoffman online. These sites provide a syllabus as well as instructions for assignments, exercises, reading material, and links to other international business resources. These sites save paper, are readily accessible by students, and can be updated.
Last year my graduate international business seminar developed competing Web pages for a South Korean firm that was seeking to enter the U.S. market. The published sites were evaluated by the firm, and the students and I gained hands-on experience with e-commerce. A marketing colleague has used distance technology to hold joint sessions between his MBA class and another at our partner school in France. The time difference and the unreliability of the technical hook ups make such collaborations difficult to use regularly. Nonetheless, it proved to be an interesting experience for the students, and such transnational courses are predicted to increase with technology improvements (Downes, 2000).
Textbook publishers have
also embraced technology by providing PowerPoint slides of each chapter,
Internet exercises, course Web page services, and additional exercises and
current information all available on their Web site, see for example,
McGraw-Hill's Power Web and interactive Web exercises. Another feature offered is computerized custom publishing; whereby, faculty members can assemble their
own texts with chapters, articles, and cases
from the publisher's sources. Other companies design Web pages and entire
courses for faculty, such as the International Center for Distance
Learning or Blackboard's.
The Internet has also
enabled me to "teach" at a distance. This past summer I supervised twelve off-campus interns
largely using the Internet and e-mail. Last
year, I supervised an independent study done by a graduate student conducting a
survey in Chile. All correspondence, drafts of questionnaires, and interim and
final reports were sent via e-mail. We used telephone conferences to handle more
difficult issues. In the past, such "courses" were either foregone or
involved much less faculty-student interaction.
In the past, such "courses" were either foregone or involved much less faculty-student interaction.
Currently, a colleague and I
are developing a completely Web-based graduate international business course
using a course management software program (WebCT) that not only provides course content and
external links but also e-mail, chat room, testing, and grading capabilities. In
short, we will be able to teach and manage the course totally online,
Yes, technology has changed my teaching, and so far, largely for the good. Students learn better when they interact and process information rather than just hear it (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991).Technology has forced me to carefully organize the material I present in class. In the past I used overheads to present selected tables or figures. Now each module I teach is accompanied by a full set of slides that serve as an outline of the lecture as well as provide tables and figures. Students receive verbal and visual stimuli to reinforce the material, and they can see how the material is organized. Cassady ( 1998) has also shown that students perceived computer- aided lectures to be clearer and more interesting, and as one of my students noted, "Visual aids are useful in keeping the class awake and attentive." The use of technology also encourages higher learning (Burge,1999). I now devote more class time to discussions, cases, and video exercises because I can more efficiently present the material. Less time lecturing seems to be a relief to students who have never found me to be an inspiring orator.
Students appear to be more successful and satisfied with the electronic learning experience. Average test grades have increased 3% and my course evaluations have improved 15% over the period during which I introduced these teaching technologies. Nevertheless, the start up cost did come at the expense of slowing down my research activity.
Technology has always been important in my research by allowing me to perform complicated statistical analysis and to produce professional manuscripts. Research materials are now more available to students and faculty alike. My business school has launched a Global Programs Web site that provides resources on international business. University libraries (See Salisbury State) are making their card catalogues and full text articles available on their Web sites. International business schools are developing their own databases such as the World Competitiveness Report compiled by IMD in Switzerland. One can easily search these databases and extract needed data.
The two leading statistical
analysis packages for academic research, SAS
(Statistical Analysis System) and SPSS
(Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), are powerful data
manipulation, analysis, and presentation packages that are now available on
one's PC and no longer require sophisticated programming knowledge. Today’s word
processors can be formatted to handle many styles and routines such as tables and footnotes, and
to produce manuscripts. Upon acceptance of a manuscript, many
journals, like the Journal of International Business Studies, require
that authors submit both an electronic and a hard copy of the final work.
Today’s word processors can be formatted to handle many styles and routines such as tables and footnotes, and to produce manuscripts. Upon acceptance of a manuscript, many journals, like the Journal of International Business Studies, require that authors submit both an electronic and a hard copy of the final work.
Some publishers are offering the contents of their journals online for a fee.
MCB University Press provides access to over 100
journals. This publisher has instituted PeerNet, whereby, registered faculty reviewers receive
manuscripts via e-mail and return their reviews using a form available on the
Internet. I have participated in such a
review and have found it to be effective. The use of technology in publishing will only
accelerate as universities begin to require electronic doctoral
theses (Moxley, 2000). This generation of technologically-empowered
faculty will transform publishing.
Technology has benefited my research. I spend less time searching for literature and more time reading and interpreting it. My searches are less serendipitous and more comprehensive. I spend more time interpreting rather than generating results. Manuscript revisions are more easily coordinated with coauthors using e-mails and faxes, and I do not have to wait in the secretarial queue to produce a manuscript.
The academic profession is also
assisting students and faculty in their learning and research activities. The
Academy of International Business has a Website
through which its various services, including faculty placement, meeting notices,
and a listserv (for posting ideas) can be accessed. The Academy of Management's
International Division also
has a Web site with
information relevant to its members.
also has a Web site with information relevant to its members.
Over twenty federally-assisted Centers of International Business Education and Research (CIBER) have been established at major research universities around the nation. Each CIBER has its own mission. The one at Indiana University provides information on teaching methods and resources in international business. Purdue University's CIBER provides a clearing house for information on all of the CIBERs.
Service to the profession is more efficient with the use of technology. I can obtain conference information when I need it from a Web site and return to it if I missed something. Making e-mail contact with colleagues is easier compared to phone tag or snail mail. Finally, the process of actually producing a review is simplified with word processing, and e-mail offers a faster turnaround time for the journal or conference.
The examples cited above provide some highlights on how technology has changed my professional work. The view presented here is limited to my own experience.
Technology has forced me to think more about how to best present course material I teach. It has enabled me to broaden classroom learning by devoting more time to discussions and by providing projects in which students learn how businesses use technology. Compared to a decade ago, technology provides more dynamic teaching materials and experiences (e.g. simulations, links with overseas classes, etc.); it has removed some of the drudgery of learning, such as finding resource materials. The use of technology for research enables me to perform more comprehensive literature searches more quickly, and I am able to devote greater time and understanding to my projects. Moreover, I can spend more time presenting results as opposed to generating them. Professional information and services are more readily available and easier to perform using Web sites and e-mail.
Still, there have been some costs. Learning new technologies takes time and comes at the expense of other activities. My desire to enhance my teaching led to dealing with the technology learning curve. Initially, this factor cut into my research productivity. Other costs include: equipment and system breakdowns (keep a spare set of overheads) and the maintenance time needed to update Web sites. Fortunately, as vendors develop software that can use each other's output, the maintenance task has been simplified. Software upgrades can also be a source of concern because they always bring new things to learn. However, one can use most upgrades to do the old chores without the need to learn something new right away.
My advice to the "technically challenged" is to adopt new technologies incrementally. Learn one new technology at a time for a specific use. For example, select one lecture that you will place in a Power Point presentation. It took me about three semesters to convert my lectures to this format for an entire course. Be a follower rather than an early adopter of technology; then you will have other colleagues who can help you get on the learning curve more quickly. For more complex technologies, such as Web courseware, work with a partner and wait until your university adopts a platform and offers training classes and support. These are the only circumstances under which I would consider developing an online course because such courses require more preparation prior to delivery (Brindle & Levesque, 2000).
Today's teaching/learning tools have expanded well beyond the use of voice, chalk, and pen. Moreover, professors of my generation will have to continue to adopt new teaching technologies if we are to connect with my daughter's technologically-savvy generation and those that follow.
Brindle, M., &Levesque, L. (2000). Bridging the gap: Challenges and prescriptions for interactive distance education. Journal of Management Education, 24(4), 445-457.
Burge, E. J. (1999). Using learning technologies: Ideas for keeping one's balance. Educational Technology, 1(6), 45-49.
Cassady, J.C. (1998). Student and instructor perceptions of the efficiency of computer-aided lectures in undergraduate university courses. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 19(2), 175-189.
Downes, S. (2000, May/June). The internet and transnational education. The Technology Source. Retrieved 26 July 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://horizon.unc.edu/TS/commentary/2000-05.asp
Katz, Y. J. (2000). The comparative suitability of three ICT distance learning methodologies for college level instruction. Education Media International, 37(1), 25-30.
Keys, J. B., & Wells, R. A. (1997). The
multinational business game: A simuworld of global strategy, 4th ed. Little Rock, AK: Micro Business Publications.
Moxley, J. (2000, March/April). Academic scholarship in the digital age. The Technology Source. Retrieved 21 August 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://horizon.unc.edu/TS/commentary/2000-03.asp
Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections: New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.