The days of turning off your cellphone before class are gone.
For Laurier MBA students, having their BlackBerry is as important as coming prepared with a textbook.
On their first day of class, 100 full-time Waterloo MBA students received a free BlackBerry, launching Laurier’s MBA BlackBerry pilot program. In partnership with Research in Motion and Rogers Communications Inc., Ginny Dybenko, the school’s dean of business and economics, is looking to revolutionize the way her students learn.
“I’ve always been a real high-tech freak,” says Dybenko. “I see first-hand how effortlessly people learn in informal environments. Nothing holds them back and news travels at light speed via the Internet. I could contrast that with what I saw in the classroom — the prof standing at the front and trying to push factoids into the students’ heads. I wondered if there wasn’t an opportunity to use the informal enthusiasm and energy towards technology and meld it with what were trying to do in the classroom.”
Deborah Carter says yes. “I love it, it’s really enhanced the learning experience for me,” says the MBA student who is a first-time user of BlackBerry and smartphones in general. For those new to the technology, Laurier offers tutorials throughout the year to increase their proficiency with the new teaching tool.
The aim is to increase accessibility, collaboration and the use of multi media says Dybenko: Professors have constant access to students through applications like Mobile Chalkboard, which pushes content like Power Point slides or assigned readings directly to a BlackBerry.
“Collaboration is also a huge plus,” says Carter. “We’re divided into work groups of six people for the first term. We do all of the major group projects together. It can be tough getting six people in the same place. The BlackBerry messenger application allows us to collaborate and give real-time information, regardless of where we are.”
Finally, there’s the benefit of integrating with current social media. “We had an official BlackBerry launch, where we heard from executives from Rogers and BlackBerry,” recalls Carter.
“Students could videotape presentations and upload them in real-time to YouTube. From that, we had a discussion about how to integrate YouTube into our classes. Could we do pitching assignment via YouTube?”
The skills will translate to the working world, says Dybenko. “They’ll be effective first day on the job. Which is really our intent at Laurier. We believe in a very relevant curriculum.”
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