FAYETTE, Iowa (November 25, 2013) – It's a first at Upper Iowa University – coursework that goes beyond text books or even what have come to be known as "ebooks." The Upper Iowa University Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is going digital. Coursework will be offered through internet-capable mobile technology that seamlessly pieces together the best of a variety of textbooks to meet course objectives and prepare students for careers in business.
Kristopher Blanchard, Ph.D., associate professor of business and chair of the University's MBA program, said UIU is collaborating with McGraw-Hill Education to create digital course material for 22 MBA courses. The first classes to use the new digital material were offered during Term 1 of the 2013-14 academic year and all MBA courses will be updated by the end of the academic year.
"Any of our instructors can create unique, customizable content for their courses. They can pull content from any McGraw Hill Education title – a chapter from this book, another section of a book from over here – and combine the best and most appropriate material into a single digital 'text' that precisely meets the learning objectives for the course. The professor can even add notes, highlight sections of the content and share it with everyone in the class," Blanchard said. "Students access the content through a mobile app or internet browser. They can highlight the content, as well, or print it out if they prefer paper."
Blanchard said that McGraw-Hill Education has worked with other colleges and universities to develop an all-digital course but that the UIU MBA project is the first time the publisher has collaborated to develop an all-digital degree program. "We're figuring it out together," he added. "It's so quick and easy to make changes or update the content. For example, I requested a new custom content cover on Friday, and it was uploaded by Monday. Being able to switch out chapters and add commentary makes our content interactive."
Blanchard noted the project features adaptable learning assessments that develop student-specific assessments that enable individual monitoring of progress through the content. "Each student is only tested over what she or he needs to master and only moves on once the content is mastered," Blanchard explained.
In addition, the program offers business simulations that allow MBA students to practice decision making in business situations they encounter in simulated student-run athletic footwear and digital camera companies. Other simulations are available through Excel, video or interactive learning tools.
"These simulations provide students the opportunity to practice running companies, make management decision, and create strategies. It's a great way to apply theory from the classroom," Blanchard said.
Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Education, has a vision of a digital learning company, according to Blanchard, who says he envisions bookless classrooms.
"If we're serious about improving outcomes for our students, we need to make sure the digital transition happens—and happens soon," said Kibby. "In addition to improving access and affordability, digital can help instructors deliver the type of personalized learning experiences that have the potential to not only boost engagement but make real improvements in grades and graduation rates. We're looking forward to the opportunity to generate meaningful results for Upper Iowa University and its students."
"The all-digital content approach, which includes the simulations and adaptive assessment, better meets the students' needs, captures their attention, and makes learning the material more interesting. We believe that we will observe an increase in student retention with in MBA courses," Blanchard said. Although it is too early for statistically significant data, he points to the apparent impact on one MBA course. The professor has reported that although he usually loses about half of his students over the eight-week course, he lost only 2 of 20 students during the term in which he used the all-digital approach.
"We believe this has great potential for success," Blanchard said. "We are now able to deliver content that caters to different learning styles – visual and auditory. The course material will be less costly for students and more physically manageable for both students and faculty. We won't be carting around huge loads of heavy books anymore. Most important, the faculty won't be settling for a textbook that's 'good enough' and just comes close to the course objectives; the content will match the desired learning outcomes, and ultimately the students will benefit."
The Upper Iowa MBA program, one of the University's fastest growing programs, currently has more than 350 students, which is up 46 percent from a year ago.
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leadership development opportunities to more than 6,200 students—nationally and internationally—at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.
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