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Multimedia Courseware Shell Proposal Essay

A new experimental degree program, the Bachelor of Applied Business Program (BAB), was launched Spring Quarter 1994 by Continuing Education and Extension. BAB is a practitioners’ degree for the working adult student. The emphasis in the program is on learning skills and accessing information to apply to solving practical workplace problems in a rapidly changing business world. The program was developed with substantial involvement of the Inver Hills Community College, the business community in the Twin Cities area, and the University of Minnesota’s Continuing Education and Extension (CEE) unit. This is the first degree program offered by CEE, and—if successful—it will serve as a model for redefining “outreach” in the urban corridor to fulfill part of the land grant mission of the University of Minnesota. We are currently in the process of developing the course materials and selecting faculty to teach in the program for Fall Quarter 1994.

Note that the three distinguishing features of the BAB program include a number of technical features, graphic elements, or applications that could be significantly enhanced by multimedia courseware:

• Courses are being designed with substantial involvement of area businesses to give students “hands on” experience, including leading and participating in group work; skills for managing upward and downward business relationships; storing, accessing, and retrieving information; creating and implementing budgets, operations flowcharts, schedules, and staffing plans. • Learning outcomes will be specified for each course and applications-related competencies will be integrated into courses across the curriculum.

These will include emphases on writing, speaking, and visual communication; using technology and information management techniques, engaging in applied problem-solving and critical thinking skills, working in teams, quality in the workplace, ethics, and the dynamics and management of a diverse workforce. • Practicum/project work will also be an important aspect of the BAB curriculum and students will be encouraged to develop and maintain a portfolio of their coursework and practical experiences which can later be used as evidence of the competencies that they have developed.

Our business partners stressed that the BAB upper division courses must be applied and skills-oriented, making use of interactive learning modules that model actual workplace situations. Moreover, the courses must integrate both medium and message into a fast-paced, electronically connected, multimedia learning environment that requires that students take the initiative and work on real projects with limited supervision.

Project Description

Under an earlier MinneMac grant the principal investigator, Elizabeth Michaels, collaborated with Deborah Henderson and Ann Douglas to create WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum), a courseware shell, for delivering instruction in writing, pharmacy, and business courses. This shell has been used extensively in the English Department since 1990, at Grace High School since 1991, and for the past two years, in five Central and Eastern European countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. The major shortcomings of WAC are its lack of graphics or visual capabilities and its lack of integration with other software packages.

However, if we could integrate the basic principles of text delivery that we have already developed in WAC with the capabilities of the PowerMac 7100—specifically with its AV Video, CD-ROM, and color display, we could develop a powerful multimedia component that will teach students how to manage a business “from their desktops.” Moreover, by linking to other programs, like Microsoft Project™, Excel™, or Director™, we can create a multi-functional learning tool that can be used in labs and for distance learning throughout Minnesota.

The multimedia courseware shell we propose to develop will provide an innovative and easily updated method of delivering timely, practical, high quality business courses to working adults. The PowerMac 7100 which we are requesting will be used initially by the multimedia courseware development team: Elizabeth Michaels, Principal Investigator (English); Mr. Pat Lingren, Program Director (CEE); and our project consultant, William Rudel (Carlson School of Management). After the courseware has been developed and alpha tested, faculty designing the target courses will be trained in the use of the courseware shell to develop their own multimedia course modules.

The project we propose, therefore, is to design an interactive, multimedia courseware shell, initially for four key courses in the curriculum. The BAB MultiMedia Courseware shell (BAB-MMC) will enable us (1) to develop multimedia case studies and (2) to create course materials which will enable students to integrate various project planning, database, spreadsheet, business graphics, and electronic mail packages with textual information in their classes. The BAB-MMC will serve two purposes: as a training tool for innovative and experimental curriculum development for BAB faculty and as a teaching/learning tool for BAB students. The following is a description of the four courses and how we will use the BAB-MMC in each of them.

1. Planning and Implementing at the Business Unit Level (4 cr.) This course focuses on creating and implementing plans such as operations flowcharts, budgets, schedules, and staffing plans at the business unit level. The BAB-MMC will integrate these flowcharts, budgets, schedules, and staffing plans as well as the presentational software for creating written and oral briefings for presenting, monitoring, and revising these plans. It will also contain strategic planning instruction and forecasting techniques. Moreover, the course will make use of multimedia case studies to give students practice in solving real logistics and planning problems.

2. Project Management in Practice (4 cr.) This course has two objectives: (1) to teach students about project management and the various tools and techniques available to the project lead in such areas as scheduling, coordinating, allocating resources, and monitoring project activities; and (2) to provide students with the opportunity to carry out a field project and put the tools of project management into practice. These projects will be carried out in teams whenever possible. The BAB-MMC will integrate into the course a number of the abovementioned project management tools which will then be used by the students in recording and reporting on their field experiences. The students will also communicate electronically with the instructor and regularly post messages to a class bulletin board as a means of communicating progress and requesting help with problems.

3. Accessing and Using Information Effectively (4 cr.) This course begins with a conceptualization of the role of information in business operations including information systems and data management. The BAB-MMC will serve as a tool for developing short case studies and exercises, which include data-based, text-based, oral, written, and multimedia elements. Students will learn to access external information for the firm through library resources, information search services, CD-ROMs, and periodicals and internal information through desktop database systems, e-mail, or computer conferencing.

4. Practicum (4 cr.) Two of the three forms the practicum could take are (1) to develop a business plan for a new venture or (2) to complete a portfolio of projects which demonstrate transferable skills from previous courses or fieldwork. The BAB-MMC will take the current course materials that we have developed for the business plan and convert them into self-study units which will integrate spreadsheet, cash flow analysis, financial analysis, and graphics packages capable of creating organizational charts and other business graphics to enhance and simplify the preparation of a complete business plan and its pro formas. The third form a practicum could take is a supervised project at the student’s workplace or at another location. For this option, the BAB-MMC will set up a course Website where the students report electronically to the instructor and other students. This will minimize the need for site visits and enable one professor to manage and respond to the individual needs of six to eight students who are enrolled in the practicum in any quarter more efficiently.

Evaluation

The BAB-MMC will be evaluated by the developers conducting user testing on the shell and sample modules and by instructors developing modules for their courses to determine its ease of use and effectiveness as a classroom tool. Students will be asked to evaluate the BAB-MMC as part of their regular course evaluations at the end of each quarter. We will also have two representatives of the Digital Media Center conduct an independent evaluation of the multimedia courseware shell as a teaching/learning tool. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected.


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