Saturday, June 14, 2014

A: Very Carefully

Q: How do you teach a full semester of content in four weeks? Especially when traveling?

A: Very carefully.

MK 360 students building a Business Model Canvas
in our Italian classroom.

Last year, I taught the regular Principles of Marketing class while in Italy.  The students covered all the same topics, did all the same assignments, took the same exams and completed the same number of in-class assignments as the students who take the class in a 15-week on-campus format.  The only difference is that the in-class assignments and current events assignments are based on our location (Italy) and our excursion destinations (Firenze, Urbino, Gubbio, Verona, Venezia, etc.).  The trip isn't an excuse to turn a course into playtime; it's a great opportunity to turn your destination into a learning laboratory.

The canvas keeps growing.

These are real courses

with real homework (just ask my students)

with real answers to life's questions.

Built.  Now, we fine tune in this iteration.

This year, I'm teaching Tourism Marketing.  The students will complete two written papers, ten in-class assignments, five current events assignments, and two exams while visiting seven different Italian cities and living in an eighth--all in four weeks.

So how do the destinations become a learning laboratory?

First, of course, we actually go and explore a destination (e.g., an agriturismo location like the parmigianno-reggiano place I mentioned in the Just Right post).  The students' explorations are often guided by an assignment I've created.  (This like one.)  This allows them a focus for interacting with a new location and the new information learned about a destination.  It gives their interaction intent.

Then, when we return to the classroom, they students can co-create an end product based on the information they gathered while we were on an excursion.  This year, I've had a really positive response from the students as we built Business Model Canvases for the tourism sites we've visited.  This allowed them to enjoy the sites while analyzing them as businesses.  (The canvas also has the added benefit of being very visual, so students who lack a business background can still see how it all goes together.)

So, again . . . .

these are real courses

with real homework (just ask my students)

with real answers to life's questions.

Travel if fun, but sometimes life is hard.

Now. About those life questions.

  • How do I react when I'm outside my comfort zone?
  • How do I react when I can't read the language?
  • Or easily ask for directions?
  • How do I exist without Taco Bell or Domino's or Mi Pueb?
  • How well do I manage my money? 
  • Especially when the listed price needs converted to dollars in my head?
  • And super-especially when the banknotes look like Monopoly money?
  • How do I react to new roommates with interests and personalities different than mine?
  • How well do I manage the distance between me and my friends?
  • How do I adjust from courses that meet three hours a week to one (or two!) that meet six to eight hours a week?  With new homework every day?
  • How do I handle limited access to WiFi and (therefore) my easiest access to my friends?

These are growing up kinds of questions, and college students all must address them EVENTUALLY.  A travel course simply insists on an answer. RIGHT NOW.  As a faculty member, I'm here to help the students find answers.  I can do the same thing on campus, but with smaller numbers and forced proximity of a travel course, it's a bit easier to do on the road.

Every bit of a travel course, to me, hits Millikin's mission statement.

Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Mission:  To Deliver on the Promise of Education
At Millikin, we prepare students for:
  • Professional success;
  • Democratic citizenship in a global environment;
  • A personal life of meaning and value.

Which is what makes my job so amazing and makes Millikin such an amazing place to be.

So, I'll answer the question again.

Q: How do you teach a full semester of content in four weeks? Especially when traveling?

A: With joy and very, very carefully.

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