At the master’s degree level, we’re
training experts and an expert has to know his or her trade. They have to know the
key elements of technique that they’re going to be applying as
professionals. So they have to know how to analyze. They have to know their way
around a financial statement, for example. They have to know how the economy works. And there’s an awful lot of theory and there’s also an awful lot of concepts
and they’re awful lot of tools that go along with that. So the approach that I use to teaching,
especially MBA classes, is actually to flip the classroom. And what do we mean
by flipping the classroom? Well, what we mean is we take the basic
level of technical instruction — so the tools, the techniques, a lot of the
rigorous mathematical techniques that we cover, analytical techniques — and what
I’ve done is I’ve put a lot of that instruction into a video format. The
students have access to these videos online, so they can view these videos from
anywhere, at any time. And what’s nice is that it almost replaces the textbook in
the sense that they can see the material delivered. They have a set of handouts in front of
them. And different from their being in a classroom setting, if they don’t
understand something, if they didn’t quite catch what the instructor said, they can
actually rewind the video — go back and look at it again. What we spend most of
our time in class then doing would be describing real-world cases. So things
that are actually going on in the business world at that very moment. And I will actually hold off on choosing exactly what’s going to be covered in
class until the latest possible moment so that what I bring into class is going
to be current, it’s going to be something that they’re reading about it in the
newspaper. It may be something that they’re actually encountering on the job
at work. So if it involves a Baltimore company — very often I’ll pick and choose
from the Baltimore companies and bring as much as I can from the local economy
into the class. When you get into the real world, application gets very dirty. You’re working with incomplete data, you’re
working with more data than you need, you have to choose what data do I want what
data can I ignore? What data don’t I have and
where can I go out and find it? So a lot of the case problems in which the
students are engaged require them to go out and actually dig some of these data
up themselves. Change is inevitable — it’s constantly
underway. Understanding change is more about
understanding how the context for the way in which you do business has changed as a result. So one example is information technology. What does it mean that we’ve gone from punch cards and mainframe computers to handheld phones that can do 20, 30, 40, 50 times the amount of work? And my message to the students is make sure that you master the technology and that the
technology doesn’t master you. The theme into which the finance and
economics material falls that I teach is called managing performance and risk.
Risk typically exists in an environment where it can be measured. And when
something can be measured, it can be managed. And when it can be managed it
can be, to a degree, controlled. And not only are the students learning a lot, but I’m learning a lot. I’ve found that engaging in these discussions, for me as
a professional, has opened doors that have led to research questions and the pursuit
of research topics that I probably never would have even been aware of had I not
had these opportunities to talk to some of these students. i’m working with a student now from Saudi Arabia who’s taking some of the models that he learned in class and he’s
applying them to value companies in Saudi Arabia. And he’s explaining things
to me about how the economy works in Saudi Arabia and these things are news
to me. When students bring that kind of
ground-level experience into the classroom with them, it really opens the door for a lot of
learning on both sides of that classroom.