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Revamped classroom provides a modern learning experience

Posted by Miriam Breslow on October 31, 2016 in News

Professor Michael Bliemel (standing) teaches one of the first classes to be delivered in the new Executive Analytics classroom

When the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building opened in 2005, it boasted modern computer labs where students could take lecture notes and work on assignments. Now, a decade later, most students are experienced with computers and carry their own. The 2005 computer labs, while still useful, aren’t quite as cutting-edge as they used to be.

“The labs were designed to teach individual students how to click on icons, and were never set up for group work or lectures or sharing of screens,” says Dr. Michael Bliemel, a professor of management information systems in the Rowe School of Business (RSB). Over the past few years, Bliemel and his colleagues have been designing courses to educate students on the use of technology and data analytics in business. They have been aided by software companies such as SAP, which donated millions of dollars of software licenses to the Rowe School. Access to this software, says Bliemel, has changed the way he and others teach. “We have come to realize that the best way to learn these new technologies is by experiencing them as a group,” he says, “working on business cases or data analytics projects or managing simulated companies together.” With the aim of making these courses more hands-on, Bliemel realized the RSB needed a new kind of classroom.

Now, thanks to funding from the Rowe gift and Dalhousie, the school has transformed an old computer lab into the new Executive Analytics Classroom. Ben Goldberg, project manager for the Rowe gift, explains some of the changes: “Construction-wise, we put in new flooring and a lot of wiring.” Instead of rows of desks, the classroom now contains eight “pods” and a central teaching podium. Each pod is equipped with a large-screen TV as well as a computer for each student. The computers can be stored in the tables, which were built in Dalhousie’s machine shop. (“They look amazing,” says Goldberg.) In this classroom, students will be able to share the contents of their computer screen with the rest of their pod or with the entire classroom through the large-screen TVs. This format allows for a less traditional way of teaching, says Goldberg, with more movement among groups of students and by the instructor, more collaboration and more opportunities for real-time, hands-on learning.

 “With the new Executive Analytics Classroom we will be able to deliver the most advanced educational experience possible to Rowe School of Business students,” says Bliemel. He also notes that this classroom will be useful in the school’s Executive Education and Centre for Advanced Management Education programs, teaching members of the business community how to operate with the most up-to-date technology available. “The classroom features the best access in Atlantic Canada to the latest local and cloud-based analytics tools,” he explains. “Our extensive partnerships with leading technology companies are a huge boon.”

In the last few years, explains Bliemel, the Rowe School has increasingly offered opportunities to learn how to use data and technology in business. “We offer a focus on Enterprise Analytics in the MBA program as well as a SAP Student Recognition Award in both Commerce and the MBA, which have received increasing interest,” he explains. “With this space we will be able to further grow our capacity to deliver leading-edge experiential learning in these hot areas.” As he summarizes it: “students will be able to learn new stuff by doing cool things with data in groups.”

The new Executive Analytics Classroom will be showcased in November at a joint meeting of SAP University Alliances, the Rowe School and ASUG (Americas’ SAP User Group), co-hosted by the Rowe School of Business.