Engaging Students Emotionally through Online Simulations

image of Tsedel NeeleyTsedal Neeley, Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Research, first experimented with simulations in the classroom as a doctoral student. She crafted vignettes and scenarios on paper aimed at developing empathy, cross-cultural awareness, and behavioral change and presented them to students. As she continued her research on fostering collaboration between distributed team members from different cultures and with different language abilities, Neeley sought to develop a virtual teaching tool that could simulate these dynamics for students and provide an opportunity to gain insight into the cognitive and emotional challenges that arise for members and managers of global teams. She developed an online Global Collaboration Simulation, The Tip of the Iceberg, in which students are randomly assigned roles of native or non-native English speakers at a fictional organization. In the fifteen-minute simulation, the program constrains students’ actions to mimic communication patterns of real teams and provide firsthand experience of how communication challenges can interfere with work goals. The simulation has been used in courses at Harvard Business School and by thousands of people worldwide since its launch. 

Piloting an experimental and experiential course

Senior Lecturers Archie Jones, Henry McGee, and Jeffrey Bussgang teamed up to design a new Harvard Business School (HBS) course, Scaling Minority Businesses, in which students learn about the unique challenges of Black-owned businesses. Students are grouped into teams and paired with one of ten Black entrepreneurs in the Boston area, support their business’s strategic initiatives, and assist in their continued growth. The instructors designed the class around three modules: (1) systemic racism’s impact on wealth creation more broadly, which established for students, as Professor Jones put it, “where we are and how we got there;” (2) access to capital, including what organizations can do and how the market needs to engage differently with Black-owned businesses; and (3) access to customers, for instance supplier diversity programs and how to get the first big contract. Given the lack of traditional cases about minority businesses and their challenges, the instructors designed “live cases,” with the Black business leaders visiting the class and students working with them in real-time. The professors invited a range of class speakers, including experts from the Brookings Institution and Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.  

Capturing conversation to build ideas collectively

Ryan BuellRyan Buell, Finnegan Family Associate Professor of Business Administration, leveraged Scribble for his remote course to help students engage with case discussion longitudinally and collectively. The virtual board platform allowed students to engage online in lieu of an in-person experience in which the blackboard operates as a coordinating element for case discussion. “It helps students put the pieces together, allowing them to track any idea shared by the faculty and shared by the students.”

Mutually beneficial partnerships

Robert S. Huckman, Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Business AdministrationAriel Dora Stern, Poronui Associate Professor of Business AdministrationRobert S. Huckman, Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Business Administration and Ariel Dora Stern, Poronui Associate Professor of Business Administration pair student groups with local hospitals to address challenges related to access, adoption of new delivery methods, and the quality of care in their elective course, Transforming Healthcare Delivery. This applied work is rooted in a series of cases that have been written by Harvard Business School (HBS) faculty and articles that cover broader ideas from the literature and previous research.

Cultivating the skill and the orientation to listen

Joshua Margolis, Into PracticeJoshua Margolis, James Dinan and Elizabeth Miller Professor of Business Administration, demands of himself intensive listening while teaching, and asks the same from students: “When I listen really carefully it allows me to push students hard and help them see what they have within themselves.” While students speak, he makes direct eye contact and maintains it even when he moves in the classroom so they’re addressing the rest of the class, not just him. Margolis asks a series of follow-up questions and then summarizes after every three to five interactions.

From the source: Guest speakers in the classroom

GarvinDavid Garvin, C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration, utilizes guest speakers in General Management: Processes and Action in order to promote deeper understanding of managerial and organizational realities. He has experimented with and refined three approaches—Q&A with a case study protagonist, themed presentations and small group conversations with executives, and open-ended conversations with a guest lecturer (often an alum) about their career.

Learning through literature: ‘Closer to life as it is really lived’

SucherSandra Sucher, MBA Class of 1966 Professor of Management Practice, teaches “The Moral Leader” at Harvard Business School with a literature-based approach. The MBA elective, introduced by Professor Emeritus Robert Coles in the 1980s, has since been taught by a number of HBS faculty. Each course meeting is dedicated to a work of fiction, biography, autobiography, or history, and the structured discussion forces students to describe and analyze the characters’ decision in context before passing judgment. “Students are brought much closer to life as it is really lived than they are in traditional lectures or case discussions."