This was my first busy week of teaching this semester, with nine research workshops. How to teach business research strategies and sources is very interesting to me, but it’s not a topic that gets as much attention as, say, evaluating and comparing databases. So I decided to post short comments about each cluster of classes I had this week. Feedback or other teaching ideas welcome!
[The Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship just released its Special Issue: Part 2: Information Literacy (2012, issue 1). By spring break I hope to blog about some of those articles.]
Monday: four sections of MGT 309
I wrote about MGT 309 recently. These four sections (9am, 10am, 11am, and 2pm), taught by the same new instructor, have a term project on international business culture. I had them use my Country Research for Business & Marketing guide. We meet in their normal classroom where the students used their laptops or tablets. Each section has between 26-30 students.
The most interesting thing about these workshops is that I had no research strategies to introduce. Instead I had the teams very quickly get to work on my worksheet, in which they go to certain sites (ex. the Country Commercial Guides) or reports (ex. the Political Risk Yearbook in Business Source Complete) and answer specific questions about their country. For example, “review the etiquette section [from this source] and identify two ways you could apply those guidelines to running a business meeting”. I spend most of my time circulating around the teams to answer specific questions.
Do I ever feel guilty (or like a bad teacher) that I don’t begin with an intellectual discussion about research strategies? Yes. But the feeling passes. Still, I would love to hear how other folks would design a research workshop for a topic like this.
Tuesday: MKT 426 at 9:30am
My co-teaching class. Professor Williamson is still leading discussions on the theories and core concepts of international marketing; the research-intensive days are coming up soon. So I don’t contribute too much this morning. Thursday’s class will be different.
We did have a discussion with the students about hard it seems now to land a host concern. Many of the teams still haven’t found one this semester.
Tuesday: BUS 105 at 2pm
This is an “introduction to college life and the business school” class. In the fall semester, there are lots of sections, but only one in the spring. The student teams have an assignment to learn more about a Bryan School major and its career prospects. We met in a business school computer classroom. 23 students.
After introducing myself and reviewing their assignment, we needed to discuss connecting an academic major to a resulting occupation. We gathered on foot around the big whiteboard with each team contributing to our brainstorming with its own pen color. It was challenging linking “entrepreneurship” (for example) with a career defined by the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This exercise was the best part of the workshop.
After that, I talked briefly about the tracking of occupation trends through the BLS and NC Dept. of Commerce and then had the students start researching their career using my worksheet.
Tuesday: Reference Intern Training at 4pm
Part one of a two-hour introduction to marketing research for our interns, all LIS graduate students. After a ten hour orientation to general research and tech skills, the interns get weekly training on specific types of research. I usually spend two hours with the new interns on company and industry research, and two hours the next semester on market research. The veteran interns have already had an introductory workshop on numeric data, led by Lynda Kellam, our sharp data services librarian. (I used to teach that topic before we hired Lynda. Sniff. That was fun to teach. But yes, I’m very glad that Lynda is here.) There are five second-semester interns. We met in the library staff training lab using laptops from the laptop cart.
Part one of “Marketing” focuses on concepts and strategies rather than tools. Actually, we really began with discussing their capstone research project, due a few weeks after the second marketing session: the interns have to research three NC towns to decide which one would be the best location for a new bed and breakfast. I charge the interns to consider demographics, consumer spending trends, psychographics, market and industry trends (can’t forget Mintel and IBIS), and the regional competition. As long as they demonstrate basic competence with those types of research, I don’t care what which city they pick nor how they frame their data and conclusion. (One intern joked about writing how none of them would be good choices — I told him that would be great, as long as he used data to back that conclusion!)
So we discussed concepts and looked at some marketing research questions I’ve saved over the years. I told them that given our limited time, we will focus on U.S. consumer marketing research. We discussed where demographic, consumer spending, and psychographic data come from. Next time we will get into more narrative-based sources like Mintel, but I really push numeric sources in intern training, since non-business librarians historically can get so anxious about data sources and concepts. And I don’t think library students learn much about data in their LIS reference/research classes.
This series of training workshops is another topic I would love to discuss with business librarians sometime: namely, if you had 4 hours across two semesters to teach “business research” to a small group of smart LIS students, what would you teach, and what exercises and homework would you assign?
No classes today. I got caught up with email and entertained a few consultations. The most interesting event was an afternoon talk by the Karen Mills, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, recently promoted to a cabinet seat. Her talk was titled “Path to Entrepreneurial Success: Capitalizing on Opportunities and Resources.” This was a good event at which to be seen, at the least.
Thursday: MKT 426 at 9:30am
This time I was the lead teacher. We met in the library’s computer classroom for an introduction to trade data. We covered commodity codes, bilateral v. global data, and the basics of using PC-TAS, the CD-ROM version of Comtrade. (We do subscribe to Comtrade, but the CD version provides XLS downloads with the layout of data the students need to perform their split-share analysis.) The lab was crowded (38 students with 25 computer stations), but Professor Williamson wants the kids to be in the library for this topic, the first major research project for Export Odyssey. The prof was actually sick, so Sam Troy, the b-school’s Executive in Residence for International Education, and I taught the class without him.
Thursday: ENT 336 at 6:30pm
A long day! This class normally begins at 6pm, but there was another entrepreneurship speaker event (a local this time) at 5:30pm for which many of the students got extra credit from another ENT class to attend. We met in the library lab, where my day began. ENT 336 is “Opportunities to Action: Business Plan”. ENT 300, “Ideas to Opportunities: Feasibility Analysis” is the required class for 336. I meet with both classes each semester, so I treat 336 is a capstone. 22 students.
The students by now should be familiar with sources like IBIS, Mintel, DemographicsNow, and SimplyMap. So for 336 I focused on the financial data for their business plans, using sources like BizMiner, RMA, and the Economic Census (just a little). The students’ proposed businesses weren’t too unusual: dance studio, gym, food broker (that was new), custom apparel line, pet shop, and solar energy installation and services. At the request of the prof, we also talked about demographic data and looked (rather quickly — it was getting late) at DemographicsNow and SimplyMap. The students got into it and were fun to work with, not always the case certainly! A nice way to close out my teaching this week.
How do others organize entrepreneurship research instruction?
I worked the Ref Desk for the first time since Sunday and got caught up on non-teaching work. Next week I just have MKT 426 as usual and 3 sections of MGT 309 (75 minute sections back to back to back).