At the Leading Edge of Teaching Innovation

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020, Schulich made a remarkable overnight pivot from in-class to remote teaching. It was a wrenching experience – but one that opened our eyes to the possibilities provided by new teaching and learning technologies.

Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick
Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick

As a result of that experience, we made it a priority for our School to be at the forefront of tech-enabled teaching and learning. We did that by quickly investing in emerging new classroom technologies, including HyFlex, a type of hybrid learning platform that integrates in-person and remote learning to provide students with more flexible access.

The rise of hybrid learning coincides with another noteworthy trend in management education: the growing student desire for greater flexibility in management programs – not only where they study, but also when they study. This desire for enhanced flexibility was a driving factor behind our development last year of a new MBA program option – the Weekend and Evening MBA – which features a number of courses taught in a HyFlex environment. And increasingly in the years ahead, flexibility will be at the top of the list for must-have program features sought after by business students.

The Schulich Centre for Teaching Excellence (SCTE) is helping embed these new learning and teaching technologies into all of our courses. In this month’s column by Tom Medcoff, Adjunct Professor of Organizational Studies and Director of the Centre, we look at how Schulich is deploying best-in-class teaching technologies with highly interactive, immersive in-person learning across the curriculum.

Bottom line: cutting-edge teaching and learning technologies are enriching the student experience at Schulich and better preparing our graduates for the more digitized and hybrid world of work.


Dean's Signature

Detlev Zwick, PhD
Dean, Tanna H. Schulich Chair in Digital Marketing Strategy
Schulich School of Business


At the Leading Edge of Teaching Innovation

Thomas Medcof
Thomas Medcof
Director, Schulich Centre for Teaching Excellence

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged assumptions about how the world does business.  Quarantines, limitations on travel, and restrictions on face-to-face interaction impelled organizations in every sector to reimagine the way in which they carry out traditional activities. Both the benefits, such as lowered operational costs, increased flexibility, and greater choice for workers and the challenges, such as extended work hours, zoom fatigue and burnout have the potential to shape worker expectations and the work environment.

At the Schulich School of Business, we’ve taken the lessons learned from the pandemic to reimagine not only our methods of delivery, but also the content and composition of our courses and how they can best be integrated to meet the demands of our rapidly changing environment.

The Office of Curriculum Innovation and Teaching Excellence (CITE) was created to bring together the resources and expertise related to teaching, learning and academic program quality that were housed within the Office of the Associate Dean Academic (OADA), the Schulich Centre for Teaching Excellence (SCTE), and Schulich Information Services & Technology (IS&T).  Together, we have worked diligently to facilitate teaching innovation by incorporating the best of our experiences with remote teaching, encouraging flexibility to adapt to rapidly evolving student and business expectations, and to provide services and community-building opportunities that will be valuable to students in their professional lives.

During the pandemic, it was paramount that our response safeguarded our students, faculty, and staff while maintaining high-quality instruction. Schulich was able to make a rapid transition to remote delivery using software such as Zoom, Teams and Canvas.  As the pandemic waned, professors and students alike were excited to make a return to the physical classroom.  At the same time, many of our instructors had created innovative remote delivery techniques that they found to be particularly effective in the online environment.  Some were synchronous, where students and instructors interacted in real time, while others were asynchronous, where students could access and interact with learning materials at a place and time of their own choosing.

Many instructors hoped that they would be able to transfer the best aspects of the online experience, such as the ability to have remote guests, to pre-record segments of lectures, or to have students complete asynchronous activities and modules, to in-person classes.  In addition, some features of remote delivery allowed for teaching techniques that were more difficult to achieve using traditional pre-pandemic delivery methods.  The ability to quickly establish small groups for discussions, use collaborative virtual whiteboards, create online polls for student feedback, and encourage student questions through chat or private messages (to name just a few), were artifacts of the online experience that many sought to retain as well.

To help facilitate teaching innovation, Schulich created “HyFlex” classrooms.  Rooms in the Seymour Schulich and McEwen Graduate Study & Research buildings have been retrofitted with technology, such as tracking cameras, arrays of microphones and speakers throughout the classroom, and document cameras to capture instructor writing and annotation.  In conjunction with the computers and monitors already built into our classrooms, these additions open the possibility for our instructors to replicate delivery techniques that were effective in the online environment, such as livestreaming and recording classes, incorporating remote guest speakers, and enabling communication between in-person and remote attendees.

We have also encouraged instructors to incorporate asynchronous materials that add to the student learning experience.  This approach allows students to adjust the pace at which they cover material, providing them with a range that may be more conducive to learning.   For example, asynchronous modules or videos may allow students to review complicated topics multiple times if that assists in fully understanding the material, or to progress more rapidly if they feel they have mastered the material.

To help deepen student engagement with the business world, we have increased our emphasis on experiential education.  The creation of a graduate placement elective, as well as courses focused on professional development in several of our Master’s programs, will allow Schulich students to gain hands-on experience with our corporate partners in an integrated learning environment, and prepare them for the rapidly evolving challenges they will meet in their respective industries.

Although we can never be sure of what is to come, frequent and thorough analysis and testing of our course design and delivery strategy allows us to adapt to the demands of a changing work environment, increase our global reach, and create more equitable and inclusive opportunities to learn from, and participate in, our classes.  Schulich’s dedication to this process of curricular and teaching innovation gives us a leadership role in improving the business education experience.

Thomas Medcof, PhD, MBA
Director, Schulich Centre for Teaching Excellence (SCTE)