Operations Management Analysis
LYNN A. FISH
BUFFALO, NEW YORK
ABSTRACT. Part-time graduate students at an Association to Advance Collegiate
Schools of Business–accredited college complete a unique project by applying operations management concepts to their current employer. More than 92% of 368 graduates indicated that this experiential project was a positive learning experience, and results show a positive impact on content learning. Among 16 course offerings, the project was modified and included periodic feedback and project-weight modification. Periodic project feedback did not improve project performance, but it did enhance exam learning and highlight the critical balance between instructor feedback and student performance. Course-weighting schemes do not always affect student task performance—as instructors may expect— and such schemes may negatively affect other course tasks.
Keywords: operations management, strategy project, teaching methods
Copyright © 2008 Heldref Publications
Journal of Education for Business
perations management is a particularly difficult function to teach because many students do not readily comprehend the application of operations principles and strategies (Sampson,
2000; Wright & Ammar, 1997). In course development, instructors consider several issues: developing relevant learning experiences, satisfying audience needs and instructor abilities simultaneously, and meeting external requirements.
Experiential-learning activities such as projects, simulations, and games enhance the classroom environment and encourage student learning (Kolb, 1984). More than a decade ago, I sought an operations-management activity to encourage experiential learning for part-time graduate students who were employed full-time in for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in service and manufacturing industries. At that time, a search of available literature did not reveal a project to satisfy this need. The objectives of the present article are (a) to describe and verify the effectiveness of the employeroperations-management-analysis project, which I developed so that other instructors may integrate it into their courses, and (b) on the basis of several course offerings and project changes, to discuss the impact of adding periodic feedback and changing course-weighting schemes on student performance.
Experiential learning, a process by which knowledge is created through
the transformation of experience, can increase student interest and improve course outcomes (Kolb, 1984). Research has supported the belief that learning occurs best when students are actively involved in concrete experiences (Adler
& Milne, 1997; Foggin, 1992; Hill, 1997;
Mockler, 1997; Walters & Marks, 1981) that develop a lasting, effective means of transferring information and modification (Hendry, 1996). Studies comparing student-centered learning (e.g., projects, simulations, and games) to instructorcentered learning (e.g., lectures and readings) favor student-centered methods as a means to better motivate students. This greater effectiveness is because studentcentered learning provides more relevant, real-world experiences (Sherrell
& Burns, 1982), which enhance critical thinking skills and improve retention more than instructor-centered methods
(Bredemier & Greenblatt, 1981). The most effective methods for improving critical thinking skills in business education involve practical task completion (McEwen, 1994). The employeroperations-management-analysis project engages students in a practical task that is relevant to each student.
Today, operations management instructors actively engage their students in experiential learning through games, demonstrations, projects, simulations, case studies, theatrical films, videotaping, research reviews, and
internships. My purpose in the present