Erol Peköz_Questrom

Q&A with Questrom Professor Erol Peköz

Digital learning initiatives are happening across the BU campus. This Q&A series highlights innovative ideas, collaborative thinking, cutting-edge perspectives and those leading the digital learning charge. 

Erol Peköz is a professor of Operations and Technology Management in the Questrom School of Business and earlier this year, launched Questrom’s first online course for part-time MBA students. Professor Peköz conducts research in areas of data science, operations research, applied probability and statistics, with applications to supply chains, healthcare management and cryptocurrency.

DL&I: Please share the history behind developing Questrom’s first, part-time Online MBA course, and why was it important to develop?

Peköz: This is an introductory data analytics course for part-time MBA students and is required before they can take most of the other courses in the graduate program. I like to say it’s a self-defense course for statistics. Most part-time students work full-time and many live far away from campus. Though I usually find them surprisingly energetic and enthusiastic in class (after usually coming straight from work), we wanted to give them some more convenient and flexible options for taking the class from the comfort of their own homes. We designed the course so students spend less than the usual class session time in synchronous video meetings and small group chats, but with additional asynchronous time watching videos, doing readings, participating in group online work, and doing individual homework problems. In this sense it gives students time and flexibility if they need it.

Watch the introductory data analytics, course intro video here.

DL&I: Describe the overall process of developing the online course.

Peköz: Creating videos was both more difficult and more fun than I was expecting. The easy part was the staff members that helped me were fantastic and made everything so easy for me. The production and animation team was extremely creative and turned my content into an amazingly professional-looking product. The difficult part was I had seen many viral videos and wrongly thought I could easily spontaneously replicate that style once they turned on the camera.

Apparently, making viral videos requires a different skill set than I had developed from being in front of a class. I was more nervous than I was expecting in front of the camera and I ended up following the advice of the production team: scripting my videos and reading them off a teleprompter. I was, however, happy with the final results. Carla Villanueva with [Questrom’s] Information Technology Services, was fantastic in managing the whole project to make it extremely easy for me as were the highly creative Instructional Production Services team. The IPS team’s creative animation and production added so much life to the videos and made the whole thing look super. I would highly recommend the experience.

DL&I: Briefly describe the online course-building experience. Do you have any advice for faculty interested in creating online courses?

Peköz: I had a great experience. An instructor should think carefully, however, about exactly which parts of their course they should put online. If a portion of the usual class content is lecture-based, where students primary sit and listen, this is perfect content for putting into videos. This can turn your class into a “flipped-style”, where people watch and re-watch the lectures at home and come prepared for interactive and engaging discussions. Reducing the amount of time students spend in class passively listening can greatly improve the experience in even a traditional class.

My usual “in person,” three-hour class session, however, already has very little traditional lecturing. It consists of four parts:

1. Answering questions about the homework.

2. A full class, interactive discussion about several short case problems.

3. Breaking into small groups to discuss several additional short case problems.

4. A full class, wrap-up where I ask students to put the best group answers I heard on the board.

Students get new content mainly from the readings I have assigned, and there is not much lecture. I opted to put item #2 in videos, though it is often the most fun part of the class. So far I think it’s working for the class. The other items work well with video conferencing.

DL&I: What are the benefits of creating online courses?

Peköz: I think if an instructor has really good content that needs to be delivered across many sections of a course, it can be beneficial to fix that content into a set of videos that other instructors can reuse. If students need a lot of time flexibility this can be very valuable. This is especially so if it’s a class that gets highly variable ratings across instructors; this may help better standardize the student experience.

DL&I: What’s next? Any other projects in the pipeline?

Next, the Questrom School of Business will be creating an entirely online MBA program (separate from the part time or full time MBA programs), which launches in fall 2020. This massive undertaking also gives us the opportunity to reimagine the MBA curriculum to be much more interdisciplinary and relevant to career advancers. People who want to switch careers or who need the in-person networking that the traditional MBA program provides will likely still opt for the traditional program. It is, however, inevitable that the best online content will eventually find its way throughout the entire curriculum.

All in all, it was a very fun time creating and trying something new with my course. Online instruction is inevitable in the future, so I’m happy to start experimenting with it now.

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Maureen McCarthy

About the Author: Maureen McCarthy is the Communications Manager for the Office of Digital Learning & Innovation and editor of DL&I News.