Professor Nancy Lam Wins SEBA’s Teaching Innovation Grant 2013-14

Nancy Lam's Second Life avatarProfessor Nancy Lam wins the Teaching Innovation Grant, awarded by SEBA’s Faculty Development Committee. She will use this award towards the implementation of a virtual world medium (Second Life) for use in the new “Managing Creativity and Innovation” course in the Professional MBA program.

In a constant effort to enhance learning through innovative technology, many SEBA faculty like Nancy Lam are exploring teaching tools to engage students outside of the traditional front-and-center lectures. For several years now, SEBA has had its own “island” on Second Life, a virtual 3-D world where users interact with each other through avatars and meet other residents, socialize, and participate in individual and group activities, virtual meetings, events, training and simulations.

Although Lam will also have her students interact in the virtual world, her project is different. Lam explains, “While Second Life may be a good fit for some of our courses, the question of how to use Second Life remains one where the answer is not readily available. This project attempts to address this gap by providing a novel, fun and scalable tool to teach and engage students.”

This is not the first time Lam is using Second Life. In Fall 2012, she used Second Life in undergraduate class “Managing and Leading Organizations” (BusAd 131) where she worked with SEBA’s Technology & Online team, Drew Ungs and Nick Fong, both accomplished developers in this challenging virtual realm. SEBA’s Second Life island was constructed by this team, as was the entire game simulation that was used in Lam’s course in the fall. Having this development resource within SEBA showcases the extraordinary talents of SEBA’s technology team’s developers and represents a rare opportunity for faculty to understand how virtual environments can be created.

There is indication that the Second Life project led to increased learning and engagement, and provided a significant challenge to the students.  Survey data collected by Lam showed that students reported enhanced engagement in the course, increased learning of course concepts, and the project provided a challenge to the curriculum.  Through the grant, Lam intends to build on these positive results to continue to broaden students’ perspectives and challenge the status quo.

With this Teaching Innovation grant, Nancy will work closely with Barry Eckhouse, SEBA’s Director of Technology and Online Programs, on Saint Mary's Island on Second Life creating an effective learning experience for the Professional MBA audience. Eckhouse has already worked with another faculty member, Linda Herkenhoff, on using Second Life in a marketing course where students built their proposals in the virtual world. Linda was the first faculty member to integrate Second Life into her management course by providing students with a way interact as they built virtual structures within a simulated McKeon Pavilion.  The purpose of Lam’s course-long project is to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to explore organizational processes and team dynamics in a “real-world” environment, as well as real-time analyses of their team dynamics. Second Life as a virtual world environment offers an innovative and safe context for students to analyze and learn course concepts such as motivation, leadership, power, teams, organizational culture, conflict resolution and creativity.  A key goal of the project is to enrich learning and application of course material using innovative and unconventional methods. At the same time, students are offered an opportunity to stretch their creativity and go beyond their comfort zone.

Eckhouse says, “This is likely to be a first of its kind to utilize the virtual world in management courses in a way that simulates the real world as well as reflective of real-time, real-life organizational and team processes. A short-term goal is to test the usage of virtual world as an educational medium for management courses. The endorsement by SEBA’s Faculty Development Committee to support this effort truly reflects SEBA’s interest in remaining a leader in effectively delivering business education through innovative technology.”

Lam’s paper on the Second Life project has been accepted for presentation at the inaugural teaching conference of Academy of Management (acceptance rate of approx. 40%). She is also excited to be learning from other instructors on innovative online approaches to teaching.

About Saint Mary's College School of Economics and Business Administration 
Founded in 1863, Saint Mary’s College of California is a cornerstone institution of the San Francisco bay area.  After nearly 150 years, with a network of more than 40,000 alumni worldwide, Saint Mary’s tradition of educational excellence is stronger than ever. Saint Mary's School of Economics and Business Administration is grounded in this same rich history and tradition of excellence.  With a focus on global perspective and responsible business, all of our five distinct graduate business degree programs are designed for working professionals who seek the knowledge and skills needed to accelerate their careers.  Small class sizes facilitate collaboration, accessibility, and engaging discussions with our distinguished faculty, and an interactive learning environment focused on practical business knowledge, serves to provide our students with the maximum return on their investment.