View/Review: Interactive Learning Environments

by Becca Broaddus

The Internet is the fastest-growing communications tool in history. It took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, television took 13 years, but the Internet took only four years.

Technology has changed the way we work, socialize and learn. The Hankamer School of Business has adapted to this technological revolution with the advent of three interactive learning classrooms: the Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center, the Curb Learning Lab for Music & Entertainment Marketing, and the CNL Real Estate Learning Lab.

These environments foster learning without the limitations of a typical classroom setting and prepare students with career-specific skills.

“A more interactive learning environment allows students to learn, not only from the professor, but also from the other students in the classroom and the technology in the classroom,” said Cayla Wright, a senior Finance, Economics and Baylor Business Fellows major. “These types of skills can’t be taught from a textbook.”

The facilities support the Baylor 2012 imperatives, a 10-year development plan Baylor University established in 2002, by creating “facilities that will enable learning, research and teaching.”

“A normal classroom would put me at a disadvantage because normal classrooms do not depict a modern business environment,” said Jordan Zier, a senior Sports Sponsorship & Sales (S3) and Economics major. “The Curb Lab gives me an accurate feeling of what real-world business environments feel like.”

The Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center is a boardroom-type classroom that students use to conduct financial research, thanks to a generous donation from Don and Ruth Buchholz.

The facility, which includes a videoconferencing suite, serves as the classroom for the Practicum in Portfolio Management course for the student-managed Philip M. Dorr Alumni and Friends Endowed Investment Fund, valued at $4.6 million. The course gives students hands-on experience in securities research, valuation of risky assets, and asset allocation by managing an investment fund of real dollars.

“The Center demands the respect of the students,” said Taylor Tomasini, a senior Finance, Economics and Baylor Business Fellows major. “Classes in the room seem like more of a privilege than a right.”

The room features a custom designed and built, horseshoe-shaped conference table. Each seat features a microphone, computer and wireless network access. It also comes equipped with programs vital to a career in finance, including Bloomberg Professional Services and Microsoft Excel.

“I am able to use Bloomberg for stock research and quotes, I know my way around Excel, and I can make presentations in a boardroom-type setting,” Wright said.

Other undergraduate classes focus on theory, but the Center allows students to have practical application of concepts.

“The experience needed for a finance career comes not only from theory, but also from practical investing and technology know-how,” Wright said. “Future employers are looking for things that set students apart, and experience in an interactive learning facility is almost comparable to having prior work experience.”

The interactive facilities appeal not only to potential employers, but to potential students as well.

“The Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center definitely improved the quality of my education,” Wright said. “It’s one of the reasons I came to Baylor.”

The Curb Learning Lab for Music & Entertainment Marketing, developed in 2006 thanks to a donation from Mike Curb, founder and producer of Curb Records, is supplied with nine flat-screen monitors and state-of-the-art computer-integrated CISCO phone systems in the 24-seat AT&T call center.

The Curb Lab has three learning areas: a 32-seat mobile furniture classroom designed for small group interaction, a sound-proof role-play conference room, and the call center.

“If you have a class in the Curb Lab you go in with the mindset that it is going to be a more hands-on class,” said Taylor Ashcraft, a junior Music & Entertainment Marketing major. “It makes what we are learning in the classroom more applicable to real life.”

It is the only classroom of its kind within an academic program in the nation. Students involved in the Music & Entertainment Marketing and the S3 programs gain experience in the Curb Lab by working actively with clients.

“I can actually go into an interview and say I have helped plan a Nashville showcase,” Ashcraft said. “I haven’t just talked about how to market an artist or put on a CD release party, but I have physically gone out and done those things.”

Ashcraft commented that the Curb Lab “feels like the offices of a real record label,” which is exactly where Music & Entertainment Marketing majors plan on working. S3 students benefit from the call center and conference room, where students can perform role-play sales calls in a professional setting.


“In sales, interaction is of the utmost importance,” Zier said. “The call center helped me with my phone skills, and the conference room helped me with sponsorship skills. Both sets of skills will benefit me tremendously if I choose to enter the sports industry.”

The CNL Real Estate Learning Lab, donated by Baylor supporter Robert Bourne, complements the Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center and the Curb Learning Lab for Music & Entertainment Marketing. The room is equipped with a document camera and a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, Vision software, and 44 student computers.

The classroom, used for real estate investment classes and some management information systems classes, allows students to learn computer programs in the classroom setting. Real estate agents use ARGUS software and Microsoft Excel, so in the CNL Lab, students gain the skills before entering the workforce.

“The classes in the CNL Lab provide the opportunity for students to participate in more of a hands-on learning style,” said Ashley Thompson, a Real Estate and Management major. “It’s an advantage to be able to point out that you have had experience with the ARGUS program and know how to use it.”

Undergraduate students agree that the experiential learning of interactive classrooms is an invaluable resource for entering the job market.

“It’s important for Baylor to utilize these classrooms because they have an appeal to students, both prospective and current,” Wright said. “I think students are looking for a way to get an edge as future job candidates, and I think an interactive classroom is a great way to do that.”

interactive learning article



Baylor Business Review, Fall 2010

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