Maintaining the Quality of Business Programs while Learning Remotely
Along with most universities and schools, COVID-19 caused the College of Business and Economic Development at Southern Miss to seek innovative solutions to keep students engaged after converting all face-to-face courses to an online delivery format in a matter of two weeks. It is safe to say that uncertainty was the feeling that many faculty members and students had while entering this unchartered territory. Now, five weeks into 100% online course delivery, virtual meetings are becoming the new norm as many professors host their classes in a live video format. Professors are continuing to work with experts in the field as they virtually host guest speakers and work with companies and organizations on class projects. Students and faculty alike are working diligently to uphold the high-quality standard of the business curriculum while overcoming this unprecedented time.
Mr. Chris Balaski, a Professor of Practice in the School of Marketing, has worked to keep his course as close to the real thing as possible. By utilizing video conferencing technology, the class has been able to continue doing their assignments as they would be in the classroom. Experiential learning is a huge part of his Advanced Professional Selling course, a highly interactive and hands-on class that often hosts sales representatives and professionals in the classroom as guest speakers or sales pitch and roleplay participants and judges. These professionals provide examples of their own sales experiences and techniques before students take what they have learned and implement it into sales pitch scenarios.
Since converting to online delivery, Balaski has hosted virtual presentations and role play scenarios with large corporations such as Zoetis. He has also invited former professional selling student, Leighton Keonnen to virtually provide valuable peer feedback while playing a customer in their mock sales pitches.
Savannah Rheams, a student of Mr. Balaski’s said, “I am so thankful for the frequent check-ins by Mr. Balaski to see how we are all doing with the course, virtual roleplay preparations and sales calls with real professionals over Microsoft Teams, and full lessons plans provided on Canvas, so we are fully prepared for all exams. I think I can speak for all students in the College of Business and Economic Development in saying thank you to all of our faculty and staff for working so earnestly to create just as comfortable of a learning environment online as we were provided in Scianna Hall.”
Most recently, the advanced professional selling students worked with Northwestern Mutual, a financial services company. Representatives Keith Frye, Managing Director & Financial Advisor, and Becky Broersma, Experience Leader, assisted the students on perfecting their sales pitches as they perform role plays.
“This is our second semester partnering with Chris to help his students develop in their advanced sales skills. I believe the skills and experience they are getting in this class are top notch! I wish I would have had access to a class like this in college. It is also super impressive that these unprecedented times could not stop them from learning and growing. Learning to adapt is an extremely valuable skill in any marketplace,” said Keith Frye.
These resilient business students have overcome their fears of the unknown and are thriving in this new format. Chelsey Liddell, a student in the class shared her thoughts. “Mr. Balaski has done an exceptional job transitioning our course to an online format. Advanced professional selling is a nontraditional course, and requires interaction to get the full benefit, and by incorporating Microsoft Teams into our home learning experience, we have been able to continue doing exactly what we would be doing in the classroom. We still get to hear from real professionals, learn their techniques, and then give our own spin to them during our virtual role-plays. At the very least, finishing school at USM during COVID-19 has taught me to become more resilient and flexible, which is a necessary trait in the sales force.”
Northwestern Mutual Representatives Becky Broersma, Experience Leader and Keith Frye, Managing Director & Financial Advisor