Delivering the MBA Research Methods module using MS Teams

Case study author: Paul Forrester

Keele Business School, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

CDF Framework: Technology Enhanced Learning

Project Summary

This project addressed the need to design, develop and deliver teaching materials for the new MBA Senior Leader Apprenticeship MBA programme, and the Research Methods module specifically. The intention was to provide guidance for participants as they transition to their Masters-level Research Project, but with a pedagogy which emphasised co-creation of study materials to suit their individual requirements and needs.

This module development and delivery project sought to make more extensive use of Microsoft Teams where the module was assigned its own channel and instance (as is done for KLE Blackboard modules), using the collaborative and interactive functions of Teams where appropriate, but (almost as a safety net) using a parallel set up for the module on KLE Blackboard.

The project sought to implement and operationalise technology enhanced learning at Keele using the Teams platform, clearly in line with the Curriculum Design Framework.

The challenge was to establish the new MBA (Senior Leader Apprenticeship) Research Methods module. Programme participants are experienced executives, in middle to senior managerial or technical roles, and so had some insight into the types of research design and methods they might deploy for their Masters Research Project. This led the module designers to build in a strong element of co-creation of materials and content, allowing the participants to explore avenues and relevant components of the module, as appropriate to their own project.

The intention was always to deploy Teams as a learning environment as all modules taught on this programme (which commenced in 2019) have utilised MS Teams. But the need to use Teams more fully was extenuated by the need to deliver to part-time students who are geographically spread due to the COVID-19 emergency and the need to replace the planned two-day F2F workshop with remote learning.

Redevelopment and redesign of the module was undertaken in a very short period of time - less than a month in fact. The teaching of research skills and robust learning on research design and methodological choices to busy managers registered on the Senior Leader Part-time MBA is a necessary part of the programme, at this point where the first cohort of participants are transitioning to their Extensive Company Research Project (the applied MBA equivalent of the standard Masters Dissertation).

The module comprised a series of five synchronous webinars on MS Teams, recorded to allow viewing by those unable to make the session (only 2 or 3 out of 20 attendees on average, or for re-watch by participants. Additionally space was provided in the form of group channels for supervisory clusters of staff and students to work on research proposals as learning sets.

A "belt and braces" approach was adopted whereby content on the module Teams channel was mirrored on the usual KLE Blackboard site, though it is hoped going forward that Teams alone should act as the sole learning environment and repository of content for this module.

The innovation of deploying the Teams channel for this module, to replace the normal two-day face-to-face workshop allowed for better use of participants' time. They are all busy middle or senior ranking executives and the series of one-hour webinars over ten days, punctuated by individual study and completion of a module workbook, made better use of their time.

In place of a two day chunk in their diary, they have a ten day longitudinal experience with time between webinars for reflection and individual development of ideas - extending further as they gravitate into their supervisory clusters for discussion and finalising their research proposals (the main assignment for the module).

The module has also enabled a fast transition from the delivery part of the module into clusters of supervision, enabling participants to link up with supervisors at a very early stage of their research project and foster a conducive working relationship to see them through the coming challenging months up to submission of their 10-12K word Research Project Report.

The module is being used as a test bed and potential model for future delivery of MBA modules at Keele, beyond any immediate crisis of COVID-19. Internally, therefore, Keele Business School expects to learn and capitalise on the delivery of this module as it shapes modules for both on- and off-campus students in the future.

Externally the project has impacted participants in the Research methods module, further honing their use and exploration of the MS Teams environment. It also means Keele can deliver using Teams to out side bodies - Teams being a publicly available platform and set for fast general adoption in the population as a whole.

The project and case-study is entirely transferable across disciplines and contexts. Certainly it provides a model for the delivery of Research Methods modules, which move towards the students' Dissertation work and allocation to supervisors, with a mere tweak of content as appropriate to research styles and paradigms. It is also transferable to more "regular" taught modules, introducing scope for interaction between teacher and participants and allowing the flexibility for some co-creation and choice on the part of students.