An Innovative Spreadsheet Application to Teach Management Science Decision Criteria

An Innovative Spreadsheet Application to Teach Management Science Decision Criteria

Kurt Hozak (Coastal Carolina University, Conway, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2018070109

Abstract

This article describes a Microsoft Excel-based application that uses humorous voice synthesis and timed competition to make it more fun and engaging to learn management science decision criteria. In addition to providing immediate feedback and easily customizable tips that facilitate self-learning, the software randomly generates both the problem data and the sequence of cells to complete as a means of keeping the process fresh during repeated practice. It can be configured to prevent the entering of cell formulas as a means of encouraging students to use calculators and think about the individual calculations. Faculty benefit from a system that facilitates automatic problem generation, and grading, and helps prevent and detect undesirable behavior. Student feedback and assessment results provide empirical evidence of the application's value.
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Research Motivations

The author began teaching a 200-level decision analysis course required for all undergraduate business students at a United States university. Based on observations while teaching the course, talking with other instructors, and widespread issues from the literature, the author wanted to develop an approach that would facilitate student learning, help engage students, promote academic integrity, and reduce the time spent on grading.

As with business students at other universities studying quantitative topics (Cronin & Carroll, 2015; Winch & Cahn, 2015), students in this course struggled. One reason may be that “business students in particular perceive data analysis and statistics as boring” (Cronin & Carroll, 2015, p. 121). Billsberry (2014, p. 151) observed that “educational material that is boring is likely to be ineffective” and that “…learning and entertainment are two sides of the same coin.” Kothari, Rana, and Khade (1993) found that humor increased learning and thought it possible that it “generated sufficient student attention and interest, thereby adjusting attitudes or creating minds receptive to learning” (p. 42). Voss, Gruber, and Szmigin (2007) similarly identified humor as a valuable instructor attribute. The students studied by Koskina (2013) indicated an expectation for instructor humor. She suggested that meeting such expectations as part of a psychological contract could play a positive role in retention, a concern at many universities, including the author’s.

Treleven, Penlesky, Callarman, and Watts (2014, p. 14) recommended “occasionally using ‘fancy’ [PowerPoint] animation to add flair—especially for simpler concepts that might otherwise be viewed by students as boring.” The decision criteria are not complex, but many of today’s students may have trouble learning them using a traditional approach given their quantitative nature and perception as being “dry”. The author believes this application is the first to use Excel-generated voice synthesis as a means of providing humorous feedback with flair to stimulate engagement and learning.

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