Breaking classroom barriers over Zoom

When Professor Lori Rosenkopf’s course on the culture of tech went virtual, she set out to make a more interactive learning experience. Her efforts have seen some unexpected results.

Video calls are nothing new to MGMT 265, also known as Culture and Institutions of the Tech Sector: Bridging Research and Practice. Since 2014, the course has been connecting students in Philadelphia to Wharton/Penn alumni in San Francisco’s tech sector over video.

Cartoon of classroom desks with desktop computers on top, each computer screen features a person in a zoom meeting.

“When I started my term as the vice dean for the undergrad division in 2013, we realized that while many students were intrigued by the tech sector, far fewer were finding their way to internships or full-time positions,” says Lori Rosenkopf. “We decided to build academic coursework that would give them more exposure to how the tech sector operates and to our extensive and growing network of alumni in the area.”

Between teleconferencing guest speakers, group research projects, and supplementary Wharton Industry Exploration trips to tech hubs, students learned about the “culture of technology” and how to apply rigorous research to current issues in the industry.

In many ways the course lent itself to a virtual format this fall—but Rosenkopf saw an opportunity to build a more interactive and tech-enabled learning experience.

Rosenkopf knew her undergraduate students had struggled with assigned readings, often long and dense journal articles written by academics with Ph.D.s.

To address that, she built a library of videos, including a series of digestible 10-minute explainers to break down complex articles, chats with article authors, and introductions of guest speakers that give insight into their professional backgrounds.

Zoom has also made panel discussions with more than one guest speaker possible.

When speakers visit, students get to pose questions in the Zoom chatroom and chat with speakers in smaller breakout rooms alongside peers. The new format is in part designed to combat “Zoom fatigue”—and has also emboldened more students to reach out to speakers one-on-one outside of class.

Read more at Wharton Stories.