College of Business and Economics students are experiencing what it’s like to work in a real business environment through the Business: Total Immersion learning courses, piloted by professors Ruth Jebe and Shelle Poole of the Department of Management. The Total Immersion framework builds courses around a fictional work environment constructed in and for the classroom. Total Immersion uses active and experiential learning techniques to deepen student mastery of course materials and concepts that make them business ready.
Students in the courses describe them as unique and refreshing, unlike any class they have had before.
Jebe introduced the framework into her undergraduate legal environment course by structuring activities and assignments around a fictional national electronics retailer. Students were tasked with addressing the actual types of legal issues that managers in different functional areas of the company would encounter in their daily work. Students in the course recognized the value of the immersion framework in promoting their own learning and transition into the business world. In course feedback, Jebe’s students stated that “the immersion style of the class helped … in understanding how the material related to the real world,” and was “helpful in putting concepts into context.”
Poole drove students’ entrepreneurial spirit in her capstone strategy course by having them create a plan for a new business and then pitch that business to a panel of angel investors played by local executives. It was valuable for students to receive feedback from local influencers outside of the university. Poole’s students felt that, “[the immersion aspect of the class]… made us think in ways that traditional coursework could not.” Another student commented on how “the teacher gave us assignments and threw us curves to make sure we got the experience that a real job would give us.”
The participating executives could one day be those interviewing these students for jobs, and they also praised the learning power of the Total Immersion framework.
Eric Holstine, a serial local entrepreneur, thinks that the students “working in groups and hashing out start-up puzzles is the perfect way to get them ready for real-world communication puzzles.”
Dan Sel, owner of The Stil Ice Cream Shop in downtown Boise, discussed his own challenges in adjusting to the real world after graduate school, and notes that providing a learning environment “that allows them to begin to make those adjustments will be invaluable once they are in front of real managers, stakeholders and investors.”
Both Amanda Martinez and Karen Sales, who are in vice president roles at Albertsons, agreed that these investment pitches and projects are ideal in understanding the real world experience of working on a team to implement a business plan.
Professors Jebe and Poole are currently teaching the second round of courses using the Total Immersion framework with the objective of continuous improvement and refinement of the framework.