Making a Difference for Working Learners
As an instructor at the University of Phoenix Dallas Campus, it’s very important to me to have an impact on my students, particularly because they’re working learners with limited time but a lot of determination. I want to make a difference for them. For that reason, I make sure that within the first several weeks I have with them, they understand what they’re learning and how to immediately apply it to their jobs.
I teach in the University of Phoenix School of Business; primarily statistics and graduate economics courses within our MBA program. Many of my students think that anything having to do with numbers is dry. My role is to show them it’s not boring—there’s always an interesting connection between those numbers and the implications they have. So the material I teach has to go beyond theory. I have to show my students how to apply those theories.
Unique Approach to Curriculum
The way University of Phoenix encourages its faculty members to approach the material is unique. The University promotes a centralized curriculum, and as instructors we can tailor it to our unique class. While the curriculum serves as a guidepost, I’m able to customize it and add extra information according to my students’ needs. I incorporate a mix of traditional academic resources and newer media to explain or demonstrate a concept visually—including Internet references, video clips and exercises.
I ask my students to interpret the theories they learn from the perspectives of consumers, businesses and government in order to see the big picture. I try to get their minds to ask critical questions: How do I apply what I learn to my experience? How can I make a difference in my workplace with this knowledge? How is it relevant? How can I interpret the information I have? How can I make adjustments based on what I know?
I think it’s important, too, to share with them what I’ve learned from my own experiences. I served as a senior economist in my native country of Ethiopia. I collaborated with the International Labour Organization (a United Nations agency) there to come up with ways to reform and implement policies. Here in the United States, I worked with Volvo Car Finance North America, and coordinated the International Business and Trade Program at El Centro College. Currently, in addition to being a University of Phoenix faculty member, I’m president of my own small business that provides therapy services for patients. In addition, my exposure to different cultures has allowed me to explore plausible venues for solving problems. As a result, I’m able to see and appreciate the big picture. I want these experiences to also help my students in the same way.
Every time I begin a new course, the backgrounds of my students and the dynamic they form in class changes. I liken it to conducting an orchestra—I blend the individual student experiences with the course elements in a way that everyone can appreciate and benefit from. That’s when they have the “aha!” moments of seeing connections between the material and their potential implications.
Personally, I enjoy interacting with students as well as connecting with and motivating them. I, in turn, learn from them. I approach every week as something new—the classroom is something that is constantly evolving. It gives me energy. And when my students finish the course, they feel happy—and so do I, because I helped make a difference to them.
Maximizing the Student Experience
Today’s MBA graduates must have marketable skills. One of the special things about University of Phoenix is its collaborative learning teams. They can resemble work teams, and often a synergy develops among the members. Participating in these teams empowers them. They clearly benefit from the group interaction. There’s a feeling of “we’re in this together.”
The University is here to make a difference in the busy lives of working learners by maximizing everything in the student experience. And those who come here recognize and appreciate that. In my experience, that’s why they choose University of Phoenix to pursue their MBAs.
The University empowers students with up-to-date and tailored courses. Throughout the learning process, students learn from each other and from instructors who have real world experiences. As a result, students can apply their classroom experiences to their own workplaces as well as to the world at large.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.