Completing student team projects remotely creates challenges, but what happens when the company students need to interact with also transitions to a remote environment? University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business students in Special Topics: Ameritas Marketing Class (MRKT 490) faced that difficulty in their experiential learning project while working with Ameritas this semester.
As the time approached for students to present business plans to the Ameritas innovation team, traditional campus classroom activities halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ameritas simultaneously began transitioning 2,400 employees to work at home which caused a reshuffling of employees who would meet with marketing students. Brent Korte, senior vice president at Ameritas, and Kelsea Brunner, ’19, strategic partnerships and innovation coordinator, became the remaining management professionals to work and interact with students. Korte wondered if students could adjust quickly and present effectively through Zoom.
“I was a little skeptical and unsure of what to expect,” said Korte. “Then the day of the presentation came and I was astounded. It was clear the students had prepared, and their handoffs from one presenter to another were flawless. Their ability to answer questions was outstanding.”
Rob Simon, associate professor of practice in marketing, knows it can be difficult to impress company executives even when students meet them in-person. In this case, the time frame students faced ramped up the pressure.
“This class was only three days after spring break, which happened just as students were forced into the remote learning environment,” said Simon, who received the 2020 CoB Faculty Service Award. “I was not sure what frame of mind they would be in with all the challenges. Their transitions delivering the presentations were better than they did face-to-face. It showed a high-level of professionalism.”
Keaton Fricker, a junior management and marketing major, returned to live with her parents in Midland, Texas, during the campus shutdown. Being so far away from her teammates, she knew preparation would be key. Her team simulated the online presentation process ahead of time to minimize distractions when meeting with Ameritas.
“We walked through how to set up the PowerPoint on Zoom and appointed people to talk,” said Fricker. “The meeting helped our team become experts on how to use Zoom and gave us confidence to present. As a team leader, I learned to plan ahead by setting due dates and come to team meetings with an agenda.”
Jacqueline Dam, a senior marketing major from Seward, Nebraska, who already earned a degree in psychology, took on a positive attitude toward moving to a remote learning environment. She thinks that mindset helped make a good impression.
“Virtual meetings are only abnormal if you don’t treat it how you would a normal in-person meeting,” said Dam. “My group was highly collaborative, and that’s why we were able to achieve the completion of the project despite unique challenges.”
Dam, who works for her family's business Alterrain and interns at Sandhills Global in Lincoln, believes in letting the technology facilitate greater achievement than teams would be able to accomplish without it.
“Zoom will be very effective moving forward even once we return to normal. My group has been able to do quick meet-ups in order to discuss things quickly when needed. That wouldn’t be possible if we needed to meet in-person,” she said.
Fricker credits Simon and her other professors for making remote learning a successful experience. She believes the radical change might end up being beneficial in the long run.
“I hope remote learning does change some aspects of education. Zoom learning can help more classes like this one interact with companies in other states. It also would be nice to have Zoom lectures when the weather is too harsh so classes won’t be canceled,” said Fricker.
Korte endorsed the achievements of students and continues to see a place for partnering with Nebraska Business.
“I emailed our CEO and the rest of senior management to express how impressed I was with the students,” said Korte. “While it is difficult to replace an in-person meeting, they showed incredible preparedness, flexibility and adaptability. The future looks very bright with the talent at the College of Business.”
To learn more about the Department of Marketing, visit: https://business.unl.edu/marketing.