Smith student Philip Peker ’18 writes about the Innovo Scholars Consulting program for undergraduates at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Education is an ever-changing art that is grounded in theory, research and experimentation. Institutionally, it has gone through hundreds of evolutions in order to better equip the professor to better serve the student. In the past few decades, technology has flipped education on its head, oftentimes bridging the communicational fissures native to a traditional classroom. Many educators see technology as a one-all be-all solution to all the problems we face today in education, such as the lack of interest in students, the balance between theoretical and experiential learning, and examination methodology. But a young coalition of bright business students begs to differ.
“Technology is not going to save education. Technology amplifies underlying qualities. It makes good things better, bad things worse. To solve problems, we have to look at the root, not at the stems,” asserts Dr. Sandra Loughlin, director of the Innovo Scholars program at the University of Maryland. Innovo Scholars Consulting is group of academically driven, education-conscious students that use education psychology to improve learning outcomes and experiences for Smith students by helping professors remodel their courses and leverage past student experiences. The Innovo Scholars Consulting refuse to take the easy road and use technology as a blanket solution. They look at the human nature of education, and the organic interactions that are and will be fundamental to learning, no matter the time-period and the technological innovations that come with it. Learning has been around since time immemorial, and the essence of it will always remain human.
The way the Innovo Scholars Consulting program works is students choose a course that they have received a high grade in previously, to remodel and transform. For example, senior operations and Spanish double Ben Hsieh is innovating a course by helping a faculty member rewrite exams. “It has made me realize how hard it is to really capture learning on a few pages of multiple choice questions. So, I’m trying out innovative alternatives to traditional testing.”
Daniel Yanushevsky, a finance major in the bachelors and master’s program, has been a teacher’s assistant for several classes, so he has had a front row seat to how a class is run, and has seen that improvements must be made in many different areas. “I am trying to shift the curriculum away from traditional ‘plug and chug’ questions and towards conceptual, applied questions that really test students on their understanding, rather than their ability to cram and memorize,” said Daniel.
Although incorporating technology is not a wide-sweeping solution to educational roadblocks in the classroom, many teachers are so unaware of the technology available that technology itself has been a reason for the lack of classroom fluidity. The disparity between a teacher’s lack of knowledge of technology and the students’ increased integration and comfort with all sorts of technology has translated into all sorts of barriers in the classroom that prevent teachers from teaching effectively. “My professor was blindsided by ELMS. She didn’t know what it can do, and how impactful it can be. A good ELMS page is crucial. In fact, the ELMS page for the Innovo Scholars course is the best I’ve ever seen, and makes planning and logistics that much easier,” says Allison Herskovitz, a sophomore accounting major. Nick Gholami, a senior finance major, who is working with a faculty member on creating a new class, agreed that “there is so much technology out there, and this forces us to really focus on which ones work and which ones don’t.” Technology is a magnifier, and so its integration must be carefully audited.
The nature of the program itself presents some challenges that the students have to deal with, and deal with smartly. Sean Keane, a junior accounting and information systems double admits how difficult it is “trying to become an expert education in one semester.” Dr. Loughlin hopes that in the fall of next year, this program will be extended to a full yearlong course, giving more time to tackle the deep-rooted flaws of certain curriculums and classroom cultures. In addition, “clients are sometimes hard to work with,” observes Isaac Adeeku, a sophomore marketing major . It’s a semester-long challenge “coping with the fact that clients don’t have to accept our innovations and ideas,” says Allison. This program pushes the students to deliver real value, and support it with raw research and convincing substantiations.
Innovo Scholars Consulting also gives these bright students a chance to consult educators in real time, with real effects that can make or break another student’s classroom experience. “This has been the best experience for me as someone who wants to go into consulting,” Nick Gholami told me. Ben Hsieh also shared his passion for consulting that was piqued because of this program: “Thanks to Innovo Scholars Consulting, I realized that higher-education sector consulting is a career path I want to pursue.” The importance of this program cannot be overstated. Not only do students learn how to work with teachers in order to bring real value to the classroom, but these students also gain first-hand experience in consulting and delivering superior ideas and results while working with deadlines, stubborn clients and logistical twists and turns. What more, teachers now have a resource to confer with, and students have an understanding representative that can transform their grievances into positive results. The Innovo Scholars Consulting are silent warriors for a better classroom, and slowly but surely, their hard work will be making waves in Smith, at UMD, and beyond.