Service Learning for Business Analytics

I have been developing service learning projects and integrating into undergraduate and graduate courses since 2016. Service learning can be immensely beneficial for both instructor and students on courses where the degree of complexity or abstract knowledge could be like barrier between the learner and the course. So, in this post, I would like to share one of my recent applications of SLP at Lindenwood University.

What is service learning? Service learning is defined as “ a credit-bearing, educational, experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflects on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility. (Bringle & Hatcher,1995).

Service Learning Project: Service learning can be modeled with variety of ways in a course. One of the ways to integrate SL is through service learning project. Student teams will work on a mini or semester long project to provide a predefined output in the end.

There are typically 3 stakeholders in a service learning project: Students, Instructor, and Community partner. In an ideal service learning project, the academic content and the community need should be matched effectively and efficiently on a well-prepared service learning project plan, so that students could apply the academic knowledge to the community need and provide reflection on their learning (See the 3 pillars of service learning below)

Why service learning could be beneficial for students, instructor, and community in a Business Analytics courses?

Despite having an overwhelming amount of theoretical methods, which challenges students and creates fears prior to learning, business analytics courses can be quite easily linked with service learning projects. Because, nowadays, almost every organization collects and works on data to improve their operations and decision making. Thus, SL can be beneficial for the three main stakeholders: students, instructor, community partner. First of all, if scaffolded properly, service learning project experience can be highly related to the course because of the following reasons:

1) Students will be collecting and/or analyzing data about a previously defined research question that is important to be answered for a local or global nonprofit organization. The problem and data can be provided a bit ill structured to increase the rigor of the project.

2) Students can apply various business analytics methods and model validation techniques in order to assist with decision making or decision support for local or global nonprofit organizations.

3) All in all, students will be putting into practice the acquired knowledge in the class systematically for the project and the project tasks and meetings with mentors will enable them to develop a variety of professional skills and disseminate the findings of the projects with the specific community through online and onsite presentations.

Reflection: Reflection is critical part of service learning. Therefore, specific attention will be paid in this course towards making sure that students are reflecting the abovementioned knowledge and skills gained this course at the end and they will utilize from now on in their personal and professional life. To do so, there will be frequent meetings between project groups and mentors where students will be asked about how they can utilize the knowledge and skills gained for the projects. So, the interactive meetings will be playing a critical role for initiating the reflection. Discussions, presentations, Q&A sessions, the project report, and the online published content will be predominantly used as the strategies for reflection.

Length of Service: Students typically spend about 10-12 weeks and 2-3 hours per week on the service-learning project. Typical project steps and timeline are also included in this document.

An example of SLP timeline from my Fall 2022 Business Analytics Undergraduate Course

Assessment of SLP

Once completed, SLPs can be assessed with various approaches depending on the output type. Most of the time I had asked students to write a project report and presentation. I recently switched to only providing a presentation to the community partner with supporting files. Here is an example of my expected presentation content:

PowerPoint presentation organization will be as follows:

  1. Introduction of the Team
  2. Introduction of the Project Plan (How the work is planned, task listed, distributed, contribution of each member, etc.)
  3. Research Questions
  4. Introduction of Data
  5. Business Analytics Applications:
    1. Data preparation (Cleaning, modification, etc. as needed)Data Visualization (Necessary data visualizations to help understand/study data and RQ better)
  6. Other methods (Correlation analysis, regression, pivot tables, Tableau visualization, etc. as needed).
  7. Summary of findings
  8. Recommendations to Beyond Housing
  9. Story of Project Execution (pictures, videos are helpful)
  10. References

Service Learning Resources

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