Using Student Preferences to Fashion a New Business Management Curriculum

Article excerpt

Many academic departments, concerned with providing curricula that are both current and targeted to student and employer needs, are revamping their course offerings. This includes changing content and focus of existing courses as well as offering new courses. While any changes considered must reflect employer needs and workforce trends, one of the key concerns in such an undertaking is student preferences and perceptions. Unless students perceive that a curriculum will meet their needs, they will be unlikely to easily adapt to proposed changes. This paper discusses a curriculum revision undertaken by a Management department. It focuses on the assessment of student preferences as an input to the revision process, and reports the resulting changes to an existing curriculum.

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Our academic department (Management, within a College of Business) recently completed a major curriculum revision process. Several circumstances impelled an intense review of our existing degree offerings, and resulted in sweeping revisions to a curriculum that had been essentially unchanged for some years. This manuscript 1) summarizes the forces driving this review and revision process; 2) briefly recounts the means of reviewing the existing curriculum and determining viable options for change; and 3) reports the assessment and incorporation of student preferences in the revised curriculum that was ultimately implemented. Our focus is on this last aspect; namely, how we assessed and reflected students' opinions in redesigning our curricular offerings.

Revising our curriculum was driven by overlapping objectives. The foremost of these was an interest in providing a curriculum that would meet both students' and employers' needs. Next, it was necessary that any curriculum revision be in line with standards set forth by our accrediting agency. An additional factor was an expressed interest on the part of our university to maintain or increase enrollment on an aggregate basis. This naturally flowed down through the various academic units and was reflected in varied responses, some of which entailed curriculum changes.

A faculty committee comprising representatives from various specialty areas within our department began by examining our existing curriculum. As that time we offered a single option--a basic Management degree--to all Management majors. Although the field was (and is) multi-faceted, i.e., segmented along job category lines, our majors did not receive in-depth, specialized training in any one of these areas. We researched curricula at other institutions, focusing on schools comparable in geographic location, size, and primary mission. The trend among these programs was to offer degree options that would provide students an opportunity to become more specialized. In examining our university and college missions and objectives statements and accreditation standards set forth by our accrediting body, the AACSB (American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, 1999), we determined that specialized degree options would be in accord with guidelines from these sources. Additional research (e.g., Celuch & Slama, 1999) supported our intent to continue to integration of critical thinking skills.

Our next task involved reviewing archived data from surveys of former students (surveyed when they were seniors, for program assessment purposes), employers of alumni (recently surveyed for program assessment purposes), and alumni (recently surveyed for program assessment purposes). These data included information regarding job-related courses and skills needed by graduates of our degree program.

A final consideration involved resources. We determined that there was classroom availability, computers and associated lab space, and faculty expertise necessary to offer a range of specialized courses.

Integrating information from all these preliminary steps, we determined which curricular choices we could offer for student consideration. …