Skip to main content

Relevancy: Using Online Assets to Support Your Course

A few years ago, and after years of successful use, I found that my favorite case study – the 1980 Harvard Business Publishing case study on Cumberland Metals - was not going over well with students. Turns out they had trouble identifying with the product that Cumberland Metals was developing. The beautifully architected case could not pass the relevancy test with my students.

This has become a constant theme throughout many courses, disciplines, and assignments - the need to make course examples and content relevant in order to enhance learning outcomes for today's students.

One way to pass the relevancy test and improve outcomes is to integrate content from current online resources. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), The Financial Times, The New York Times, and YouTube are just a few examples of sources that you can use to help with relevancy. The WSJ, in fact, has a great program for universities, professors and students alike.

So how did I fix my problem of having to discard my favorite case study? I decided to change the lesson to a more modern example on the discussion of services (the illustrious "gig" economy, after all is very accessible for today's students!). Using a fairly universal service example of a haircut, I taught my students how service is inseparable, perishable, intangible, homogenous, and variable. Once I got my students talking about how they can vary in elements of the service and the associated price, the discussion very quickly became interesting and enthusiastically discussed. I supplemented this discussion with an WSJ online article about "What a Good Haircut Costs". Although the article focused on men's haircuts, we quickly pivoted to include women's requirements in the mix, illustrating (much to the horror of the men in the class) just how big a price variable can be for service.

The use of an online resource quickly enhanced our classroom discussion and most importantly added some relevancy to the learning outcomes my students were attempting to comprehend. That relevancy, tied with something they could easily relate to, was ultimately the key to my students' engagement and understanding.

So, when you're considering a relevancy update for your own class make sure to spend some time exploring some different available assets:




About the Author

Professor Gonsalves is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Management Science. Professor Gonsalves’ career has spanned thirty-five years in the technology field, having held positions in design, applications, sales, marketing, business development and management. He is the holder of 9 patents and has presented at a variety of industry conferences in the area of RFID. For the past twenty-five years, Professor Gonsalves has been teaching undergraduate and graduate marketing classes and has been involved in executive education at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. During this time, Professor Gonsalves has also taught at a variety of other schools in the New England area, including work at Boston College, Babson College and Providence College. He has also served as a Digital Faculty Consultant for McGraw-Hill Higher Education, where he has reviewed and developed a variety of materials, with a focus on simulations and digital content. His areas of interest are in the marketing and development of high technology products and he retains an active consultancy practice in these areas.

Profile Photo of Edward Gonsalves