UM-Flint MBA Students Connect with Taiwan via Technology

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The School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint has successfully piloted a joint MBA Marketing class with an MBA class offered by the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei, Taiwan via video conferencing over the internet.

The live joint class discussion, which was held on Saturday December 15, 2012, was part of the NetPlus! residencies in Marketing Management (MGT 531), a core requirement in the popular NetPlus! mixed-mode MBA program offered by the School of Management (SOM).

The NetPlus! MBA program enrolls students from across the country who spend two weekends in residency on campus per semester. The Marketing Management class had the unique opportunity to work jointly with an MBA class from the College of Management at the NTNU in Taipei, using video conferencing over the Internet. NTNU is one of the School's most prestigious partner universities in Taiwan.

Students distanced by close to 7,500 miles and 13 times zones participated in the joint class discussions, analyzing a case pertaining to Wal-Mart in China. The session started at about 8:15 a.m. local time and 9:15 p.m. Taipei time. Preliminary reactions from the students and faculty participating in this pilot program appear to be very positive.

"We are fortunate to have such an elite international partner to collaborate with," noted SOM Professor Jacob Peng. "Although we are thousands of miles apart, our students can still experience the true global village in their MBA curriculum discussing international marketing strategies."

"I feel that my students were able to interact better because it was a more personal interaction being able to see who they were interacting with," added SOM Professor Somali Ghosh. "It was the next best thing to being present in person in Taiwan.  Not being able to see who you are interacting with makes the interaction more mechanical and impersonal."

Acting SOM Dean Vahid Lotfi, in opening remarks to the students, pointed out the importance of international education as well as leveraging technology in partnerships and academic program offerings. SOM now has an Interactive Television (ITV) Facility that can be used to support video conferencing over the internet.

"SOM is exploring the viability of this modern technology to undertake joint class presentations with our international partners around the world with the hope of eventually offering joint academic programs," said Lotfi. "We will be having a debriefing with our NTNU partners using the same technology to explore future plans."

This pilot is part of the School of Management's planning efforts to expand and enhance its international education. It was partly a result of Dean Lotfi's trip to South Korea and Taiwan in November when he visited four of the School's international partner universities.

The joint class presentation was coordinated by Professors Peng and Ghosh from SOM and Associate Professor Chung-Chiang Hsiao from NTNU.  Professor Hsiao said his students responded in an extremely positive way to the video conference, and he expected the discussion to move to social media, in particular a Facebook site that had been set up to continue an interactive discussion.

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