In this Bachelor of Commerce capstone unit, students work in teams to solve problems via active learning. Read how it catered for different students needs by combining zoom and face to face in multiple ways. You’ll need to read to the end to find out what SBATPLEZ is though!

The original design for the unit

The Bachelor of Commerce Capstone Unit – Agility and Excellence in Business – is a final year unit of study in the Bachelor of Commerce which integrates the material and skills presented across the degree. In 2020, this capstone replaced capstones which were based on individual majors, and now students re-convene as a Bachelor of Commerce cohort for the first time since Year 1.

The structure of the unit is based on both team-based and problem-based learning. Students are placed in mixed-major teams of five to solve real-world problems. These real-world problems revolve around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) – where the students self-select a UN SDG and design a project that will help achieve that goal. Students address how commerce and business can play their part in achieving these goals – where the students work collaboratively, ethically, sustainably, and profitably.

Students construct an artefact that integrates all their learning, as well as demonstrating an empathy and appreciation for other disciplines. For the first two weeks, students write a reflective report about how their own major is an integral part of the puzzle in the diverse world of commerce. They then share a summary of their essay as an infographic resume with their team members in Week 3. The teams then settle on their projects.

In 2019, a team consisting of myself (Prashan Karunaratne) as the unit convenor, the Bachelor of Commerce Course Director, the Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, as well as all of the Heads of Major in the degree, designed the unit to be a face-to-face, active, team, and problem-based learning unit. In a three-hour seminar, students work on their project each week with a lecturer as their guide-by-the-side for two hours, while we all went through a framework that helped scaffold their project in the first hour.

How we changed the unit

To flip the classroom, prior to joining the seminars each week, the students have prior reading and prior tasks to attend to via iLearn, which informs the discussions that follow in the classroom.

Given the unit’s design, COVID-19 created an interesting challenge of moving this unit fully online for Session 1, and then in multiple modes for Session 2.

In Session 2, 2020, we ran the unit in multiple ways to cater for different student needs while keeping to the original vision of students working in teams to solve a problem via active learning. I outline the 4 modes of offering below, and then we move on to the student voice.

Mode 1: ‘No Zoom’

There was one stream which was fully face-to-face and delivery was synchronous, face-to-face, team, and problem-based learning. We booked active learning spaces around campus to facilitate these seminars.

Mode 2: ‘Zoom one -to-one’

One stream was fully online, where students met in the main session, and then broke out into their teams in ‘consistent’ breakout rooms according to their team. I call this ‘one-to-one’ as there is only one person per cell in the Zoom grid.

Mode 3: ‘Zoom one-to-many’

While I was Zooming in as a one, some teams in the fully online stream decided that it worked for them to meet physically as a group and Zoom in to the main session. Thus, when we went into breakout rooms, these teams were physically together, but when they return to the main session, they join their peers and me on the Zoom grid – as intended for Zoom.

Mode 4: ‘Zoom many-to-one’ / ‘Zoom many-to many’

We had one stream which practised synchronous blended learning. I had an active learning space booked where some students would come face-to-face, and others would join online. Some teams had members which were fully online, while other teams had students physically in the classroom with me and the rest of their team were online.

The experience of the students

I asked a couple of students to contribute their thoughts on their experience in our ‘Zoom many-to-one’ / ‘Zoom many-to-many’ sessions.

The capstone unit was a unique experience in my university studies, as it brought together different disciplines to complete a single project. The separate disciplines brought knowledge from specific majors of commerce together, creating divergent ideas, diverse thought processes, and insights into considerations I had not perceived as a marketing student. The combination of interdisciplinary culture and thinking enhanced my learning experience, specifically with regard to project management and entrepreneurship. The process of blended synchronous teaching suited the current COVID climate and the modern era of technological integration. Having the option of remote or face-to-face learning was convenient and easy for my changing schedule, particularly in my final semester as I attempted to juggle my internship, work, and coursework. Being within the classroom, whilst engaging with peers online, engaged class participation through the materials that promoted conversation. An example of this was the ‘Lego activity’ in which we creatively constructed Lego to express our ideas and concepts for our respective projects. My personal preference is face-to-face learning, and I was thankful to complete my capstone unit in this manner. Having the majority of the class online developed my agility and flexibility with different learning environment.

Rory Peters, Commerce student

Overall, the class didn’t feel much different than a regular face-to-face class especially since my other classmates as well as Prashan made the class more lively, due to their outgoing character and sense of humour. Even though only a couple of other students turned on their face cam I felt the interactivity and ‘vibe’ was the same as a face-to-face class, mainly due to the fact that everyone was still ever so quiet and awkward with the same handful of people really interacting with the class.

Willian Mi, Commerce student

So, what the Flipped is SBATPLEZ?

A Synchronous Blended Active Team and Problem-based Learning Experience on Zoom.

Posted by Prashan Karunaratne

Prashan Karunaratne is an inspirational and innovative teacher of economics and business analytics. His enthusiasm for teaching and passion for improving student outcomes have inspired and engaged tens of thousands of students for more than a decade. He successfully utilises large lecture theatres and MOOCs as a crucible to develop a culture of active learning that nurtures students to develop a desire to engage. He inspires students to want to learn – by emphasising the ‘why’, and he equips students – by focusing on the ‘how’. The experiences and #EveryoneSayWow moments that Prashan creates in his classrooms and beyond, are those that students will remember in the years to come. He recently received a Citation for an Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning at the 2019 Australian Awards for University Teaching: "For excellence in engaging, equipping and empowering students and lecturers to achieve transformative and equitable outcomes in Economics and Excel – in classrooms, boardrooms and beyond."

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