The flexible learning approaches in UBC Sauder’s classes are getting noticed internationally, as the school’s director of learning services, Rob Peregoodoff, has been awarded the annual Summum Bonum Award for Excellence in Teaching by Crestron Electronics.

It’s the first time the award is going to an educator outside of the United States.

“We’ve been redefining the pedagogy of business education, and it’s great that Crestron is recognizing the value that new technologies can add to student learning,” Peregoodoff said.

What got Peregoodoff and his team noticed was the UBC Sauder Learning Labs that opened in 2014, a set of classrooms filled with screens, recording equipment and backlit whiteboards that are allowing professors to explore a wide range of teaching methods.

The labs are used as mock boardrooms, and a design space for UBC Sauder’s classes, as well as for corporate outreach when the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre brings in executives from major financial centres to speak to students by video conference.

Learning Labs

Bringing the global workplace to life

Earlier this month, the learning labs’ potential for imitating global boardrooms was tapped by lecturer Elizabeth Newton for an intrapreneurship class for Bachelor of Commerce students.

The students acted as Lego executives charged with determining the global firm’s next bestselling toy. They worked in four teams, each working in a separate part of the room designated as a Lego office in China, Australia, Denmark or the Czech Republic. The students couldn’t go over to the other tables to speak with one another, and had to rely on the classroom’s cameras and monitors to communicate with their colleagues in other countries, and any other methods of communicating online they felt worked best.

“They were discovering what worked and what didn’t, to navigate the real issues involved with working in teams spread out across the globe,” Newton said.

“The labs enable us to mimic a professional setting very effectively, as we brought it all to life in a very realistic way.”

Re-thinking the classroom

Peregoodoff, who accepted the award at a ceremony at UBC Sauder on March 22, said the learning labs were born out of a re-think in the way classes were taught at UBC Sauder, as professors moved away from 90-minute lectures and into more engaging learning styles.

UBC Sauder has increasingly been a leader in incorporating new technologies into the classroom, he said, and is gaining a reputation for high adoption rates of technology among its faculty.

“The trick has been to offer up tech strategies to our faculty not as if they’re a panacea, but to be pragmatic and say, ‘This will save you time,’ with first steps, such as online assignment submissions,” Peregoodoff said. “And then once they’re in the medium and see how it effective it can be, they discover new ways that technology can enhance their teaching.”

Rob Peregoodoff (left) receiving the award

Setting students up for success

Roger Takacs, Crestron’s director of education programs, credited Peregoodoff for his vision and passion for transforming classrooms at UBC Sauder and bringing the learning labs to life.

“We are awarding Rob with our Summum Bonum award for his commitment to creating the ultimate collaborative environment for both in-person and remote engagement. This ensures UBC Sauder students are at the forefront of using cutting-edge technology as part of local and world-wide teams that drive innovation that can compete in a fast-paced global economy,” Takacs said.

Peregoodoff says incorporating a variety of technologies into business education is important for students who will constantly have to adapt to new scenarios in a dynamic world of business.

“Our graduates are going to be going out to global companies, and they need to be able to hit the ground running,” he said.

“We give them not only a broad set of skills, but also the tools to handle change. So when they walk into the boardroom of a multinational firm and someone presents them with something they’ve never seen before, they don’t say, ‘No I can’t do that.’ They say, ‘Great, let me give it a shot.’”