Five minutes with Tawnya Means

Tawnya Means is an Assistant Dean and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center for the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Tawnya is also the Chair of the AACSB Online Learning Affinity Group.

What’s been your experience with the case method, and why do you enjoy this approach to teaching?

I have found that using cases adds depth and real life to the way I use a simulation. The balance between the two helps my students to get a more authentic experience. The simulation helps the students learn through financial decisions, but the “managing people” part of making decisions is not done well through an algorithm.

I use cases to help students see the personal impact of financial decisions. For example, my students are encouraged to add automation to their plant production in the simulation. In a real firm, adding automation has impacts on HR and personnel. So, they also read a short case and then create a plan for how they will help various stakeholders of the firm both understand why it is best for the company, and identify strategies to help train up or train out their current employees.

online coursesYour research interests include online learning – how do you use the case method online?

The case plus simulation learning I described is in a fully online course. I have also worked with other instructors to help them implement teaching cases online. The difference between what happens in the face-to-face learning environment and the online learning environment is primarily interaction and reflection. While it is natural to have interaction in person, it is more natural to have deeper reflection online. So, by being intentional about building interaction into the course, the online evnvironment can actually be a better place to balance interaction and reflection.

As Chair of the AASCB Online Learning Affinity Group, can you explain a little bit about what the Group does?

The primary activity of the Online Learning Affinity Group is to be a resource for anyone in an AACSB accredited business school in regard to any issue in online learning.

We provide opportunities through our online discussion forum and at activities at AACSB events for people to come together and discuss issues, challenges, and lessons learned in online learning.

cartoon computerOne of the initiatives of the group of which I am the proudest is our Third Thursday webinar series. Every third Thursday of the month, we host webinars where we bring together experts and novices to share information and to discuss a variety of topics. We then post the recording for those who were not able to attend.

What impact do you think the Coronavirus outbreak will have on the online teaching landscape going forwards?

The unprecedented global coronavirus and associated COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant impact on teaching and learning. No longer will any educational institution have the barrier that says an instructor or an institution can’t put courses online.

My hope is that everyone will have some good experiences that help them to find technologies and strategies that will improve their teaching in a variety of ways.

My experience is that for those who put in the time and energy into effective online teaching, they become better at teaching in any environment. If that is the case, there will be benefits to everyone involved.

If you could be transported into another profession for one week, which would you choose, and why?

As a child, I read every one of James Herriot’s books and wanted to be a veterinary doctor. Then, as a youth, I was fascinated with childbirth and surgery and wanted to be a medical doctor. Earning a PhD and working as I do is a very fulfilling job, but there are still days when I wonder what it would have been like to be another kind of doctor.

RunningHow do you relax?

I love to run and listen to music. I have completed five half marathons and more 5k, 10k and 10 mile runs than I can count.

Do you have a favourite quote or guiding principle?

“History shows us that the people who end up changing the world … are always nuts, until they are right, and then they are geniuses.” — John Eliot

About Tawnya

Tawnya Means is an Assistant Dean and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center for the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In this role, she provides vision, leadership and management for a Center focused on serving the needs of students and faculty as it relates to teaching and learning.

Tawnya’s team supports the college Assurance of Learning process for maintenance of accreditation through AACSB – an organisation where she serves as Chair of their Online Learning Affinity Group.

Her research interests include online and blended learning, active learning, faculty preparation to teach, and technology for teaching.

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