I have attempted to capture the essence of my teaching philosophy in the following sections. Overall, I find that my students enjoy my teaching.
To teach is to learn
I started teaching as a graduate teaching assistant at Georgia State University back in 1995. We were expected to teach the entire session, and not just teach from the professor’s notes. I was gearing up to teach Business Statistics. I was mortified by the feeling that I couldn’t go wrong in front of the class. What I found out instead was that I learned from every one of my students -- even the ones who didn’t participate. Very quickly, I realized that my opinion was one amongst many, and while I was expected to lead, I wasn’t expected to be the all-knowing entity. In fact I found it exciting when students disagreed and expressed their points of view. It gave me a chance to reinforce my outlook. This was the turning point in my career. After teaching that course successfully, I felt that I had found my calling. I wasn’t going to be a pilot or a railroad engineer (my childhood aspirations). I was going to be a teacher.
Beyond the classroom
The term classroom is a bit of a misnomer. The metaphorical room has grown quite a bit. It spans many realms outside of the face-to-face environment. While we have students who have limited work experience, we have others who hold a full time job, and come to get an education in the evening. We also have students who have work experience in other countries, but find it to be at odds with the American work style. Their queries added to the experiences of working students makes for a vivid discussion in the classroom. In one instance, I was explaining the use of media and servers by large Internet companies like Youtube. It turned out that one of my students in that class actually managed servers at Youtube. Such richness of experience in the classroom is rare, but we happen to be in the hotbed of IT. We get to experience it first-hand.
Effective use of pedagogy
Given the limitations of time and space, we are compelled to compress a lot of material within a semester. Syllabi, assignments and exams help in creating structure and assessment. I find that in some cases, learning by example via hands-on projects works better. In other instances, such as my MBA classes, the case study approach holds a lot more depth. Effective use of pedagogical methods not only helps in managing the course; it also helps me in making the assessment process a fair and balanced one. I have taught a variety of courses in Information Systems. These range from introductory, to specialized, undergraduate, to graduate, to executive. The breadth and depth of experience is tremendous and can be overwhelming, especially when I have to teach all three kinds of courses in the same semester! I find undergraduate classes to be refreshing because students are open to all kinds of new ideas. I can entice them with hands-on projects where they build servers, networks, and databases. I find graduate courses to be exciting, because the students are mature, and instill a certain depth in the discussions. I can involve them in a case discussion about a company like Facebook or Google from “down on highway 101” and facilitate the questioning of status quo. I find executive MBA courses to be “roll up your sleeves” challenging, because the students are seasoned professionals. It takes a bit of work and time to loosen them up to new ideas, possibilities and growth. My industry experience comes in handy while I am in a EMBA class. In all, I enjoy the whole spectrum. I love being a teacher!
Role of technology
Technology plays a very important support role in teaching. I am usually at a loss without “Google” in my classroom. Technology plays a powerful support role in my classrooms. Indeed, there has been one instance thus far, when the projector failed, and I had to fall back on the blackboard. In most instances, I have moved all my assignments and exams to iLearn. Students submit their work in digital format via the website. I also use wikis in my classes to facilitate collaboration across teams. Some of my courses require building media, like audio, video, animation, while others involve building databases, websites, and networks. Teaching about technology using technology is akin to the medium being the message.
The so-called real world
I have always been amused by that term: "real world". It would seem that we in academia live in a make-believe world, where we don’t quite know what goes on in the real world. The gap between what goes on in the classroom and what the students experience when they work outside must be minimized as much as possible. I make every effort to do so by bringing in guest speakers who help reinforce the student views of what to expect in the real world. I also frequently use special study courses to allow students to work with special topics that are not yet covered by our core and elective classes. I serve on the board of advisors of a few companies. I
work with industry professionals via our internship program to bring that “real world” into our classrooms, and make students more confident before they step out into the work arena.