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Today’s post features Susan Gautsch, Pepperdine University
Enhancing Learning and Connections In and Out of the Classroom
Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management enrolls approximately 2,000 students, many of whom work full time. Connecting and engaging busy students can be challenging, so the business school took a page from Fortune 500 companies: it uses Yammer to foster collaboration, enhance learning, and forge tighter relationships among students, faculty, staff, and increasingly, alumni.
The Yammer Solution
In 2010, the school integrated Yammer into Graziadio’s Learning Environment and Network (GLEAN). Since then, Yammer has been virally adopted by most business school students, faculty, and staff.
“We knew students wanted broader engagement, but we did not anticipate how much they’d help each other with logistical questions, IT support, business contacts, professional advice, and moral support,” says Director of eLearning Susan Gautsch. “We also didn’t anticipate the social power of Yammer, which psychologically bridges online and face-to-face experiences. It creates a strong sense of community, regardless of students’ schedules or where they’re studying.”
Students from Graziadio’s Master of Science in Organizational Development program, who come from six countries and only meet five times over two years, stay engaged using Yammer: one class of 35 students has collectively posted 6,000 messages over an eight-month period.
One popular Yammer implementation is what the business school calls Peer Connection. “It’s student driven,” Gautsch explains. “They use it to get to know each other and set up affinity groups.” For instance, students join the Marketing group to network and swap ideas about industry news and course topics.
The school’s faculty also put Yammer to good use. Many have set up private Yammer groups to facilitate and deepen class discussions. Another popular program is Classrooms Across Borders, a way for faculty to share their expertise. Students can follow topics or professors, who post open questions or share articles to generate online discussion. “It’s a great way for faculty to have more of a presence, to get what they do out there to the wider student body,” Gautsch observes.
Yammer is also popular with staff. Academic advisors use it to communicate broadly, answering questions and sending out updates on everything from upcoming meetings to traffic snarls that may make it hard to get to campus. “Our deans are getting online more and more to engage with students and alumni, which they appreciate,” Gautsch observes. She adds that, “Alumni are a growing part of our network, since students who use Yammer want to keep using it to stay engaged with the university after they graduate.”
- An end to communication silos. Yammer allows faculty, staff, and students to communicate across departments and campuses.
- Deeper connections. Professors and staff use Yammer to expand on classroom discussions and tighten ties with students and each other.
- New networking opportunities. Full- and part-time students make cross-program connections and network with alumni through topic-driven conversations.
- An ever-growing data repository. Due to its search functionality and ease of contributing content, Yammer is a valuable living knowledge base.