Collaborative online international learning in marketing
More than hundred marketing students of the bachelor International Business (IB) at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht will get the opportunity to carry out an international learning project in their first year already. Groups of 4-5 students from the IB programme are connected to groups of 2-3 students from Universities from Spain, France, Ireland or, since this year, Germany. Each group of HU-IB students works with the students from one of the international partners. Together, in mixed groups they create an assignment which they present in a video presentation. After a first synchronous meeting (briefing, ice-breakers), the students themselves get to make the initial contact and choose a communication platform and frequency they want to work with. The project lasts 4 to 5 weeks.
The marketing project
The groups choose an international retailer business together, e.g. the Zara. They then compare the Zara in the Netherlands with, for example, the Zara from Spain, using the 4 P’s: product, price, place and promotion. The results will be presented online.
With this project, students can actually apply the theory they read and learn, see with their own eyes the differences and similarities between the marketing approach of one brand in different countries and talk about this together with international students. – Ghislaine Moralez Velez, Lecturer International Business
Reflection: aware of the role of marketing
The best thing about this project is to see the results in students: seeking first contact is always exciting, but once the project is up and running, students really get to enjoy it. With this project, students actually apply the theory they read and learn. They see for themselves the differences and similarities between the countries and talk about this together. Students also make connections to what they see around them through these assignments. For example, many HU students walk through the centre of Utrecht via Utrecht Centraal station to the HU location and notice in these shopping streets that they become more aware of different marketing aspects.
External communication challenges
Challenges in this project lie in internal and external communication. It is not specifically tracked how often the groups are in contact with each other, but as a lecturer you need to regularly check how far along the students are and how communication is going. Sometimes HU students try to make contact with international students but get no response (and the other way around). This is demotivating and it causes the project to stagnate. As a lecturer, you provide guidance to the students in this regard, and also seek contact with the lecturer from the other country. In addition, it is important that all lecturers on your own team follow the same line. Communication with the international Universities is also an important point: good agreements must be made regarding the final assignment, and even if you think you have done so, reality maybe turn out differently. An example of this is that at the French partner students were allowed to hand in the projects after Christmas, but the Christmas vacation of the HU students caused the communication between the students to break down.
Learning from projects
The first time the project failed due to COVID-19 work load and miscommunication. After this we visited all partner in-person on their premises and spoke through the project from A to Z. These physical meetings resulted in us becoming an international team of teachers for this project. The second year was very successful and this year we have learnt from last year. Next year, we also want to improve the positive aspects even more. For instance, by organising a day where all final videos are presented and certificates are handed out. We also agreed upon having a weekly 15 minutes stand-in-meeting with the international partners during the project, in order to encounter (potential) hick-ups in an early stage. We think this project is a very nice opportunity and possibility for freshmen students to get acquainted with international cooperation, especially as they already go on international internships in their second year.
The best tip for other VIS projects is to think like a student. How would I find this project if I were a student? What am I getting into and what benefit do I get out of it? Think about what the student is going through and what the student would want, and facilitate this. – Ghislaine Moralez Velez, Lecturer in International Business