Goodman educator receives international accolades for innovative course

Kai-Yu Wang has added another prestigious award to the growing list he has earned for innovation in teaching and learning.

The Professor and Chair of Marketing, International Business and Strategy for Brock University’s Goodman School of Business was recently awarded the 2020 Pearson Prentice Hall’s Solomon-Marshall-Stuart Award for Innovative Excellence in Marketing Education by the American Marketing Association (AMA).

Wang’s Internet and Social Media Marketing course combines classroom teaching and simulations with experiential education projects that offer students hands-on training with local community organizations.

“We don’t learn by reading; we learn by doing,” said Syed Hashir Sher, one of Wang’s former graduate students. “One day, we would make online marketing materials and campaigns. The next, we would discuss how to improve them. It was very hands-on.”

After several weeks of in-class learning, students are tasked with running search engine and social media marketing campaigns for their community partners, applying class concepts in various areas to provide real-world benefits. Since launching the course at the undergraduate level in 2016, Wang’s student teams have collaborated with more than 40 community partners, with assistance from the experiential education team in Goodman.

Sher worked with Carousel Players, a local organization that provides opportunities for children to learn, participate in and watch theatre, regardless of their socio-economic status. The small non-profit has been serving the Niagara community for almost 50 years, but community awareness was lacking, according to Sher.

Through Wang’s course, Sher’s team planned a search engine marketing campaign that boosted engagement with Carousel Players, earning the organization more than 93,000 website impressions in the two-week period. Ticket sales and student registration increased, as well.

We are often so busy in the day-to-day operations of our business that the students teach us as much as they are learning themselves through the experience,” said Kate Leather, General Manager for Carousel Players. “Working with the student groups also provided us an opportunity to clarify our marketing strategies and objectives, which helped establish how to communicate with stakeholders who have limited experience or knowledge in the non-profit arts sector.”

For the course design, Wang leveraged the Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant he was awarded two years ago by Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation to develop the current structure of the course. It has evolved from a typical experiential education project to a partnership model.

To support students’ work, community partners now contribute a minimum of $100 to fund the marketing campaign. Wang’s request to invest in his students’ work was met eagerly: clients have committed to pay an average of $370 each, totaling $9,000 from all course offerings since the new model was implemented.

“It’s much easier to learn from mistakes in a real-world scenario,” said Pradeep Kumar, who worked with Sher in the inaugural graduate-level class last term. “When reading books or writing assignments, we don’t have full exposure to digital marketing platforms. With experiential learning, we were able to use real money with real clients.”

After the two-week digital marketing campaign is complete, students present their work and walk their clients through the process of running it, such as setting up a Facebook page or placing Google ads. Wang aims to ensure community partners benefit in the long run, equipped with new knowledge of how to maintain the campaign after the experiential learning project has concluded.

“Some community partners have marketing teams, but some don’t even have a single person who specializes in marketing,” he said. “I want to help small businesses that are understaffed so they can have a head start.”

The skills Kumar developed in Wang’s course were crucial for earning his co-op position in digital marketing.

“It’s a really important course,” said Kumar. “The digital marketing industry is growing quickly. Professor Wang’s course gives students great exposure to it.”

Wang’s commitment to innovative education has garnered attention within the Brock community and beyond.

In addition to receiving the Solomon-Marshall-Stuart Award from the AMA this past February, Wang’s course work earned him the 2018 Marketing Management Association AxcessCapon Teaching Innovation Award. In 2019, an innovative program proposal developed by Wang in collaboration with Goodman’s experiential education team (Daniel Lonergan and David DiPietro) placed third in the MidAmerican Business Deans Association Innovation in Business Education Award — marking the first time a Canadian school has placed for this award.

“Kai-Yu is a well-rounded, contributing member of the Goodman School of Business,” said Goodman Dean Andrew Gaudes. “His innovative approach to research, teaching and service represents our School well. Kai-Yu continues to make us proud with the well-deserved recognition he receives, both locally and among the international community.”

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