Success Magazine’s cover story on Mark Cuban and his business strategies, especially as owner of the NBA champion Mavericks, provides helpful advice for those of us in teaching.
One key to his financial success with the Mavericks was analyzing the experience of the average fan. He sat in different sections of the arena to determine the impact of location on the game experience. He stood in line at the concession stands and timed how long he waited to be served. He used the public restrooms to make sure they were well maintained.
He evaluated what he learned and made some changes. New scoreboards were installed because the previous scoreboards blocked some fans’ views. He implemented changes for concession service.
Those of us involved in teaching have a different kind of customer service job, as a student is a very different kind of “customer” than a fan at the Mavericks’ game. But we can learn from Cuban’s approach to experiencing what the customer experiences.
We can try to experience what our students are experiencing in our classes and then make adjustments when possible.
Read the assigned readings.
Especially if we are teaching a course for several semesters, we may not have read the assigned readings recently. Rereading the material can help us more effectively connect the readings with our lectures — avoiding duplication and providing updates of information from when the materials were published. Rereading the assigned readings also can help remind us of the questions the students would have about the readings and what insights they should have gained. We’ll also be reminded how much time it takes to complete our own assignments. This personal experience of reading what the students are reading may lead to us making changes in reading assignments.
Evaluate your classroom from the student perspective.
Be sure you’ve checked out how students view what you are projecting on screen or what you’re writing on the board. If you are in a large classroom, your handwriting on a chalkboard or whiteboard may not be visible throughout the classroom. You may need to write much larger, or, perhaps instead of writing, open a Word document and type for big-screen projection. Check your screen projection to make sure the point size is large enough or the color choice for your slides provides adequate contrast for viewing. Unlike Mark Cuban, we teachers probably can’t make many changes to the equipment setup in the classroom. But we can be aware of any shortcomings with the equipment and room arrangement and try to work around those.
Consider your course in the context of their college experience.
Our classes are on the top of our minds as teachers, and we often expect our students to make our courses their priority, too. We need to remember that students are taking several classes besides our class. (Most often students are taking three or four other courses.) Those courses also have assignments and deadlines. Most students also have other activities — from internships to recreational sports to jobs to social activities. So it’s important to remind the students of the deadlines and activities of our classes with them and not just make the syllabus available and trust that everyone will keep marching along with us.
That kind of assessment of student experience can happen throughout the semester. We don’t have to wait until the semester ends to receive the results of the official student evaluations and then consider making changes — after the course is over.