Taking the Large Classroom Experience to the Next Level – for More Than 30 Years

Longtime Kent State marketing professor delivers engaging instruction in-person and online.

During his 34 year tenure at Kent State University, professor Lawrence Marks, Ph.D., has been at the forefront of developing online classes, which have become an indispensable part of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marks started out teaching both graduate and undergraduate classes and continued teaching while he served as chairperson of the Department of Marketing. Later, when he became the associate dean of the College of Business Administration, he continued teaching graduate classes only.
Marketing Professor Lawrence Marks

After 10 years in an administrative role, Marks said he wanted to return to teaching undergraduate classes again. At that time, he was asked to develop a then-considered “new way” to teach the “Principles of Marketing” for both in-person and web-based students. He began recording in-person classes and making them available for students learning via the web. 

“It seems to have worked pretty well and that is the approach we still use today.” Marks said. “Each semester I teach 200-plus students in-person and 400-plus students on the web.”

In addition to the introductory marketing class, Marks has also taught the First Year Experience (FYE) orientation class for new students since that program’s inception.   

Marks shared some of his methods and how his teaching changed when the global pandemic closed the university’s campuses in March. 

Q: How do you provide support for the students in your classes?
A: Given that Principles of Marketing is a “mass” section of 600-plus students, I cannot really provide individual support for students. My solution is to make the class as clear and convenient as possible.
A key support element is communication. I constantly keep in touch with students.  I send them an “Early Welcome” before the class begins. I email them when each lecture is available online, when each exam opens and before each exam closes. An important support element is that I try to respond to any email within a few hours of receiving it. 

I update their grades regularly and as the semester moves on; I let them know what they need to average on the remaining material to earn an A, A-, B+, etc.
Also, the class is very well organized. Students know from before the first class what the schedule is for class meetings, weekly tests, midterms and final exams and extra credit.  Most students find this helps them quite a bit.
To keep the material fresh and interesting, I create “Marketing in the News” content for each lecture. I bring in current business/marketing related stories and annotate them to indicate what marketing principles are at work.
Q: What changes did you make in your instruction to help students when they had to learn remotely this spring?
A: The transition to remote learning this spring for our class was pretty seamless. From home, I created new “up-front” material for each lecture. This focused on “housekeeping” (where we were in the class, what weekly exams and extra credit were opening/closing, etc.) and on Marketing in the News, including commentary on how marketers were reacting to the pandemic crisis. I then edited in the lectures from a prior semester. So, for the basic concepts, student received the material exactly as others had heard it.  
This more or less replicated a typical web-based class and in-person students did not have any trouble adapting to viewing the material online. The only real change was that in-person students who usually take their proctored midterms in our computer labs needed to transition to online proctoring via Proctorio (a remote browser-based service that monitors test-takers).
From my perspective, the fall semester will be much like the spring. I will be teaching remotely. The difference for the “Principles of Marketing” class is that I do not plan to use any pre-recorded lectures but will record both the upfront material and the lectures from home, and then make them available to both remote and web-based students.
Q: How do you feel the university helps students keep “moving forward” with their studies and in preparing them for their lives after graduation? 
A: From the first semester to the last, KSU does everything it can to help our students succeed. In their first semester, students take the FYE class to help them adapt to college life.

Our Academic Success Center offers tutoring and workshops, such as note-taking, time management, studying, test prep, and more.
Of course, I am most familiar with what the College of Business offers. Our college offers tutoring in subjects such as Economics and Accounting; it has a professional advising staff to help students stay on target and the college supports MAPS mentors (Mentors Aiding in Peer Success), who are upper-class business students who are available to help.
Business students need to take “Exploring Business” in their freshman year which orients them to the business world. They need to take “Introduction to Professional Development” and “Advanced Professional Development” to be sure they have the professional skills needed to succeed in the workplace. The university has a Career Services office to help students prepare for and get jobs, but the college has its own office as well.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching at Kent State?
A: I enjoy working with the students in the classroom. The material is valuable and the interaction, even in a large lecture hall, is invigorating. Based on years of feedback, most students find the course challenging and useful.  

I enjoy interacting with them and knowing that the material will be helpful to them in their future careers. Most of our students are hard-working – both in and out of the classroom – many are bright and inquisitive, and so they are a pleasure to work with.

POSTED: Thursday, July 16, 2020 - 12:38pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - 8:35am
Phil Soencksen