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Database Marketing

Instructor: Monika Kukar-Kinney, associate professor of marketing

Department/Program: Marketing

Focus on the Student
Why does this course include community-based learning?

This course includes a CBL component to allow the students to experience how working on a data analysis project for a real company would be like. Most of the students are seniors looking for jobs. As such, an experience working with a real company is valuable in many aspects: from learning how to interact professionally with business clients, work effectively within a group, apply data analysis skills to new problems, communicate clearly and effectively, etc. The second reason for inclusion of the CBL project is to allow students to become more aware and personally involved as well as give back to the broader Richmond community.

What learning activities does the CBL component involve for the student?

The main learning activity is a team data analysis project for a local community partner. The project has the following components: an initial interview of the community partner, a write-up of the interview and background research on the industry the community partner operates in, data analysis, interpretation of findings, recommendations for the client.

What are the expectations for student deliverables/outcomes?
  • Two research reports: an interim report (10 pages) and the final paper (20-30 pages)
  • PowerPoint presentation at the end of the semester (approximately 30-35 slides; 15- 20 minutes in length)
  • Reflection paper at the end of the semester (2 pages, single-spaced) Approximate student time commitment over the course of the semester?
  • 30 hours for the CBL project (above and beyond class attendance and other class work/homework)
What are the benefits to student learning?

The incorporation of CBL project for a community partner increases the students’ exposure to real world business problems and the messiness that comes with them. It requires substantial critical and analytical thinking skills in applying classroom material to the real world project. It also increases the students’ awareness of the local Richmond community and its needs. Further, it helps develop students’ professional/ethical behavioral skills when communicating and working with real world community business partners.

Focus on the Instructor
What activities does the CBL component involve for the faculty teaching the class?

The activities the instructor is responsible for include: recruiting the community partners, previewing the clients’ data files to determine their suitability for classroom use, preparing the data files for classroom use, preparing teaching notes on any procedures the specific data sets may require and which were not taught as a regular part of the class, extensive communication and coordination with the community partners throughout the semester, including coordination of the clients’ classroom visits in the beginning and at the end of the semester.    

What is the extent and nature of the instructor commitment/involvement in the CBL component?

It is crucial that the instructor is highly involved in recruiting the appropriate community partners, obtaining appropriate data files, preparing the data for classroom use, and ensuring that students have the background in analytical skills necessary to address the community partner’s research questions.  This requires an investment of substantial time and effort for several months prior to actually teaching the class.

How does CBL change the design of the class?

The class is more flexible and less structured, including the project, as problems or issues inevitably arise, be it with obtaining the data files, the kind of data that is obtained, or additional information from the client. The material taught in the course may change to some degree as well, as some of the analytical skills required to successfully address the clients’ research questions may not be regularly taught in the course. Thus, part of the course content is dependent on the specific projects used during a particular semester. Lastly, several additional project workshops (some during regularly scheduled class time and some outside regular class hours) are scheduled to allow for more hands on practice and to provide more time for learning any additional techniques needed for the project.

How does CBL change the role of the instructor?

With respect to the project, the instructor becomes more of a consultant and advisor to the students, rather than the teacher. Since the final report and presentation are shared with the community partners, the instructor is more accountable for the quality of final projects.

Focus on the Community Partner
Who are typical community partners?

Community partners can range from small non-profit local businesses to large, publicly traded companies.

Who recruits them?

The instructor is responsible for recruiting the community partners and obtaining their data for the use in the CBL project.

What are the requirements to recruit, coordinate, and support community partners?

To recruit and support the community partners, the instructor may work closely with the Center for Civic Engagement, post on the ConnectRichmond, and use personal and other institutional contacts to obtain prospective clients. The instructor needs to interview any prospective clients and evaluate the match between the community partner’s needs and information available with the course needs. The instructor needs to stay in touch with the community partners throughout the semester and is responsible for coordinating their visits to the classroom.

What are the expectations for the extent and nature of the community partner involvement in the course?

Community partners are required to provide data in a digital spreadsheet form (Excel or SPSS) as well as a list of research questions/problems they would like students to address before the beginning of the semester. They have to be willing to come to class for an initial visit in the beginning of the semester and to attend the final student presentations at the end of the semester. Further, it is important that they are available to answer the students’ and instructor’s questions about the data, variables used, and any background information throughout the course of the semester, as need arises.

What are the benefits to the community partner?

Based on the data received and the research questions provided by the community partner at the beginning of the semester, students in turn provide the participating community partner with a written report of their data analysis, findings and recommendations. Community partners are also invited to attend the student in-class presentations of their key findings and recommendations.

Student Feedback
There is no "textbook" way to solve a problem.

“The most important thing I learned this semester is that there is no “textbook” way to approach and solve a problem. Taking time to critically think about the problem is key. The critical thinking process allows a student to determine what questions need to be answered, how the data can be better coded or sorted, what test should be used in the analysis, etc. It is useless to try and run various analysis tests without first thinking about what ends need to be reached. I realized the importance of critical thinking when working with the data my group received from the client.”

This was the first time I applied my skills to a real-world project.

“The CBL project was the most beneficial class project I have ever worked on. The open-endedness of the questions asked by the client allowed for our group to consider application of the skills we learned in class to analyze their current situation and consider ways to improve effectiveness of their program. This was the first time that I had been able to apply the skills I learned in statistics to a real-world project. The final presentation to the client reinforced the importance of clarity and professionalism when presenting an idea to the client.”

This course gave me confidence beginning my internship working with large datasets.

“During this past semester, I had several interviews for internships that involved both finance and marketing. It surprise me know often the interviewers asked questions regarding my experience working with large datasets and my comfort in breaking down complicated processes and explaining them to a client. Throughout my coursework in Database Marketing, I was able to provide them with several examples of working with large datasets and manipulating the data to observe trends and make conclusions. This course has given me more confidence beginning my internship this summer to work with large datasets and communicate my ideas clearly and concisely to my peers and boss.”

The "test run" was a large responsibility and a vote of confidence in our education.

“The most enriching aspect of the CBL project was the sort of “test run” we were privileged to have in working with real world partners on current problems. It was both a large responsibility and vote of confidence in the education that such a formidable company would be willing and eager to allow university students into their data in the hopes of leveraging our freshly acquired knowledge to improve the sales and marketing.”

The project leveraged my soft skills.

“The CBL project also helped leverage my soft skills. It was unlike any other project I’ve done in college in that it required our group to work on almost every aspect as a team. In past group projects, we’ve typically been able to meet as a team for few hours, divide up the work, and then meet once more to put the finishing touches on the project. With this CBL, however, our team needed to meet together quite frequently to ensure that we were interpreting the data correctly, and were working towards an appropriate end goal. Additionally, our team had a lot of different ideas. Both of these aspects made it critical that I leverage my teamwork skills in a totally new way. It was a unique experience that helped reinforce my ability to work with a team that occasionally had varying – yet all valid – points of view. I would say that these softer skills are even more valuable than the actual data analysis.”

I became knowledgeable about the client and was proud of our conclusions.

“The project taught me a number of valuable lessons. First, not to get overwhelmed when the project seems huge and the data endless, because after getting to know the data and learning how to sort it so it becomes manageable, the task seems much less daunting. It also allowed me to relate things we learned in school to a real business and to what marketers for that business actually do for a job, not just busy work that we do for class. Finally, as we presented to the client, I wasn’t that nervous after all, because I really had become knowledgeable about the client and the data and was proud of the analysis and conclusions we had come up with.”