Embedding Crisis Management in the Core

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Monday, May 16, 2022
By Robert Fleming
Photo by iStock/Brian A Jackson
Rohrer College of Business has embedded modules in four core courses, each designed to prepare students to manage and lead through crises that lie ahead.
  • Four one-hour modules discuss events such as Hurricane Sandy and the pandemic in relation to the five steps of crisis management: prevention, preparation, recognition, resolution, and recovery.
  • The modules help students understand how to ensure organizational survival and prepare themselves to manage and lead during times of crisis—before disaster strikes.
  • Because students have personally experienced events such as COVID-19, they recognize the mission-critical importance of crisis management.

 
COVID-19 has demonstrated that crises are ever-present in our contemporary world. The pandemic has presented numerous challenges to businesses—especially small businesses, which have struggled to stay resilient, fulfill their missions, and continue to meet and ideally exceed the expectations of their customers, employees, owners, and other stakeholders.

At the Rohrer College of Business at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, we want to prepare our graduates to manage and lead organizations of all sizes before, during, and after inevitable crisis situations. With that in mind, we have developed and implemented relevant modules in all sections of four core undergraduate business courses: Business Policy, Management Information Systems, Organizational Behavior, and Principles of Marketing.

We have created these discipline-specific learning modules to help our students understand the essential steps of the crisis management process. We want to ensure that our graduates can execute these steps successfully, regardless of their disciplines or professional roles.

Linking Crisis to Experience

We implemented the four modules in 40 course sections early in 2022; they will reach more than 1,300 students this semester alone. All of our students will experience all four modules, regardless of major.

The modules cover familiar crisis events and situations such as Hurricane Sandy, the tornado that occurred close to our Glassboro Campus, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. The content then explores these events in relation to the five essential elements of the crisis management process: prevention, preparation, recognition, resolution, and recovery.

Each module asks students to consider the role that understanding the crisis management process will play in their professional business careers.

Each one-hour module was developed by a team that included the project coordinator, our business librarian (who provided background research), discipline-specific business faculty, and regional business leaders. Delivered in an asynchronous video format, the four modules each feature the perspectives of one or more Rohrer professors.

These faculty perspectives are paired with those of regional business leaders—a total of six leaders for the series—who relate the crisis management process to the course material. As the project coordinator, I also deliver an introduction to each module in which I provide an overview of crisis management.

The school held several planning sessions in advance of recording sessions, in order to refine module content and ensure that the faculty and leaders who appear in the videos were well prepared. The university’s online video productions group provided technical support for the project. In addition to recording and editing each module, this group embedded the modules in our learning management system (LMS), according to the dates that teaching faculty said they planned to implement the modules in their course schedules.

Our faculty assign students to view and complete each module outside of class through our LMS. Once they complete a module, students take a quiz on its content, which ensures they complete the entire module. They are then presented with three reflection questions that will inspire a follow-up class discussion.

These modules resonate with our students because they have personally experienced several crisis events and situations, including COVID-19. This helps them recognize the mission-critical importance of preparing for crises that they and their organizations will face throughout their business careers.

Course-Specific Content

Each module takes a four-step approach. First, it introduces the five elements of the crisis management process. Second, it relates the crisis management process to what students are learning in each course. Next, it asks students to consider the role that understanding the crisis management process will play in their professional business careers. Finally, students complete a quiz on the material.

For example, the organizational behavior module covers crisis management in relation to topics such as organizational change management, leadership, teamwork, decision making and problem solving, and workplace stress in times of crisis. The marketing module focuses on topics such as ethics, social responsibility, consumer privacy, and supply chain management as they apply to the crisis management process.

The addition of these modules “reflects our commitment to producing graduates who are prepared to effectively tackle opportunities and challenges as they assume leadership roles.” — Sue Lehrman

The management information systems module tackles topics such as business continuity and disaster recovery. And the business policy module walks students through the process of helping organizations maintain competitive advantage and ensure organizational survival and success in times of crisis. This final module also introduces students to ways that they can better understand and address stakeholder expectations, roles, and responsibilities, as well as prepare themselves to successfully manage these issues before disaster strikes.

Fulfilling Our Role as Educators

So far, we have featured leaders from diverse industries in these offerings. They include a health and wellness entrepreneur in the marketing module; the general manager of a large hotel in the organizational behavior module; a disaster and recovery coordinator in the management information systems module; and executives from a transportation company, a floral company, and a business consulting firm in the business policy module.

The format that we utilized in each of the four modules is designed to facilitate periodic updates to the content. These updates will enable us to invite additional faculty and business leaders to contribute their expertise and insights as future events unfold.

This ongoing project represents an area of thought leadership that aligns with our mission, research, and teaching, in accordance with the expectations of AACSB accreditation, says Sue Lehrman, dean of the Rohrer College of Business. “It reflects our commitment to producing graduates who are prepared to effectively tackle opportunities and challenges as they assume leadership roles in their organizations,” she adds. “This project is part of our role as thought leaders in crisis management.”

The Rohrer College of Business has developed a video with more information about this project, which it plans to share with various stakeholder groups. Those interested in learning more or receiving the link to the video can contact the author at [email protected].

Authors
Robert Fleming
Professor of Management and Professor of Crisis and Emergency Management (Affiliate Appointment), Rowan University
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