What they didn't know was that they'd also be taught by a Clarkson alumna from her home in Florida thanks to distance-learning technology.
Bridget Marnocha '87 (ECE) is a former vice president and chief operating officer of Stanley Security Solutions Division. She is now a self-employed supply chain management consultant. Marnocha came on board to team teach with Wasserman this past semester, using technology that transmits her via live feed to the classroom and giving students an inside look at what it's really like to be an executive at a top company.
Bringing alums and other corporate executives into the classroom electronically is something Wasserman has considered for several years. "But the technology, Web-based video, is only now becoming robust and ubiquitous enough to make it happen," he says.
He and Marnocha used relatively simple technology to get the job done. This included inexpensive webcams at both ends and Skype, a software program that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet. Marnocha was projected onto a large screen via the classroom computer.
The course, which analyzes and explores how firms develop competitive advantage and become high-performing through strategic decision making, was originally supposed to include just one "guest appearance" by Marnocha. However, the experience went over so well with students that Wasserman decided to keep her on as a regular throughout the semester.
"Bridget is an ideal teaching partner - she has great industry experience at Stanley Works and GE and her personality and enthusiasm really helped bridge the gap between the classroom and the Web," says Wasserman.
Marnocha's real-world insights and experiences offered students a chance to see how executives make strategic decisions and initiated lively discussion. She also took the time to give students individual career advice and help with networking outside the classroom.
Wasserman says, "The relationships Bridget formed with students in the class, even though she wasn't physically there, were an important part of the whole learning experience."
His students agree. "Bridget's virtual presence in the classroom added a whole new level of learning to the classroom," says senior Kate Reardon '09. "We were utilizing technology that many companies use to communicate, while learning from an impressive global business leader who brought much of our material to life. It was a unique and amazing experience."
As for Marnocha, she hopes that the success of this learning experience for students will serve as a model for future classroom-industry collaborations. "Mike customized the course materials and together we applied the concepts to real-time strategic events," she says. "It was very rewarding to create an executive business review climate with such talented students. I hope virtual technologies can continue to bring more alumni into the classroom."