Lisa Bowles spent years in travel marketing. Now, as an instructor in the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, her priorities are to provide the best learning environment for students to excel while preparing them to succeed and lead in the hospitality management field.
For Bowles, that means evolving her teaching and coursework for online and hybrid courses.
Learning a new vocabulary
University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s facility management course — part of the hospitality management program — is unique, says Bowles.
“A lot of curriculums only focus on the side we’re most familiar with: the marketing, the sleeping rooms, the revenue, the operations,” says Bowles. “Facility management is the second part of operations, where you’re not just understanding processes of operations, you’re understanding the equipment.”
She says students have to step outside their comfort zones and their normal vocabulary to learn the concepts she’s teaching, but the applications directly impact their job preparedness.
“We take a surface-level view because we’re not engineers... but they have to have a base understanding of what their facility and equipment can and cannot do so they won’t be ripped off in budgeting — so they know how to find the people who are going to make their business run efficiently and who have the right certifications with the right insurance and ensure they don’t hire faulty technicians.”
Why a hybrid course?
Spring 2019 was the first time the hospitality management program offered an alternative to its on-campus courses. Bowles said the move was a direct response to demand.
“We have a lot of hospitality management students who work full time so we saw the need to offer more flexible course options,” she said. “It’s working well. It’s also open for students who are non-hospitality majors to take the class, and it still counts within their curriculum.”
Hospitality management is in good company as it explores online and hybrid courses. The fully online Master of Business Administration degree program graduated its first class in Fall 2018, and students are enrolling now in the 100-percent online business management bachelor’s degree program beginning Fall 2019.
The hybrid format also has allowed Bowles to adjust her on-campus class times to be more active, reinforcing information students have reviewed on their own instead of lecturing.
How does a hybrid class work?
The technical definition of a hybrid course is any course delivered at least 50 percent online.
Instead of meeting three days a week, Bowles’ Monday/Wednesday/Friday facility management course (HMGT 408) meets only one day a week.
But frequently the class meets outside the classroom, seeing real life applications of the systems and concepts presented through the online portion of the course.
“Students aren’t just memorizing terms,” Bowles says. “We went to the Student Union two different times where we met with engineers from the University’s Office of Facility Management. We saw and learned about the heating system, mechanical room and the cooling tower on the outside of the building.”
If there was no tour scheduled, students were required to prepare questions for class discussion, and Bowles would also present schematics or diagrams of systems, review concepts and explore real-world applications.
Because face-to-face time is intended to reinforce concepts, Bowles says, students have a greater responsibility for their own learning.
“They’re showing up for tours, but if they’ve never looked at the material, they’re not doing themselves any favors,” she says.
Bowles says she and professors within hospitality management are actively developing and exploring new courses to evolve into hybrid offerings for both hospitality majors and non-majors — a venture that requires Bowles to expand her own vocabulary.
The instructor says she’s actively learning new tools and teaching techniques to redesign courses to be offered 100-percent online.
Bowles says even students who choose to take on-campus courses benefit from these innovations.
“It’s not just these hybrid and online classes that are improving,” she says, “I’m improving my face-to-face classes, as well.”