NBC Learn Higher Ed Spotlight: Bridging Academic Topics With Real Life Experiences
As an accounting student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the mid-1980’s, Gerard Mellnick worked as an intern in public and corporate accounting jobs. Even though he was younger than most of his co-workers, he got the opportunity to train company employees on software programs and other technology. Mellnick did not know it then, but these teaching experiences would come in handy more than once throughout his career. First, as a CPA and management consultant at BDO, a top accounting firm, where he was tasked with leading on-site trainings with clients and co-workers. And later, in his current position as an Assistant Professor of Business at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. “I always had a desire to teach because of the great experiences I had with training at BDO and my internships,” Mellnick says.
What started as a part-time teaching position in the Schoolcraft Accounting Department in 1999, has transformed into a full-time position and includes several other roles at the college, including course development and mentoring students and faculty. “I have been getting more and more involved over the years... At the forefront is teaching, which is something that is a natural fit for me. I know it makes a difference and that’s important to me.”
Chief among his roles is his position as a subject matter expert on the Distance Learning Department’s course development team. In each of these courses, Mellnick employs NBC Learn resources throughout—as an accompaniment to the reading material, as part of the discussion board instructions, and as part of his overall assessment strategy.
Mellnick explains that one of NBC Learn’s most valuable features is its ability to show how a major news story develops and changes over time. An example Mellnick gives is in his Business Ethics course, where he tries to cover the Enron scandal with “an all-encompassing approach.” He shows examples of when the scandal first broke, the trial and sentencing of Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, and what corporations have learned since Enron. “I am really able to show them an evolution of what is going on and it’s not just some isolated paragraph somewhere. They are actually able to look at a live news story.”
In his E-commerce course, Mellnick uses NBC Learn to show an eclectic mix of videos on hackers and online security, privacy policies, e-book prices, as well as older videos on cyber-crime fears in the late 1990’s. “One of our goals in course development is to have a varied assessment strategy in terms of content and if students are just required to read the screen and read the book, that’s not going to be enough to drive the point home.”
And in Mellnick’s Personal Finance course, he shows one of his favorite videos. It is a Today show story from 1982 on collectibles as investments. “We kind of joke about it but it shows what was important back then in terms of collectibles. I even tell them, this video is 35 years old and the coffee cups that they were using on the Today Show could probably be collectibles now too… It really provides a nice exposure for the students. And I think they like that.”