Students tackle a difficult pricing subject where the concurrent learning and application of theory boosts work readiness.
UTS Pricing student group visits their client contact, Dr Sonya Pearce from Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training, in Glebe NSW.

Lisa Andersen, Manager, Shopfront Community Program lisa.andersen@uts.edu.au
John Burke, UTS Pricing Coordinator & Lecturer, Marketing Discipline Group, Business School, john.burke@uts.edu.au University of Technology, Sydney

Pricing and Revenue Management, a postgraduate marketing subject based on service-learning pedagogy, introduced WIL with real clients five years ago. As a collaboration between UTS Business School and Shopfront, a university-wide community engagement program, over a 12-week semester students are taught all aspects of pricing theory while simultaneously working in teams undertaking market research and developing pricing strategies for under-resourced community organisations.

Since 2014, all 17 community clients have benefited from implementing pricing recommendations and 475 students have learned and applied pricing theory ‘live’, while also learning critical professional skills – client management, communications, problem-solving and teamwork.

Full details of 'Bringing theory to life: Using WIL to motivate commitment and master complexity'

Disciplines included in the WIL activity

Business

Model of WIL activity

Industry/community-based projects; research activities; site visits; consultancy services; tutorial based teams.

Brief description of WIL activity

Pricing and Revenue Management, a postgraduate marketing subject based on service-learning pedagogy, introduced WIL with real clients five years ago. As a collaboration between UTS Business School and Shopfront, a university-wide community engagement program, over a 12-week semester students are taught all aspects of pricing theory while simultaneously working in teams undertaking market research and developing pricing strategies for under-resourced community organisations. Since 2014, all 17 community clients have benefited from implementing pricing recommendations and 475 students have learned and applied pricing theory ‘live’, while also learning critical professional skills – client management, communications, problem-solving and teamwork.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

Five years

Who benefits from the WIL activity?

Community organisations – usually unable to resource pricing services – receive quality advice supporting their long-term sustainability and the equitable pricing of their services for the communities they serve. By applying theories learned in class to a real-world issue, students develop a deeper understanding of how to approach pricing and are better prepared to apply pricing methods to any product type or organisation. As well, developing additional critical ‘soft’ professional skills (see above) and a sense of the social responsibility of their professional practice. The university fulfils its public benefit role, while faculty gain experience working with external partners and strengthen their capabilities in WIL coursework.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

Here WIL brings to life complex theory. While much WIL activity is around applying existing disciplinary knowledge, this subject is innovative because, over 12 weeks, it introduces and teaches new pricing theory, financial mathematics and analytics while concurrently embedding that theory through a real project and connecting ‘live’ implementation issues to the classroom. Learning is scaffolded over the semester, delivered, tested, evaluated and applied at a pace that does not overwhelm students who are new to this disciplinary field. It also demonstrates ethical practice as, not only do the ‘usable’ outcomes have public benefit, the activity does not replace graduate jobs and existing paid work.

How adaptable is the WIL activity to other disciplines, sectors, teaching practices etc?

This process can be adapted to any subject, particularly those where experience helps embed the learning. The process – with a three-step teaching method (see below), clear schedule and communications, and set timeframes – is key. This is now well-developed with clear goals, roles, responsibilities and project management systems. Shopfront coordinates sourcing of community clients with student-ready briefs, leaving the subject coordinator to focus on mentoring and learning outcomes. A key component is the requirement for the process to be guided by teaching staff with both significant theoretical and industry implementation expertise.

How sustainable is the WIL activity beyond its immediate implementation?

Curriculum development has been based on solid evaluation processes involving all stakeholders (see below). The subject is successful and sustainable. It has seen a 21% increase in student enrolments, and community organisations, through word-of-mouth, now approach UTS specifically for a ‘pricing project’. However, in comparison to a traditional classroom subject, an additional five hours per week is required by the subject coordinator to run these ‘live-client’ projects. (Note: this extra workload has halved from around 10 hours per week in year one, due to process improvements.)

How is the success of the WIL activity evaluated?

Students complete a survey prior to commencing the subject to identify current skills, employment, and concerns. A mid-semester feedback is also completed to check course experience and quality. As part of their final report, teams complete questions on their experience and lessons learnt. Post-semester, individual students are surveyed regarding the process and outcomes. In 2018, 90% agreed the work was relevant to their professional development and 87% agreed it was relevant for their personal development. Clients complete an evaluation on each group project and a post-semester evaluation on process and overall satisfaction of the outcomes. All community partners over five years said they would recommend their experience to other organisations. All data is used to enhance future projects.

What are the wider impacts of the WL activity beyond completion?

As the pre-semester survey showed, many students had little or no work-experience, and students are encouraged to put the projects on their CVs and LinkedIn profiles to help enhance employment opportunities. Anecdotal evidence via student evaluations and communications highlight subject alumni have used their new skills for internships with past pricing clients including Monkey Baa Theatre, and employment with organisations such as Porsche, YMCA, and major banks. Community clients are provided with workable solutions and value working with universities. Client successes include Information and Cultural Exchange, Studio A, Accessible Arts, Parkinson’s NSW, and Tranby Indigenous Business Hub. Finally, faculty have a model, and teaching materials and templates which are transferrable to other subjects.

How does the WIL activity approach the preparation, implementation and reflection phases of WIL?

Before changing to live projects, evaluation findings showed students could apply learned theory but were not able to adapt the theory to other scenarios. Introduction of the WIL component now sees a three-step teaching method:

  1. To avoid overwhelming the students, learning is scaffolded across the semester, ‘drip feeding’ complex theoretical content including strategy, psychology, and analysis.
  2. A case study is used in classroom workshops to practice application of each theory. At the end of every practice session, the students are given the opportunity to reflect, ask questions, and depending on the overall confidence level, additional practice material is designed for the students, so that they have a template to follow for their client’s project.
  3. Student teams apply these theories to their client’s project.

What are the learning outcomes of the WIL activity and how do they link to graduate attributes?

All outcomes link directly to UTS Business graduate attributes:

  • Business knowledge and concepts – students learn pricing theory and apply it ‘live’.
  • Critical thinking, creativity and analytical skills – students analyse real, complex data sets and scenarios and are challenged to think deeply to form usable recommendations.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills – students work in teams and communicate with clients throughout.
  • Attitudes and values – working with non-profit organisations develops social responsibility and generates commitment to their client and understanding of the client’s social mission.
  • Business practice-oriented skills – real projects connect complex implementation to the classroom.

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

In 2018 the platform was applied to an undergraduate subject in the Management School, and there are now plans for transferral within the Marketing School. The balance of successful learning outcomes for students and useful outcomes for external partners has been achieved.

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