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Focus on Problem Solving

A New Slant on Teaching Management Science

Bob Nydick and Matt Liberatore are educators with a mission. As Liberatore states, "We have to empower students to identify, model and solve practical business problems themselves." With that in mind, the two Villanova Business School professors have set out to radically change the way introductory management science is taught to today's MBAs.

Focus on Problem Solving

Their approach focuses on introducing the students to management science concepts using full-featured commercial software tools and requires students to work on projects that apply the tools to solve real business problems the student's companies may actually face. While traditional methods focus on what could and would be done, this new tactic stresses what students can and will do with management science.

In the class, they have selected three commercial modeling packages -- LINGO for optimization, Expert Choice for decision analysis, and Extend for simulation. "Once our students understand how to apply [LINGO's] modeling language to a set of important applications, they can modify and extend these models for immediate application. Since we started using LINGO, the quality of our student's mathematical programming projects has dramatically improved and we have observed significantly more implementations," reports Liberatore.

Many professors are moving toward spreadsheet based Management Science instruction, but Nydick and Liberatore find this approach lacking. "We offer a proven alternative to spreadsheets that synthesizes management science modeling, commercial software, and experiential learning to drive a management science course that adds value to the curriculum."

Executive MBA students are who Nydick and Liberatore primarily teach -- business people working full time while pursuing their degree part-time. The goal is to have every student implement in their job one management science project within one year of completing their course -- many are able to implement a class project during the semester.

Nydick and Liberatore have developed and classroom tested their approach over a period of five years. Their enthusiasm for the course is matched only by their students'. "We have heard on numerous occasions that our course is now one of the most practical and useful courses they have had in their MBA program", reports Nydick

Nydick and Liberatore have presented their approach at INFORMS national conferences and have held workshops on the subject at Villanova. McGraw Hill custom publishes their course materials with a CD that includes copies of LINGO and the other modeling software.