B-school class mixup

Students, faculty and course content overlap in upper-level business class

Meghan Sharma | Contributing Reporter

When a group of approximately 25 business school students walked into their MEC 470: Market Competition and Value Appropriation class this semester, they were surprised to find the material oddly familiar. That’s because the students had—without knowing—been taught a combination of MEC 470 and MEC 370: Game Theory for Business, the previous level course, last semester by visiting professor Oleksandr Shcherbakov.

Associate Dean of the Olin Business School, Steve Malter, said that administration and students were unaware of the issue until the first day of class this fall, when several students enrolled in MEC 470 noticed that they already knew the material presented in the class.

Tools are taught in 370, while application is usually in 470, but Shcherbakov taught both together, Malter said.

Because MEC 370 and MEC 470 build on each other and are similar, many said it was hard for students and faculty to recognize the mix-up last year. In fact, many students in the class just thought the professor was challenging them to go beyond what they were learning and apply their knowledge to real-world examples and more complex ideas.

“He mentioned that he challenged us a lot, and he wanted us to learn more, so I just assumed that he took it a little bit further but that he never actually took examples from the next class,” a student from the class, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Business school faculty members came up with several options for the students so they would not have to relearn the MEC 470 material. One option offered was a newly created second section of MEC 471: Empirical Techniques, the next course in the required sequence for Economics and Strategy majors, at a different time to provide the students with more flexibility when trying to rearrange their schedules.

“We were in there that first week, talking with the students, telling them what had happened, and providing them with options,” Malter said.

According to the anonymous student from Shcherbakov’s class, no one suspected that anything was wrong before this semester.

“Everyone in the class was pretty shocked when they said we can’t take 470,” she said.

Students in Shcherbakov’s class satisfied both the MEC 370 and 470 requirements, but since students still needed to take another business course to reach the number of credits needed to obtain a BSBA, they were given the option to take a different business course. Students were also given the opportunity to work on an independent study with senior faculty members in the field of economics.

Despite the mix-up, still students found the BSBA office has been working to make sure students affected by the combined classes are accommodated.

“The BSBA office really tried hard to make sure that we were happy with this decision and make sure that we were still getting the education that would be needed,” the anonymous student added.

While unideal for many students and faculty members, Malter said that this situation actually puts these students slightly ahead of their requirements.

“We gave the students three pretty solid choices, looking at how we can continue their academic development, avoid redundancy [and] not disrupt their schedules at all, or with very minimal impact,” Malter said. “This gives our students greater flexibility to position what [classes] they’ve got left and how they want to take it.”