Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Main Content

In this professor’s class, there’s plenty to see, hear and do

June 19, 2020

From the moment they log into class, Professor Angèle Beausoleil’s students are engaged.

Professor Angèle Beausoleil.


To kick off her lessons, Beausoleil plays instrumental jazz to get students in the right frame of mind to focus. She blends humour, compelling visuals and sound effects (applause, laugh tracks and even the sound of crickets when a joke doesn’t quite land) into her lectures. She encourages students to keep their webcams on, contribute to real-time class discussions and sketch out ideas to share with the class.

Though all teaching activities have moved online temporarily because of the global pandemic, classes at Rotman are just as stimulating as ever, and professors are just as devoted to delivering compelling learning experiences. Across the School, professors like Beausoleil are making the most of the technology available and finding creative ways to keep learners engaged.

Many students, like Sonal Gupta (MBA ‘21), believe that the hard work is paying off. Gupta completed three in-person classes for her Business Design Fundamentals course with Beausoleil before teaching moved online last semester. She, like many others, were initially worried.

“I think everyone was concerned about whether the classroom experience could really be delivered online, but the assignments and classes were so well-designed and well-adapted for the online model. I think I got just as much out of Professor Beausoleil's online classes as I did in the in-person ones,” she says.


“Take advantage of this opportunity. Use this time to pursue your personal learning journey.”

—Angèle Beausoleil, Academic Director of the Business Design Initiative


How Professor Beausoleil keeps classes interesting

Beausoleil’s in-person classes have always been very interactive. Beausoleil, who teaches a range of courses on business design and innovation across the Rotman School, typically instructs in ‘flat’ classrooms, with desks rearranged so that students face each other during discussions. It’s not unusual to see students out of their seats and sketching out ideas on whiteboards or chart paper.

MBA student Sonal Gupta at the Rotman School.


“I don’t allow students to sneak off into hallways or breakout rooms,” explains Beausoleil, who is an assistant professor in the teaching stream and the academic director of the Business Design Initiative at Rotman. “Innovation is a team sport. All group work and discussions are carried out in the same room so that students can learn from what their peers are doing.”

When teaching shifted online, Beausoleil knew that she needed to maintain the collaborative energy.

From day one, she encouraged her student to keep their webcams on so that they could face each other like they would in in-person sessions. And she looked for ways to encourage interaction and discussion whenever possible.

“For passive activities, like watching a short video as a class, there was still an interactive component. We’d be expected to share a few key takeaways afterwards,” says Gupta, who recently completed a second class, Business Design Practicum, with Beausoleil.

“Everyone would take it as a challenge and really try to see what insights they could derive and contribute to the conversation.”

Kanishk Noel (Evening MBA ’21), a student from Beausoleil’s Business Design Practicum class, agrees that the discussions were always enriching.

“The engagement was great,” he says. “You could sense that a lot of people were shy about speaking up or sharing ideas through the online chat at first, but once the class got going, the discussion was great. It felt like we weren’t just learning from one professor, but from our colleagues too.”

Beausoleil paid attention to the ways in which students absorbed information — she was deliberate in presenting text, numerical information and compelling visuals in her lectures. She also incorporated ‘craft moments’, where students were expected to physically sketch out prototypes using art supplies.

“I am not the best artist, but those exercises were great in helping me explore or think through an idea,” says Noel. "Generally, I think this course was flawlessly executed and effective. This was my first foray into business design, and I feel like a switch flicked on in my head.”


“I got just as much out of Professor Beausoleil's online classes as I did in the in-person ones.”

—Sonal Gupta, MBA ‘21


The unexpected benefits of going online and why it’s the right time to pursue an education

The shift to online instructing wasn’t entirely disruptive for Beausoleil. Because of the evolving nature of innovation and technology, she’s used to updating her classes constantly to keep the content relevant and timely. She has always made her assigned readings and course resources available online.

However, going online did challenge her to make the most out of tools available on teaching platforms. The chat function proved to an especially helpful feature that elevated the learning experience.

“When we go back to live classes, I’d love to keep the chatroom,” says Noel. “It’s a great way to contribute ideas and glean insights from other students without disrupting the class.”

In this new online learning environment, students are able to benefit from a teaching team. With each online session, Beausoleil is supported by a teaching assistant and a lab assistant.

“You aren’t just getting one instructor, you are getting a team that’s able to support you,” she says. “I think this is just one of the ways that students are getting more value out of their classes.”

While the School looks forward to resuming in-person lectures when it is safe to do so, she believes this is still an excellent time to pursue an MBA or graduate degree.

“Right now, every organization has had to find creative ways to shift their operations online. The companies that thrive — the companies that students will want to work for after graduation — will be the ones that manage the transition well,” she explains.

“For anyone who is considering an MBA or higher education, why not experience this evolution every organization is going through right now, first-hand, as student? Learn how to effectively engage with classmates and professors, deliver messages clearly and collaborate online,” she adds.

“Take advantage of this opportunity. Use this time to pursue your personal learning journey.”


“This was my first foray into business design, and I feel like a switch flicked on in my head.”

—Kanishk Noel, Evening MBA ’21 (Pictured above)


Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »


Full-Time
MBA
Learn more»


Morning or
Evening MBA
Learn more »


Learn more
about the
Business Design
Initiative at
Rotman
 »

© Rotman School of ManagementAASCB