Marketing professor earns national honor

March 3, 2011 -- In 2002, Bruce Robertson prepared to teach his first semester of Marketing 431, Principles of Marketing, an introductory survey course of nearly 400 students that had previously been taught at the movie theatre at Stonestown Galleria.

A photo of Associate Professor of Marketing Bruce Robertson.

Associate Professor of Marketing Bruce Robertson.

But two weeks before the semester began Robertson received some bad news: the theatre wasn't available and there wasn't a room on campus big enough to accommodate the class. With help from Academic Technology, Robertson improvised and created a hybrid class that allowed students to attend in person, watch a live stream online or view recorded lectures saved in an online archive.

Since he started teaching the course a decade ago, it has grown to nearly 1,500 students per semester and the format has been replicated at several universities across the country. For his work, Robertson was recently named the Outstanding Marketing Teacher by the Academy of Marketing Science, an international scholarly professional organization.

In the class, Robertson gives 13 small quizzes throughout the course of the semester that ensure students interact with the material, and then schedules a comprehensive, in-person final exam that students take  in a computer lab 30 at a time. Robertson has authored papers on the class, showing that student learning and satisfaction is similar to those in smaller section classes. 

"We teach the theory as efficiently as possible and in an effective way," Robertson said. "That frees up resources in our department so in our upper division classes we can have smaller class sizes."

Robertson, a former touring musician, has taken strides to keep the class engaging. He drew on his experience running financial planning seminars to help make the class relevant for students from a variety of majors, focusing one unit on job-finding skills, for example.

As the class has grown, Academic Technology has helped scale the technology that makes the class possible. Robertson estimates that he's taught nearly 18,700 students in Marketing 431 since he started teaching the course nearly a decade ago.

"It's breadth, not depth," he said. "I like this award because what it validates is that we're giving students quality in our breadth. It keeps growing and growing because there is unlimited space. I don't think there would be a graduating senior who would be hurt by understanding the principles of marketing."

-- Michael Bruntz