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        Faculty, Students, Supply Chain Management

        Supply Chain class uses immersive technology to make comprehensive reports

        November 23, 2020 By Joe McAdory

        All News



        “Recognizing that students can learn differently is important to me.”                                                                                                     -- LaDonna Thornton, Assistant Professor in Supply Chain Management

        The Harbert College is committed to providing relevant, forward-looking, engaging curricula and instruction.

        What is the impact of COVID-19 on commercial airlines? How are goods and services transported within the NBA bubble? What about the environmental impact of electric vehicles or e-commerce delivery expectations? 

        Thorough reports on various issues in the transportation industry, via research-style posters, are part of Dr. LaDonna Thornton’s Transportation Management of Flows class, part of Harbert College’s Supply Chain Management curriculum. The conversational-style report given to Thornton from each student sets them up for similar situations in the workplace, beyond Harbert.  


        Dr. LaDonna Thornton

        “My whole perspective on it was more than likely when you go into industry, you’re not going to be doing formal presentations – you need to be able to have a conversation about the subject matter,” said Dr. Thornton, Assistant professor in Supply Chain Management. “It was a relaxed, informal conversation and the students really liked it because it was different. 

        “The project must discuss current trends in their chosen topic and build on what’s happening – basically, relating this topic to literature or research studies, industry, government, etc. Then they write an ‘opportunity for industries.’  What they think industries could do about this or what opportunities exist. Then I want them to explain what they learned and what was most unexpected.” 

        COVID-19, however changed the way we educate. The classroom poster project was in limbo … until Auburn University’s Biggio Center stepped in. Utilizing immersive technology, the Center – the university’s hub for empowering the academic community in each phase of the scholarly teaching and transformative learning process – was provided with classroom poster projects electronically.  

        pic2Instead of viewing a typical poster on paper, viewers will have the opportunity to navigate virtually – via computer or laptop – through Thornton’s classroom Exhibit Hall and view each project in-depth and individually.

        Want to learn more about autonomous vehicles, COVID-19 delivery delays or unmanned air systems, a rendered 3-D model of Thornton’s virtual exhibit hall showcases 11 class posters. All the user has to do is navigate – via computer or laptop – through the hall. 

        Shawndra Bowers, Associate Director of Learning Experience at the Biggio Center, explained a few attributes for a virtual exhibit hall at Auburn University. 

        “We like to have three features to the project presenters,” she said. “I can read and thoroughly review the poster’s content, but another feature is an audio presentation. The goal of designing this was to have a result as close as possible to the real world – like when presenting a poster in the real world. The user has the opportunity to click on an icon to hear the audio. 

        virtual“In addition, we have a discussion board for asynchronous presentations. For this feature, the audience can make a comment, then the researcher can reply. The last feature is a Zoom room, which is for synchronous presentations.” 

        Bowers agrees that COVID-19 has put technology to the forefront of education. 

        “I do believe that COVID-19 has forced us into this new reality that we are in – faster than we probably had anticipated – but we are learning from it,” she said. “I don’t think that education in the future will ever look like it did pre-COVID, exactly. I believe we are going to see more blended, enhanced teaching.” 

        COVID-19, or not, Thornton is committed to engaging students with hands-on learning opportunities. 
        “Recognizing that students can learn differently is important to me,” she said. “Transportation is not always the sexiest topic. For me to stand up there and just lecture … that’s kind of boring. Whereas, through projects such as these, when students get their hands dirty they see, ‘Hey, there are so many things going on in this industry. Maybe there is a place for me.’” 

        Virtually, or actually.