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Global Leadership Learning in Action: An Interview with Julia Backmann, PhD + Assistant Professor at University College in Dublin

Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University College in Dublin, Julia Backmann, recently integrated Telanto industry challenges into her Global Leadership course. Her course of 30-40 students focuses on leadership topics, organizational behavior, teamwork, and relationship management. 

Our Community & Content Manager, Logan Palmer, recently chatted with Backmann about her experience with Telanto to engage learning challenges for her students. Backmann generously shared her insights with us to help professors gain a better sense of what Telanto is about, how it works, and why this type of global learning challenge is becoming increasingly important for learning and innovation. 

To start, here’s one juicy takeaway––she notes how easy Telanto’s structure is, especially for professors.


It’s a win for everyone involved.

An inherent opportunity for stakeholders lies inside Telanto’s learning challenges. The fact that every company experiences leadership challenges lends itself well to Backmann’s course in Global Leadership, which covers three types of leadership: organizational, team, and individual. She highlights that “most companies can connect to these topics, which makes it easy to identify challenges that are suitable.” 

She explains that the challenges organically slot into a modular curriculum, which is highly useful for her as a professor in creating course content, implementing learning experiences, and assessing students’ progress.

For students, these challenges put them in touch with real business life and allow them the opportunity to build analytical and problem-solving skills.


She explains that it’s “much more intense” than just focusing on in-class case studies. “Because they have to work in teams, their social skills develop, and they learn about project management.” 


While these are significant overarching benefits for everyone involved, there’s always more to every story. Thankfully, Backmann allowed us to dig a little deeper so we could get a precise snapshot of her unique experience using Telanto challenges, as they’re happening with two different cohorts of her course. 


Students are getting a better sense of what they’re doing and how to do it.

As every industry partner knows, there’s a wide divide between theory and practice. What students learn in the classroom doesn’t always map to their professional roles. Telanto initiatives help bridge that gap in direct and indirect ways, in ways known but also yet to be discovered.

For example, Backmann explains how these challenges help define and clarify abstract terms. Through practice with real business problems, students gain a concrete understanding of what it means to be a leader: 


From a student standpoint… it takes an abstract concept and allows them to understand it better because they’ve had hands-on experience... they can see leadership in a totally different light… to know what leadership is and why it’s important.”


In a global context, these challenges are giving her students exposure to and interaction with industry diversity and globalization in business communication that involves collaborating in virtual settings. 

She reports that these challenges support an intrinsic motivation to learn and challenges their assumptions about their future career options––highly relevant and critical skills for future leaders: 


It’s a great opportunity for students to get better insight into different industries they wouldn’t consider as potential employers in the beginning… once engaging with a different working culture, they have a different perspective.”



Going global = better learning structure.

The how-to part of the challenge process may have some professors initially scratching their heads, especially if they’re used to local partnerships. As Backmann points out, this is where going global really wins: 


I’ve used local companies before, but the structured process (of Telanto) helps find and assess different types of challenges that fit the class.”

 

Telanto facilitated Backmann’s first meeting with industry partners, which involved a discussion with the companies to determine the scope of each challenge, whether it was a good fit for the course objectives, and if time was sufficient to meet those challenges. She explains, 


If there’s a fit, their challenge will be matched to the platform… after that, I invest a bit of time restructuring the course because I want teams that are really committed to their company’s challenges so they can produce the results that companies (want).” 


And if you’re a professor, you’ll love this:


“I thought it would be more work in terms of managing team projects throughout the term, but all my teams are quite engaged.”


Planning is problem-solving.

But surely, it’s natural and even wise to expect some of the following––confusion, complication, complexity, even conflict––that arise from any new way of doing something that involves problems, learning, technology, and multiple people from diverse backgrounds. 

How does Backmann manage?  


It also helps that we invested some time in project planning and outlining potential risks so students were aware of expectations from the beginning and how they should respond when they encounter any type of problem or issue.”


The result?


They’re proactive in their problem-solving strategy without getting me too involved, so it’s very manageable, even in the full semester with a couple of courses.”


It seems these challenges not only have higher intrinsic learning value for students, they also relieve the pressure on professors to create manufactured learning activities.

Backmann is currently working with a pharmaceutical company and a banking insurance organization managing three company challenges and six teams. Each company is looking after two teams of five or six students. 

She gives us some tips for managing potential difficulties:

  1. Explain how it works and clarify expectations at the start of the term.
  2. Request regular input from both business leaders and students throughout the process.
  3. Anticipate potential problems that may arise:
“It’s important to know the scope of the challenge and discuss that with them with expectations and clear goals before we bring the challenge to the classes.”


The Future Payoff… 

It’s no surprise that working hard now can contribute to a better future in almost any context, but especially in learning and business. Backmann points out how these initial moves to develop a well-oiled process contribute to positive future partnerships: 


Now that we have established a work relationship we can work together in a more effective and streamlined way.”


A note from our team: Thanks to Julia Backmann for sharing her time and insights with us, and for being a valued and active partner with Telanto.

If you are interested in incorporating industry challenges into your course or if you have corporate challenges that need solving, contact us today.


If you are interested in becoming a TELANTO challenge sponsor and/or know someone who would be Awesome: Book a call
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About the Author

Colleen Thornton is a copywriter with expertise in research and higher education. She holds a Masters degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, where she participated in several collaborative large-scale research projects in education. Her Master thesis, which investigated educators’ perspectives on inclusive education environments, was nominated for a prestigious award and later published in a Taylor & Francis academic journal. Colleen is a former lecturer, supervisor, and mentor for undergraduate students, and she’s inspired by Telanto’s innovative approach to uniting students with real-world business.

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