How to develop business-ready graduates? Industry-led module design and co-teaching with practitioners

business-ready graduates

Business-ready graduates: leaders and managers


Employability and developing business-ready graduates is high on the agenda of business schools but conventional teaching approaches don’t support this. Here at the Centre for Management Learning (CML), Surrey Business School, University of Surrey we made it our mission to test and explore new ways of teaching that aid the development of students into business-ready leaders and managers of the future. Two years in a row we put industry-led module design and co-teaching with practitioners to the test and the results were rewarding for all stakeholders.

At CML industry-led teaching module design and co-teaching with practitioners means that the whole module including the structure of the module, the content, assessment and feedback strategy and delivery is designed in collaboration with the industry partner. While the module is led by an academic who facilitates sessions and ensures the learning objectives are met, the engagement of an industry partner goes beyond mere guest lectures. Instead he or she is fully immersed in the module and project, present in class and acts as a coach and mentor to students. This is the value of industry-led module design and co-teaching with practitioners.

Industry-led module design and a co-teaching approach to student learning


The final year module Marketing in the Digital Environment was used as a test bed led by academic, Dr Christine Rivers, Co-Director of CML and co-taught with Keith Povey (Alumnus of Surrey and Marketing Director of the westcongroup at the time). The module was design based on a hands-on marketing brief. Keith provided context and industry experience, and coached students throughout the project. Christine provided theoretical background, critical evaluation and facilitated the sessions.

The brief was to write a marketing plan and design a marketing automation tool that allows measuring including feedback for digital marketing campaigns. Students were fully engaged in the process and attendance was high for all 11 weeks. Josh Riches (Business Management Graduate, 2016) on the course: “… as well as being extremely insightful and current, the structure of the course is refreshingly different with a clear focus on practical application of learnings, something that is often absent from other university modules.

The teaching style is semi-structured and informal, with Christine and Keith’s personal experience and expertise driving stimulating discussion. The assessment methods are highly relevant to working within a real-life context, with groups required to take ownership of new ideas and to drive them forward towards a concrete delivery plan of an advertising campaign.

To sum it up, refreshing, different, immersive and practical as well as highly enjoyable.” The group project was also designed for students to be useful as a case study for job interviews, e.g. Roisin Jenkins (Business Management Graduate, 2016) is now on the marketing graduate programme at MEC global, where she used this project as her case study to demonstrate not just knowledge acquired but team work skills, conflict and project management.

This year’s student initiative


Following the success from last year and the impact the co-teaching approach had on students learning, we decided to explore the limits and pushed students outside their comfort zone. The rise of app use to manage our daily life is fact and higher education institutions need to adapt to this trend probably much faster than expected. Thus, this year the module was co-taught with app developer consultant Jeff Antram. Together, we designed the module around a group project that asked students to produce a marketing plan and design an app for students. Jeff concluded: “It was great to work with so many creative minds and to help students understand the link between app development and marketing. I found it very valuable and enjoyable and it was as much outside of my comfort zone as it probably was for the students. A fantastic opportunity of co-creation.”

We asked students about their experience, learning and skills acquisition. Karysca Gill (Business Management student, 2017) said: “This project helped me learn about digital marketing in lots of different ways. There was a lot of different areas I had never heard of. The most enjoyable part of the project was figuring out exactly what students wanted and building the in-app visuals … The skills I have learnt are very transferable to the working life and future.”

Sean Nahrwold (Business Management Student, 2017) said: “I have gained a real insight into how much research goes into marketing and how the digital environment is changing each day. I genuinely enjoyed each stage of the project as it brought a new challenge. … I think I will have a great example of a team working well for the rest of my career as it has really shown me what a strong team can do. This is something I aim to re-produce with teams in the world of work and something I can refer to in interviews.

Valeryia Naboikina said: “My favourite part of the project was probably creating the app itself and discussing the features, trying something new and having a constant flow of ideas. In the future I want to work in a similar environment … I believe the skills I gained through the project are extremely valuable and can be used in many other projects I might be working on in the future. Most importantly, the project gave me drive to work harder … I have learned and benefited a lot from the module and I am confident to say it was the best project I worked on at the university so far. I wish we had more such interactive, multidimensional, challenging and interesting projects.”

Five projects were selected to be presented to the heads of the University including heads of IT, student data, student services, TEL, marketing, e-strategy.  The feedback was overwhelming including words as impressive, excellent project to name a few, which continued on social media. This raised the University of Surrey interest in potentially co-creating the app with students. This project, despite being a lot of fun, is a fantastic case study of how industry-led module design and co-teaching with practitioners can have a significant and positive effect on student learning and mutual benefits to all stakeholders.


More information about the CML research and teaching projects can be found on our Research page; you can send a request to cml@surrey.ac.uk and follow us @cmlsurrey.

Our next CML event is “Developing Business Ready Graduates” in June 2017; please register via the British Academy of Management website.