Open classrooms enable inspirational teaching

Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich talks about her experience with Open Science

Photo of Professor Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich

Three key learnings:

  • Open co-creation of teaching materials enables course content to be current and to offer different perspectives on global crises – both nationally and internationally. Peer-to-peer exchange in the joint designing of open lectures creates the basis for further trustworthy exchanges among colleagues.
  • Regularly communicating research findings increases not only a scientist’s, but also the subject area’s visibility among companies. Interlocking public speaking and research creates network effects for working in the field.
  • Gamified online courses in Open Science training bring added value for an individual scientist. Business administration must have a general discussion on which Open Science structures are needed.

You participated in the course “Organising in Times of Crisis” which now has a second part; and you designed a global classroom on “Challenges and Opportunities of Datafication: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” in collaboration with Copenhagen Business School. What are your experiences with such open teaching concepts?  

HT-U: It opened up a completely new world in teaching for me. In particular, the collaboration with colleagues in teaching helps me develop and improve my own teaching. The first course in 2020 was born from necessity and released a certain professional creativity which was very enriching. And the second course on “Organising in Times of Crisis” was our reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to show what organisation research can offer to others. The collaboration and course development in Open Access shows that it’s been not only helpful for ourselves, but also for other researchers and teachers, and still is. It also mattered to us to show that that our research is applicable to current phenomena and ad hoc crises. Organisation and management research can contribute to giving clarity. During the next weeks the exchange will show how it works in teaching, which questions are difficult and where we need to readjust.The global classroom on the other hand is a funded project for which Leuphana acquired grants just before the pandemic, and I could incorporate my experience with “Organising in Times of Crisis”. We held the global classroom with Copenhagen Business School completely online. The internationalisation added a whole new dimension to it. It was very exciting because it brought international perspectives together.

Did the students from Lüneburg and Copenhagen have opportunities for exchange among themselves?

HT-U: We had a virtual feedback tool where students had to complete an assignment every week, inputting their answer (around 500 words). This was anonymised and students were told to select the answers of two other students and comment on them. The students liked this very much because they got feedback from different perspectives and in a way also had an exchange.

Did you share content other than teaching videos, syllabi and literature lists?

HT-U: For “Organising in Times of Crisis” we also made the slides available. The range could be broadened if you chose non-proprietary, open data formats for teaching materials. I have now applied to the State of Lower Saxony for funding of Open Educational Resources at university. We want to make our own teaching materials for qualitative research methods available on the Twillo platform. We blog about everyday teaching both for “Organising in Times of Crisis” and “Datafication” to share our experiences with students and to make things transparent. It also shows that there are people who use this.

How does your peer group respond to your activities?

HT-U: I am part of fabulous networks where many of my peers are involved in the courses. Generally the feedback is very good, but I think it’s not much appreciated outside my own bubble. For appointment procedures it’s generally good to have a teaching award and it is noted with approval, but it’s not decisive for a professorial career. I hope that all the movements for more openness can also show how variedly professorships can be configured and that the science system accordingly soon creates different metrics for success. Innovative teaching concepts give more visibility to institutions. Therefore it would be nice if such projects were more appreciated. But I also want to emphasise that the exchange with my peers has enriched me very much and that it has given rise to new joint research projects.

You also meet questions of ethics in the context of digitisation and digital transformation. To what extent are ethical questions, such as sustainability, discussed in business administration in relation to Open Science?

HT-U: Business administration is not a uniform discipline, there are many subgroups and communities of practice who have their own research characteristics. In my opinion there can’t be an overarching debate because research and data collection methods vary so much. For me as a qualitative researcher with relatively small datasets totally different questions arise than for quantitative researchers. And I am not at all convinced whether it would do any good if everyone discussed the big picture, because we all have different discourses.

You publish a lot in Open Access: have you seen concrete benefits from your openness?

HT-U: I usually don’t know how people find me. But constantly communicating my work on social media has resulted in greater visibility of me among companies. The topic of Corporate Digital Responsibility is also more visible for companies. What does digitisation mean for corporate responsibility? I have had requests for keynotes and public talks. And I also notice that colleagues cite my articles because I publish in Open Access. Of course that makes a lot of sense, careerwise. Anyhow, there have been exciting interactions and invitations. And this definitely enriches my work.

When you give talks or keynotes at business events, does this enhance your visibility in your own field?

HT-U: The increasing interlock between my public talks and my research has become much easier. I have acquired a standing among my community and this definitely opens doors into companies. For instance, we had a project about digitisation and sustainability. In this context I organised a workshop with eight practitioners. We wrote a practice-oriented paper about it to which I could then refer very well. And I used that as starting point for a wave of interviews. My interview partners can see that I have already explored the topic and that they can trust me. This definitely resulted in network effects.

Would you say that your open communication, your guest columns for newspapers etc., demonstrates the scientific quality of business administration and thus renders a service to the discipline?

HT-U: In 2018, Ali Aslan Gümüsay, Emilio Marti, Christopher Wickert and I launched the DFG network “Grand Challenges & New Forms of Organising”. One aspect was to reflect our own research within the framework of Grand Challenges. We did a lot of publicity for it: a dedicated website, regular posts, dedicated Twitter channel etc. The final report of the DFG evaluated this very positively. According to DFG, our network had a great share in showing that our research is important, exactly because we did this so publicly.  

What kind of science communication do you practise? And what has been particularly effective for yourself?

HT-U: By far the biggest return has come from my guest column for Süddeutsche Zeitung. Big media are enormously helpful: I was invited to lectures, and the university management took positive notice. Apart from that I like to write practice-oriented articles, although there has has been less of it recently because I am in the final phase of several research projects. I was invited to a panel discussion on “Corporate Digital Responsibility” by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. I’m struggling with Twitter. I’m active, but I’m definitely not a top user because Twitter has a toxic side for me. My community uses it mainly to communicate professional successes – and this often creates stress for me because of constant comparison with others. In general, however, Twitter is a good medium to get acquainted with top researchers that you wouldn’t meet otherwise, or to find new studies. What I like about LinkedIn is that I can communicate more freely with longer texts. Both are platforms that I use for commuinication, and also the blogs on my websites.

You also study gamification. What role can it play for Open Science training?

HT-U: Gamification would definitely be useful for it. I have addressed it for quite some time in my research and I am heading a teaching project at Leuphana University where we develop games and scenarios for a responsible approach to digital technologies in organisations. Some kind of online course would be ideal where you could run through various scenarios for Open Science trainings. In my opinion this would offer added value, but it can only be part of a larger debate that we need to hold in the discipline. Of course it’s important to train individuals, but we as a community must also be clearer about what we want and what we need.

Are you looking at what is going on in psychology? The replication crisis a few years ago has given enormous impetus to the discipline. Is there a debate in business administration about the credibility of research in the discipline?

HT-U: We must talk more about quality criteria, no doubt about that. There’s already a debate about qualitative research methods and there are papers about it. Unfortunately it’s a rather cautious debate. I think that’s where you would have to start. I don’t see yet that the DFG’s policies are initiating debates in our discipline.

What is your assessment of the future importance of Open Science, based on your experience?

HT-U: If you want to meet the requirements of the discipline and to receive funds from the DFG, you’re inevitably led towards it. At the beginning it may be only Open Washing, just as it was with sustainability, but at some point you can no longer avoid the subject, because the big research funders are tightening the thumbscrews. Early career researchers must be helped with trainings and with implementation. That is something not running perfectly at universities right now. Shifting everything onto the shoulders of individual researchers is not a solution.

Thank you!

The questions were asked by D. Doreen Siegfried.

The interview was conducted on May 31, 2022.

About Professor Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich

Professor Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich is Junior Professor of Business Administration, in particular Business Ethics, at Leuphana University in Lüneburg. In 2020/2021, she was a fellow of the Schöller Foundation which funded her research project “Ethics management in the digital age”. In 2018/2019 she was a research fellow at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.
Her research interests include Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR ), the role of communication in the context of CSR, Corporate Digital Responsibility, new forms of work and organising, and change agents for sustainability.
Professor Hannah Trittin-Ulbrichs work has been published in Journal of Management Studies, Organization, Journal of Management Inquiry, Journal of Business Ethics, and Creativity and Innovation Management. Professor Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich is or has been guest editor of Organization, Business & Society and Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility.
In 2022, Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich will host the international “6th CSR Communication Conference” at Leuphana University.


ORCID-ID: 0000-0002-9501-0003




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