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20 June 2022

The award-winning redesign of a Business Analytics unit

We recently spoke to Dr Reza Kachouie and Stephen Williams from Deakin’s Business School about their redesign of the MIS171 Business Analytics unit, which earned them a Vice-Chancellor Award for Teaching in 2021.

Tell us about yourself. What are your roles at Deakin?

Reza: I’m the Lecturer and Unit Chair of MIS171 Business Analytics in the Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics, Deakin Business School. I’m also the course director for the Bachelor of Business Analytics.

Stephen: I’m a sessional academic with the Deakin Business School. I’ve been with Deakin for over ten years, bringing over 25 years of financial services industry experience. I’m based at the Geelong Waterfront Campus and in addition to MIS171 I teach a variety of units, including first-year units in Accounting (MAA103) and Finance (MAF101).

What prompted the redesign of the MIS171 Business Analytics unit?

Reza: MIS171 is a core unit in both the Bachelor of Commerce and the Bachelor of Business Analytics and is also open to students from a selection of other courses. Typically, over 2000 students enrol in MIS171 every year. Historically, the unit has been despised and feared by students, driven by maths and statistics anxiety and unfamiliarity with analytics tools. The redevelopment project had three primary objectives: improving student satisfaction; achieving a higher pass rate; and improving student retention.

Stephen: This presented a two-fold challenge, how do we remove the negative stimulus and how do we create a positive stimulus? We started by making students aware of the role that data already plays in their lives, including social media algorithms and customer loyalty programs. This was extended to asserting that data literacy could be a defining feature of their career, regardless of what path they choose. Whether you want to be a marketer, an economist, or a lawyer, being data literate will make you more effective. We wanted students to see the potential in data literacy and make it worthwhile for them.

What has changed about the unit?

Reza: We redesigned the content of the unit, the way we assess the unit, the way we teach students and the support we provide students. Being aware that data capture and primary statistical analysis is being increasingly automated, we decided to focus the unit more on analytics. For our students, especially Bachelor of Commerce students who make up the majority of enrolments, we wanted to empower them to ‘understand the numbers’ and to extract insights from data.

Stephen: Reza has been outstanding; he’s designed this process from the start. Continuity is a key part of the redevelopment. We use threaded case studies – a single data set for all assignments, a single data set for all seminars, and a single data set for lectures. This helps reduce the cognitive load for students. The data set we used for assessment in 2021 was based on the Deakin Melbourne Boomers. This year we are working with RACV Solar.

A key feature of the redevelopment was asking students to prepare for each seminar. Students are expected to attend the lecture and then complete pre-seminar work which has been uploaded to the unit site. This includes detailed written instructions on how to execute the steps outlined in the lecture and is supported by a video guide. Having students coming to seminars better prepared has allowed the seminars to concentrate on higher-value-added interpretation and analysis.

A map of the active learning approach

Who did you work with on the redesign?

Reza: We took a holistic view and involved many stakeholders. We talked to major course directors about the unit, to industry partners about what they expect from graduates, and to the teaching staff of units that come after MIS171 to see how we could improve their teaching experience. We also consulted with students to get their feedback, as well as lecturers, tutors and unit chairs who had previously taught MIS171. Most importantly, we examined the feedback that we received through eVALUate. We also engaged Deakin Learning Futures about the Active Learning Project.

Has there been any feedback from students? Any feedback from partners?

Stephen: Pass marks have improved, average marks improved, evaluate feedback and retention have all improved by a huge degree. We gave the Melbourne Boomers examples of the work of the top 1% of our students. They were so impressed by the high quality of analysis, reporting, and data visualisation of our students they offered internships to two students.

Reza: We were delighted to have our work recognised, winning a Deakin University Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2021 for the redesign.

What are the next steps?

Reza: The major project we’re working on now is increasing inclusivity in the unit. We’ve received a Students as Partners Grant where we work with students from a variety of backgrounds, specifically students located in regional areas, from low socio-economic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and students with a disability. We’re working with all these student groups to help us increase the unit’s appeal and improve the content and accessibility. Our premise is that all students will benefit from improvements aimed at specific groups within the overall cohort.

Where can staff go to learn more?

Reza: If you have any questions about the redesign of MIS171 feel free to contact us at

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