Graz University of Technology (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 1528-1534
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.0498
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Modern study programmes offered by high-quality universities need to display a stronger market orientation to increase their competitiveness. This is one pre-condition that needs to be fulfilled to stabilise and strengthen their contribution to the higher-education market. Therefore, it is necessary to learn from the examples given by the “best-in-class” private as well as public universities. To begin modifying these programmes at universities, benchmarking has been widely used as an instrument in recent years. This approach was adopted from firms which use benchmarking as an instrument (e.g. to set-up and hedge management decisions in advance and to initiate continuous improvement processes). In this paper, the benchmarking method is described and the advantages of its use at universities is highlighted; in particular, arguments are proposed for the use of benchmarking to design new courses in the field of business economics. The contents of these new courses must be contemporary, literature-based, and practical, and they should be presented to students in the form of a practical laboratory (Business Economics Laboratory – “BE-LAB”). Two goals are described in this paper: First, an overview is provided of laboratories that exist in the business economics field at universities. Second, recommendations and design principles are presented for BE-LABs at universities, using the example of the Graz University of Technology. To achieve these goals, the traditional benchmarking process was adopted at an inter-university level and combined courses held and working methods applied at selected universities worldwide, offering a unique variety of contents and teaching methods. Relevant data were gathered by identifying unique, innovative courses currently offered in the field of business economics via an Internet search. The efficiency of the research process was improved by designing a search grid to target only course concepts that supported high-quality teaching on an international level. This report of the findings of this inter-university benchmarking project describes a possible design for a contemporary BE-LAB at universities.

The main content of the presented BE-LAB design covers three areas:
(1) “marketing and usability”,
(2) “communication management in negotiation situations”, and
(3) the “design and revision of a business plan”.

In the first area, the topics of “market analysis”, “marketing strategies”, “consumer behaviour”, and various “communication strategies / marketing decisions” are addressed. In the second area, a focus is placed on “communication management in negotiation situations”, as well as the sub-topic “group dynamics and conflict management”. Finally, the third area includes the topic of “designing as well as restructuring methods and management tasks”. These findings provide practitioners at universities (i.e. administrators and teaching staff) with:
(a) insight into the state of the art of laboratories in the business economics field and
(b) knowledge about core content that students must master in order to prepare for their future professional careers.
Inter-university benchmarking, business economics laboratory, course design.