ASU

This page serves as a dashboard or central reference point for all of my ASU-related activities. Click here to learn about my motivations for being a professor.

Classification

Where I fall in the world of academia.

Under the guidelines of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), I qualify as a scholarly practitioner. In a nutshell, this means that I continue to contribute research to different fields. What’s more, other academics cite my work as well in journals and papers. (Google Scholar counts nearly 500 citations as of today.) Put differently, I’m a hybrid: I teach more than your garden-variety, research-driven, tenured professor. At the same time, I conduct more research more than a pure lecturer teaching a full 4/4 course load. (Here is my latest article from HBR.) Some universities call people such as me professors of practice. As the diagram on the right shows, I concurrently live in both worlds.

Philosophy

Thoughts on how to best connect with students in the classroom and ensure long-term learning.

In no particular order, I strive to abide by the following principles in my classes:

Active Learning

As the quote below evinces, I believe in the importance of active learning. Put differently, I try to minimize the number of pure lectures. Sure, sometimes they are necessary, but as much as I can I develop interactive exercises designed to teach and reinforce critical thinking.

Technology and Experimentation

Second, I believe in experimentation. This doesn’t just mean in new types of exercises. In my relatively short time at ASU, I’ve introduced new tools in the classroom such as WordPress and Slack. I’m particularly fond of the latter, as are some of my more progressive colleagues. (Click here to learn more about how I use tech in the classroom.)

I discourage the use of laptops in class. There’s plenty of research to back this up, but this New York Times article provides a nice summary.

To quote Steve Hogarth of Marillion, “Technology is wonderful when it isn’t in the way.” As I write in Message Not Received, sometimes the best way to address a problem involves having a conversation in person, not via new tchotchkes.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

—Benjamin Franklin

Staying Current

I also believe strongly in staying current. This means integrating tech- and data-related news stories into the classroom and suggesting articles in Slack. (See the screenshot on the right from my Slack tech_in_the_news channel.) Adopting this mind-set allows me to do something that my favorite professors in college and grad school used to do.

Fusing Theory and Practice

I can’t imagine discussing Uber without mentioning the notion of consumer surplus. How can you discuss network effects without citing Amazon or Facebook as powerful contemporary examples? Might as well throw in Kryder’s Law while I’m at it.

Personal Interaction and Effective Communication

I believe in personal interactions—not e-mail. (Yeah, my three-e-mail rule applies in academia as well.) I’ve never arrived late for a single class at ASU and I’m usually 15 minutes early. I make it a point to meet with my student individually each semester to the extent possible. Beyond that, I’m almost always able to stay after class and speak with my students or set up a time to talk outside of my normal office hours.

One of my books stresses the importance of communication. More than four in five employers describe “the ability to effectively communicate in writing” as very important . Having the right answer doesn’t mean much if you can’t write and speak well. No, I’m not an English teacher, but I don’t let bad grammar and poor writing slide. We can all improve our writing and speaking skills—including yours truly. Rather than just criticize, though, I routinely offer constructive feedback and recommend of examples of effective writing.

Being Interesting

It’s not easy to get Millennials to pay attention for 75 minutes. To combat this, I try to be interesting and, dare I say, funny. (I’m no Gary Gulman, but I have my moments.) I pepper my lectures with pop-culture references and quotes from movies, songs, and obscure books. (A stats professor of mine at Carnegie Mellon did the same when I was a sophomore and I appreciated the effort.) I like this style and evidently The Chronicle of Higher Education does as well.

This is the best professor that I have had at ASU. His class is challenging and involves critical thinking. He is able to teach in a way that allows the material to be fun to learn.

—Former student

Learning Should Never Stop

I believe in constant learning. Sure, I know a thing or six, but it’s impossible for someone to know everything about any subject—and that includes technologies, programming languages, industries, companies, software-development methods, etc.

I’m a big fan of curiosity, self-improvement, and self-awareness. Professors can and should learn from other professors and their students. I teach some pretty smart cookies and I can’t think of a reason not to try and learn from them.

Transparency

I also believe in transparency. I create detailed rubrics for my each of my assignments. No, they aren’t recipes or listicles—e.g., the five things that you need to do to get an A. Rather, they are guideposts.

Critical Thinking

You read it on the Internet. So what? That doesn’t make it true. The era of Big Data means that the ability to question claims, sources, “facts”, and assertions has never been more important—a trend that shows no signs of abating.

To this end, I routinely stress critical thinking in my courses. I often ask questions of my students that necessitate thought and even more questions.

Grading and Timely Feedback

I also believe in timely feedback. Many of my students are surprised at how quickly I grade their papers and exams. It’s not uncommon for my grades to start trickling in later the same day. I can’t imagine taking more than a few days to grade my students’ work.

Respond Well to Feedback

I like to think that I’m not set in my ways. No, I don’t read my Rate My Professor page, but I do listen to feedback from peers and my department chair about how I can improve. Ditto for students whom I respect.

On the basis of some feedback, for instance, I made some significant changes to my capstone courses after my first semester. Brass tacks: I honestly hope that each day I improve in my craft.

Consistency Yet Fairness

Generally speaking, I am consistent. I have to be. Still, I strive to listen to my students and to be fair. I understand that life happens. If a legitimate crisis warrants giving a student an extension, I’m happy to provide one.

Praise

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

Roles

Being an effective professor means that I often have to wear different hats.

Connector

pw9lyizMany of my students would like introductions to some prominent folks or to people working at individual companies via LinkedIn. No, I can’t guarantee that Person X returns a call or answers and e-mail, but I’m happy to play the role of connector. I think of myself as a 21-year-old. I’d want my professor to do the same for me.

Servant Leader and Student Advocate

Sometimes I have to wear the servant-leader hat. This is true particularly on my capstone projects when project sponsors are being unreasonable or unresponsive.

Brass tacks: If I have occasionally play the role of bad cop in order to ensure that my students get a valuable experience, then so bet it. (My years as a consultant taught me how to be tactful when needed.)

Sounding Board and Career Coach

I spent a decade as a technology consultant. Because of this, many of my students want to pick my brain about the “real world” and I’m more than happy to oblige. Very few of my them want to purse a career in academia. Many come to me over course of the semester interested in different tech- and data-related roles. For my part, I gladly answer their questions and gently provide guidance about what to do and when to do it.

Devil’s Advocate

Sometimes I see trouble around the corner that my students miss. Rather than tell them not to do something, I gently ask questions designed to elicit a certain response and make them see the light.

Courses

Information and links related to my current and past courses.

Full-Semester, On-Ground

iconCIS450: Enterprise Analytics Capstone

Course in a nutshell: This course explores the practice of modern analytics with a particular emphasis on Agile methods (read: Scrum). Over the course of the semester, students work with organizations on real-world projects. This typically involves data and statistical analysis, data visualization, scraping data, and more. To watch a sample from the online class, click here.

For more information, click on the links below:

laptopCIS440: System Design Capstone

Course in a nutshell: This course covers traditional project-management methods and contemporary methods such as Agile, Scrum, Lean Startup, and DevOps. Over the course of the semester, students build a useful technology solution for their clients. This typically involves a mobile app, a database, or a website.

For more information, click on the links below:

laptopCIS236: Intro to Information Systems – Honors

Course in a nutshell: This survey course introduces the competitive and strategic uses of information systems. We tackle how information systems are transforming organizations and even entire industries. We also broach and the issues, difficulties, and opportunities facing contemporary professionals and managers.

Links:

Half-Semester, Online

CIS450: Enterprise Analytics Capstone

I developed this course in the Fall of 2017. I prepared all of the materials and recorded all 32 lectures.

CIS405: Business Intelligence

I teach this course originally developed by my friend Alan Simon. Cue the music.

Phil should be the role model for expected behavior from staff at W. P. Carey. He is very respectful to students. He engages his students and communicates well. He has been my favorite and most exemplary professor throughout my undergraduate curriculum.

—Former student

Musings on

HigherEd

My latest tips and musings on teaching techniques, tech in the classroom, and more. For all of my posts on higher ed, click here.

Lessons from Slack’s Origins

A pox on you if you think that the idea behind the popular collaboration tool was someone’s master plan.

Why I Teach

My motivations behind my choice of vocations.

Student Evaluations

How my students view my performance.

ASU provides its professors with evaluation data in a raw format. That is, the data doesn’t lend itself to interactivity.

I decided to change that.

A few of my rock-star analytics students (including Scott Fitzgerald) created a neat set of data visualizations under my supervision. This allows me to see how I am doing across a number of dimensions: class, semester, year, etc. I can easily see areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Note that the interactive Tableau dataviz below looks best on a proper computer, not a tablet or smartphone.

Last updated: July 13, 2018

Release Notes

07.13.18: Updated with Spring 2018 evals.

10.03.17: Fixed issues with decimals.

05.01.17: Initial version with 2016 and 2017 evals.

Notes

First, my feelings on student evaluations are decidedly mixed. My primary objection stems from Goodhart’s Law. Sure, I’m happy with the trends in my evaluations, but being an effective professor entails more than kowtowing to students and making them happy. Handing out A’s might help my evals but students who don’t learn how to think critically ultimately suffer.

Second, the default view below contains both in-person and on-line courses—although you can filter in whatever way you like. As research has demonstrated , for most professors there’s about a one-point ratings gap between the former and the latter. That is, students rank online professors lower than their face-to-face (F2F) counterparts. I suspect that this is just a limitation of on-line courses.

FAQ

Click here for a little FAQ on teaching-related matters.