After showing a clip from the Oscar-winning movie Rocky, Laurence Lehmann Ortega asks EMBA students in her class how the character Rocky compares to their organization’s competition.
In an approach that Ortega dubs “edutainment,” students thrive in a quick-paced classroom that relies on their participation and experience, as well as her passion and expert guidance.
“I really believe in entertainment,” says Ortega, affiliate professor of strategy and business policy at HEC in France. “If you enjoy it, you will remember more.”
Ortega began her career as a consultant who specialized in strategy, but after testing the teaching waters, she decided it was the career for her. She returned to school for her PhD and joined HEC in 2009.
“I think my job as a consultant is not so far from my job as a teacher,” she says. Both careers involve clearly presenting ideas and working closely with executives to translate ideas into winning strategies.
“Teaching is all about learning new concepts and applying them directly to the job,” says Ortega. “This is probably why it was an easy transition for me.”
In her early teaching tenure, Ortega thought of herself as more of a lecturer with plenty of material to tap from her PhD research on business models for innovation. Working with a colleague, she soon decided to pursue a different direction—one where students play a starring role.
Now, she rarely uses slides and flips the classroom: She expects students to view videos and assignments ahead of class and come prepared to talk about what it all means.
While they review the concepts before class, the classroom interaction helps them put the pieces of the puzzle together, she says. She guides them through careful preparation that helps her maintain flexibility in the classroom.
“I know exactly where I want to go, but how I get there depends on the discussion,” she says.
Student involvement often shapes that discussion. For example, teams select mergers and acquisitions to analyze. Then they pitch their selections to all their classmates, who vote on four teams to present their findings.
The formula of “edutainment”—making the classroom fun and relevant—has resulted in teaching awards and impressive feedback from students.
“They learn without even knowing it and they will remember,” she says. “I love my job. This is one job where you get applause at the end of the day.”