Leveraging the possibilities of ‘learning at scale’: Future proofing business and management education

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This call for papers invites submissions to a special issue of the Journal of Work Applied Management. We welcome practical case study-based articles that demonstrate quality learning experiences in large business and management learning contexts. We also invite conceptual, empirical and viewpoint pieces.

At scale contexts

Work-applied management methods such as action learning, work-based or problem-based learning can be described as ‘high impact’ learning practices in higher education because they are highly situational and interactive with real workplace environments (Wall, 2017). Such practices are also often highly personalised and customised to the specific needs of organisations and even individuals. Within the higher education context, however, there has been an increasing massification of its provision for more than a decade (Hornsby & Osman 2014), with learners – including work-based learners – continuing to learn in larger and larger cohorts. As institutions and corporate universities battle to deal with rising economical and financial pressures, alongside scarcity of resources, class sizes in many parts of the world have expanded to satisfy these shifting demands. At the same time, there is a widening diversity (Maringe & Sing, 2014) occurring often due to widening access, participation and engagement schemes. This also requires a shift in our thinking about delivery of education to a homogenous group of learners. Even though the dip caused by the pandemic impacted this somewhat, global mobility and internationalisation is steadily becoming the fabric from which many institutions are woven. 

Preparing for an uncertain future

In the quest to prepare learners for an uncertain future and rapidly changing job market, learning providers (educational or corporate providers alike) need to build their knowledge, skills and connections in authentic and contemporary ways which harness the scale of delivery in innovative ways, rather than being burdened by it (Bryant, 2022). Designing learning experiences for a changing world where information (content) is freely accessible and changing demographic whose concentration spans are changing along with increased reliance on the digital (Nicholas, 2020), we need to be cognisant of the learning experience, the varying levels of learner motivation and prior knowledge, as well as the challenges this brings (Hornsby & Osman, 2014; Wilson, Huber & Bryant, 2021).

Challenges for Learning at Scale

There are many known learner-centred issues related to large class teaching and learning, be it social isolation and belonging (McEwen, 2021), moves to multiplication and magnification (Bryant, 2022), transactional or didactical deliveries (Kirstein & Kunz, 2015) or inability to integrate interactivity at scale (Petersen et al., 2022). We know that active, collaborative, experiential and applied pedagogies all produce deeper learning (Lee et al, 2021; An & Loes, 2022). Providing learners with opportunities to think critically and apply their knowledge to authentic scenarios such as workplace problems is a common approach taken in smaller tutorial and classes, but how do we purposefully design for these approaches in larger cohorts? Can we innovate within the constraints of large class teaching? (Dean et al., 2017; Grohs et al, 2019). Can quality learning exist in large classes? And if so, how would we identify it?

Critiques of Learning at Scale

There are critics of learning at scale (see for example van der Velde et al, 2022). The debate about whether or not the lecture is dead has been raging for a long time (Matthews, 2022) has – in our view – not been subjected to contemporary examination or critique, especially given the rise of innovative teaching and learning approaches – including digital pedagogies – which were rapidly developed during the covid pandemic. For example, how have we implemented interactive, experiential, work-based, problem based – and a whole host of high impact pedagogies – in large class teaching contexts? We know, for example, that global teaching and learning approaches did dramatically change during covid and that some of this remains in place today despite social distancing measures no longer being in force (see for example Leal Filho et al, 2021).

Focus on connection not just attendance

A more significant question is how can we leverage of the power of the crowd for quality learning (Tyrrell & Shalavin, 2022)? Loughlin and Lindberg-Sand (2023) have recently investigated the ‘power’ of the large lecture and found that that ‘students appeared to like them’ when combined with peer-networking. Accordingly Bryant (2023) agrees the large lecture can be ‘inspiring, aspirational and oratorial if, and it’s a big IF, the staff delivering them have the necessary skill set to transform them from being the sage on the stage to something altogether more performative.’ However, he also warns that reading from slides and providing content easily accessible elsewhere is akin to an empty lecture hall.


As we entertain the possibilities of large lecture spaces and places, there are a multitude of questions we are curious about. What does large class teaching look like? Is it a transactional model of content delivery followed by collaborative/active/experiential learning in the small class teaching? If this is the model then how do the multitude of tutors provide a consistent experience for students? Some authors for example are creating a personalised student experience in a large cohort (Liu et al 2022) by leveraging big data sets and technologies. Here, what does the future of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT hold for teaching large classes? At the same time, how do we avoid burnout in large classes – both in terms of managing the learning experience as well as the large teams of tutors and associated administration load? Within large learning scale contexts, how do we create recognition of this in workload models and actively support their development (Hubbard & Tellents, 2020)? Can we harness different teaching styles to support a quality student learning experience in large classes (Tang et al 2022)?


This exciting special issue calls for a deep dive into the current models, experiences and challenges faced by leaders, managers and deliverers of large-scale settings – as well as a serious documentation of the possibilities and opportunities they can provide. This includes preparing business and management learners enrolled on university programmes to enter a work place which is rapidly changing in today’s complex times, as well as preparing workers for high performance in organisational contexts.

Submission Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/jwam

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/jwam#author-guidelines 

Closing date for manuscripts submission: 2nd October 2023                            
To be published (open access and in print): May 2024

About the author

Associate Professor Elaine Huber has been designing curriculum and teaching adults for over 20 years and is currently the Academic Director of the Business Co-Design team at the University of Sydney.

Published by Elaine Huber

Associate Professor Elaine Huber has been designing curriculum and teaching adults for over 20 years and is currently the Academic Director of the Business Co-Design team at the University of Sydney.

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