The Online Teacher's Teacher

OMBA Academic Director Miriam Burgos is a longtime believer in the power of online learning, going back to her corporate days.

August 07, 2020
Miriam Burgos

When your peers on the faculty ask you to present on a topic, it’s safe to say you know what you’re talking about.

But Miriam Burgos, associate professor of clinical marketing, was a little taken aback when another faculty member asked, following a Marketing Department meeting, if she could do a similar presentation to her children’s school district in Manhattan Beach.  They, too, were suddenly being called on to teach exclusively online. And Burgos has extensive scholarly—and professional—experience in just this topic, which is why her department chair had asked her and three of her colleagues to present on the topic of online learning best-practices.

“The Manhattan Beach teachers wanted a group session to discuss classroom-management techniques in Zoom that would lead to the best outcomes and the highest level of student engagement in a live, virtual classroom setting,” Burgos said. “But K-12 is not my area of expertise.”

Nevertheless, with just a few modifications to the points she shared with her Marketing dept.  colleagues, she conducted a one-hour session for the teachers in late July. It was a hit, meaning it got teachers talking and excited about the possibilities of delivering excellent education online.

“Marshall is going into this well ahead of the curve. We have the advantage of already having world-class faculty and staff who are all deeply committed to student success in any environment, virtual or residential.”—Miriam Burgos, Associate Professor of Clinical Marketing and Academic Director, Online MBA program

“The whole thing was very productive,” she said. “The session generated some great conversations among all the teachers and principals who attended. I was pleased to see so many K-12 teachers embracing the idea that online platforms can support the delivery of excellent educational experiences—a fact that is backed up by years of research.”

The Time is Now

Burgos is having a moment. She’s long been a popular teacher, having been awarded four Golden Apple Awards, as voted on by her students.  But it’s her ongoing work with online learning that is raising her profile.

Before entering academia Burgos worked in marketing for two multi-national consumer packaged goods companies. For nearly seven years, her work included leading virtual project teams across international borders for Procter & Gamble, an experience that would lead to her being pulled onto Marshall’s first online MBA task force in 2013. In 2016 she was named the academic director for the Online MBA (OMBA) program.

2012 was also the year she was awarded a grant from the USC Center for Scholarly Technology, to study the role of virtual learning in course continuity and emergency preparedness…in other words, what would happen, if, say, the unthinkable happened.

“As part of the study, I asked my students to imagine there had been an earthquake that forced the entire campus to switch to online learning for a period of two weeks, while the campus was assessed for seismic damage and safety,” she said. “During this period, they were only allowed to work and meet virtually, and all classes were held synchronously using Adobe Connect.”  Burgos then surveyed students to gather data on the student experience; what factors made them feel connected to their classmates? Which online platforms worked best?

She is applying the results of her study, along with her OMBA experiences, to the upcoming Fall 2020 semester, which begins online in just a couple of weeks.

“Marshall is going into this well ahead of the curve,” she said. “We have the advantage of already having world-class faculty and staff who are all deeply committed to student success in any environment, virtual or residential.”

A graduate of Harvard and USC Marshall, where she earned her MBA, she discovered her true calling after getting her first taste of teaching while working as a graduate student assistant for Professor of Clinical Marketing Rex Kovacevich more than 15 years ago.