By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Program Director, Government Contracts and Acquisition at American Public University
Why would you want your online students to count the number of items of cereal in a small container, a cup, of Froot Loops™? I get asked that question when I suggest that you have your students go to the grocery store and purchase a 1.5 oz container or Froot Loops™. The cost is about $1.25, or if the student has children you can usually get four for $5.00.
Yes, this is an exercise that is hard to do online at first blush. But, it earns many reward points toward retaining the student, engaging the student, getting the student to go a bit beyond the learning objective and take away a piece of knowledge that will stick in their brains whenever they visit the cereal section of a grocery store.
This little exercise is one that will jazz up any forum discussion board and, if handled right by the professor, can continue to create discussion points after the grade for that week is posted.
This exercise is good for courses in logistics, supply chain management, retail management, hospitality, packaging, marketing, manufacturing and materials management.
The point is to have each student pour out the contents of one container of 1.5 oz cereal and count the number of colors of each piece of cereal. Froot Loops™ has six different colors. They are blue, red, orange, green, purple and yellow. At first the students think this is a silly game, and kind of fun, especially for their children who will want to sit at the dining table and help mom or dad count, without eating any pieces.
The result from this experiment with 12 to 20 students is eye opening. When the teacher pulls together all those little counts of colors a surprise is in store for them. The numbers do not match from color to color from container to container. And by a wide margin. The same amount of cereal items for each color is significantly different too. I will show a chart here to demonstrate what you can expect.
|Student||# of Blue||# of Red||# of Orange||# of Green||# of Purple||# of Yellow||Total|
Examine this little table for the number of pieces of cereal for each color. Look at the average for each color. Why is yellow such a low count? Why is blue so much higher?
This exercise would be for an open forum discussion where all students can see the results and post his or her observation. The professor posts the table. We try not to make it a statistics class. But it is, without telling them that it really does have statistical properties in observing the trends in the data.
You can add a written assignment, a paper for more detailed study of these numbers.
This exercise should be conducted in the first two weeks of an eight-week class. This gives time for a surprise the students don’t see coming. You as a teacher write to Kellogg and send in this chart and ask questions that come from the students. Ask those “why” questions. Kellogg will answer you and that is a piece of information they would not expecgt from such a world-wide operation. Their answer takes about four weeks to come back in the form of a letter.
And just so you know what will be in the letter, Kellogg says that they pack the 1.5 oz containers by weight, not by color! That just generates even more discussion on “why?”
Give this a try for a course. See what happens.
About the Author
Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is the program director for Government Contracts and Acquisition at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of Reverse Logistics Management and Transportation and Logistics Management. Prior to joining APU, Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. His book, RFID Metrics, was published in 2007 by CRC Press and is in revision.