At malls across the country, retailers set up temporary shop in kiosks to hawk items not typically found in the plaza’s stores.
That’s where patrons strolling through the shopping center can stop for custom-made jewelry, one-of-a-kind cell phone cases and sports memorabilia of their favorite team.
“Pop-up stores are not a part of the permanent structure of the mall, but they provide products mall patrons want,” said Olukemi Sawyerr, assistant vice president for academic innovation.
Those unexpected finds offered by pop-up stores inspired the idea for a pop-up course at Cal Poly Pomona – a class offered as a one-time opportunity to examine a particular topic from multiple perspectives.
This fall, a pilot class on “Our Automated Future” will be among the list of general education courses offered to Cal Poly Pomona students.
“Pop-up courses provide students with the opportunity to learn about important new developments in society that are critical to their professional success,” Sawyerr said. “Students should be aware of topics such as blockchain, nanotech, fake news, designer babies, opioids, etc. A pop-up format gives faculty the flexibility to cover new developments quickly. Faculty can then innovate the curriculum and test ideas that may eventually become permanent parts of the curriculum.”
Cal Poly Pomona’s course, which will look at the effects of automation on industry and society, will be taught by three faculty members from different disciplines: Associate Professor Linchi Kwok from The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Physics Professor Andrew Carmichael and Philosophy Professor Michael Cholbi. Students will get all three perspectives – service, technology and ethics — in the three-unit course, Sawyerr said.
Automation is everywhere and also a growing part of the hospitality and service industry – from hotels to restaurants to banks, according to Kwok.
For example, at the Boston restaurant Spyce, robots prepare the eatery’s specialty salads and bowls instead of chefs. In Sacramento, the city is testing the Kiwibot, a four-wheeled food delivery robot that would rival services like DoorDash and Grubhub.
“Labor costs are getting higher, and using machines is more efficient and can also be more accurate,” Kwok said.
The class will focus on the future of work, enabling students to see what jobs are still irreplaceable even with automation becoming more common and in which ways the technology can benefit industry, he added.
“The course is about how we can prepare our students to think about the future ahead of us and because automation is the future, it is about how we can prepare students for a better future,” Kwok said.
The interdisciplinary approach will allow students to integrate knowledge across multiple disciplines, Sawyerr said. If the pop-up course is well received by students, a similar class on a different topic could be offered each semester.
“We are creating more opportunities for both students and faculty to work together across disciplines,” she said. “It gives faculty another format where they can collaborate with their faculty colleagues. It’s an opportunity for students from multiple disciplines to work together too.”
Kwok, whose research interests focus on hospitality trends, social media, information technology and service operations, was the first professor on board. Both the multidisciplinary approach and the push to look at a specific topic from three different perspectives will add to the student learning experience, he said.
“I really like the idea,” Kwok said. “The way I look at higher education is that I think the content is one thing, but through the content, what transferable skills do students get? How are we preparing students for the future of work? I believe this course will hone their critical thinking skills and challenge them to collaborate and consider different perspectives.”