Changing retail reality necessitates classroom shift.

The changing realities of retail made Mark Rosenbaum come up with a different way of doing business.

With fundamental principles of the industry undergoing seismic shifts, the way students at the University of South Carolina's College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management learn the business has to change as well. And Rosenbaum, a professor and chair of the Department of Retailing, believes the technology that has disrupted the industry is also the key to creating that adaptability.

"The key is to make sure that our students are graduating with practical skills that get them jobs," he said. "The question is, how does one teach technology? One can wait for a textbook, but by the time the textbook is published, I promise you that technology will be outdated. So our style of teaching has to dramatically change."

That means forging partnerships with online companies such as retail analytics program Keyhole, web development company Wix, sales management platform SalesForce, customer relationship management platform HubSpot and supply chain solutions provider JDA. These tech-focused resources create real-time content for students to rapidly digest and put to use, Rosenbaum said.

"A professor has control of the syllabus. However, the content really has to be generated by our industry partners," he said. "We create the setting for learning. We became the conduit between our high-tech partners and students. But we can no longer wait for content to emerge in a paper format.

"For example, I could prepare a Wix lecture Week 1. Ten days later, the company changes something, and my lecture suddenly has to be tweaked. Now imagine waiting a year to change that textbook. It's not going to happen. It can't happen."

The idea is that even minimal exposure to such online platforms will broaden students' skills and make them more employable in an industry that doesn't remotely resemble what it was a decade ago.

"Many brick-and-mortar retailers will soon go under, and we have the death of the enclosed mall, and we have the massive loss of physical retail space," Rosenbaum said. "So a retailing program that initially depended on retailers like Belk, Target, Kohls, as well as other brick-and-mortar stores, is not going to survive. Even being exposed to some of the software gives my students an advantage in the marketplace. Even if you're familiar with the interface, you're a step ahead."

Rosenbaum came to USC a year ago after serving as the Kohl's Professor of...

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