Getting to know Scott Homan

This story was originally posted on 2/14/11.Scott Homan has been a professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision since 2001. He received his bachelor's degree from the program in 1988 and learned to love teaching while pursuing his OLS master's degree. After stints at Arthur Andersen/Andersen Consulting, Texas A&M (where he also earned his Ph.D.), and Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, he returned to Purdue and his current position. Homan, Mike Beyerlein, and two doctoral students, Amy Warneka and Breck Terheide, recently began to develop the virtual simulation research program of the Virtual Collaboration Laboratory in the department.

On teaching at Purdue: I teach OLS 450 (Project Management), and Strategic Planning and Marketing in the College of Technology master’s program. I am the course coordinator for OLS 274, which is our Intro to Business course, which I also teach occasionally. Effective teaching means creating a learning environment that meets the needs of the various learning styles of the students. You have to understand the special needs and adapt to the needs of the students. I do a lot of hands-on activities and case studies. There is a lot of application of knowledge versus just rote learning.

My research: I am interested in the application of technology to the improvement of human systems. Virtual worlds such as Second Life and our new partner Spot-on 3D are just tools for that. Simulations and virtual reality have always interested me. My primary focus is the use of virtual worlds to create simulations and learning environments. Desktop technology has advanced to where we can have dynamic, immersion-type experiences in an avatar-based 3-D world. Examples of research topics include:

  1. Can an avatar-based virtual world (aka simulation) equal the experience that is currently done in other training venues? Can it be used to teach policy and procedure? The benefit is that in a virtual world, we can reset it easier, we can create it cheaper, and it is easier to control variables. Proving that this technology actually works in changing behavior and increasing learning is the beginning.
  2. What does it take to assimilate new users into virtual worlds? We’ve put hundreds of students into virtual worlds as part of classroom activities. We’ve learned the extreme difficulties of assimilation. Everything from hardware to internet connectivity to lack of motivation interfered. Using virtual worlds requires a learning curve; we need to teach them what they need to know. We are dealing with opportunities for students to reach out and talk to and engage other individuals. We need to research social dynamics, because there is a resistance to meeting new people that they don’t know. Because it’s behind a computer screen, there appears to be a perception change. When introducing this technology to traditional college groups in a traditional classroom, students seem to resist the adoption of technology becuse they don't see the need to adopt it. What are the social reasons? How do we take the virtual technology into other populations?

Extracurricular activities: I am involved with the Wall Street Journal’s Each week, I pick stories from the Wall Street Journal that deal with information technology. I summarize them, write questions, and the Wall Street Journal packages that up and sends it to 6,000 professors globally for use in their classrooms. It is also repackaged for the Wall Street Journal’s professional development services. I focus on stories about hardware, software, applications, public policy and all kinds of things (see sample weekly review.). Technology is a constant playground for me. You see monitors, computers, and dead computers in the office all the time. It is a non-stop quest for new technology and how to use it to make life better for all. I am also the campus representative for the Disney College Program and would love to have individuals talk to me about the opportunities that exist for students and staff.

Outside of Purdue: I make it a focus to take time to be with my family and ones that I love. I used to be more active in the community, such as serving on the school board. Now I focus on activities related to work and home.