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Michigan Ross Professor Goes Viral with TikTok Videos

By Bob Needham

A creative online class experiment has turned Ross School of Business Professor Ryan Ball into the star of two viral videos on the TikTok platform.

To help combat the “Zoom fatigue” that can arise during virtual classes, Ball decided to liven things up — by appearing on screen as a potato, thanks to a digital filter. The starchy performance occurred during a review session for his accounting course in the Master of Management Program

Ball started out with an introduction complete with dance music, party hat, sparklers, and a sports announcer. Even after settling into the serious work of the class, though, he kept the potato filter

An MM student posted two clips from the class to the video sharing platform TikTok, and they quickly went viral, drawing more than 18.2 million views/4.3 million likes and 24.5 million views/5.6 million likes in only a few days.

This was actually the second time Ball used the technique to keep students engaged.

“I first executed the idea on April 1, 2020, as we transitioned to virtual teaching, as a way of lifting the mood of students during that tough time,” Ball said. “I use it as a way to capture students’ attention when I detect their energy is draining.”

The videos continue to draw additional interest. Ball was interviewed by a writer for the Today show for a story on the program's website.

Ball’s approach to teaching clearly resonates with students: In 2016, he became the first Michigan Ross professor to win the University of Michigan’s prestigious Golden Apple Award, and he has won the Full-Time MBA Neary Teaching Excellence Award several times, including this year.
 

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