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What's next for higher education in a post-Covid-19 world?

The Financial Times, in partnership with the University of St.Gallen, hosted a webinar series for faculty members across the higher education sector.

Discussions covered a reflection on the state of business education, asking how to restart learning amidst the pandemic, and rethink how business schools should be preparing their students for the changing economy after coronavirus.

With an exceptional roster of academic experts and leaders from business schools around the world, new challenges, opportunities and ideas were shared, and recommendations made to support the transformation and adaptation of academic institutions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reinventing courses to create an impactful experience

Teaching in digital and blended formats is a very different experience from face-to-face learning. Typically, digital learning requires significant investment and months of preparation to enhance courses.

“Staff no longer simply teach but perform, and may need stronger technical support to deliver a high quality learning experience,” said Mohanbir Sawhney, the clinical professor of marketing, and director of the center of research in technology & innovation at Northwestern University.

Make your courses more social and more structured. Make sure students are supported when needed, and make them experiential so that students are able to apply ideas, get feedback and adjust their behavior.

Dr. David LefevreDirector, Edtech Lab, Imperial College Business School

Despite its challenges, the implementation of new technologies into courses can enhance learning with more personalized teaching and opportunities for broader participation.

Some ideas suggested during a session included:

  • Breaking down teaching into small blocks of 15-20 minutes;
  • Varying formats by interspersing discussions with pre-readings;
  • Hosting relevant quizzes/polls;
  • Videos and other interactive media;
  • Hosting some break-out sessions;
  • Incorporating group work into learning, and;
  • Offering other activities alongside lectures with different speakers and strong visuals.

Nurture critical thinking competencies of MBAs

The use of real-time data and information can help add real value to the classroom. Not only can it integrate real-life scenarios into class theory and nurture critical thinking skills, but it can also help to create insights from previous or current cases, as well as develop a holistic and global perspective in students.

“What I really like about real time resources, such as the Financial Times, is that it pushes everyone to slow down a little bit, and think back about the thought that people are making decisions for these companies,” said Kevin Mak, Lecturer in Management and Director, Real-Time Analysis and Investment Lab (RAIL), at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

I do think the challenge when students have a laptop in front of them is to maintain their engagement. And we cannot do this with these traditional materials. They have to be exposed to different ideas, different content, you have to vary it over time… the combination of good real time insights, plus our management of those insights and the flipped classroom. It offers a big step forward for MBA education.

Simon EvenettProfessor of International Trade and Economic Development and MBA Director, University of St. Gallen

Never let a crisis go to waste

MBA programs not only have to adapt because of the crisis but use it as an opportunity to create change. Enhancing their students' learning experience is now more possible than ever by accelerating the implementation of new technology trends into their courses. Business schools need to start forward-thinking, and strategize about where they want to be, not only in the short but especially the long term.

“The bottom line for me is that the crisis is probably going to accentuate trends that were already there,” said Geoff Garrett, Dean at Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. “For schools that were already thinking hard about online, I think the opportunities are great. It made the transition more seamless in the short term. But I think taking very seriously what a hybridized education might look like going forward is really important. We've opened up opportunities that maybe we didn't see, or we certainly didn't think about four months ago.”

Looking towards the upcoming semesters, a hybrid offering of face-to-face and remote learning will be key, and faculty will need to balance high quality asynchronous learning materials with curated small working groups. There will also need to be curriculum changes with a growing focus on the future of capitalism, building teams in a virtual world, and leadership during uncertainty.

A unique opportunity for business schools is to update what leadership means. We now have to think about leadership under uncertainty, leadership in crisis, leadership where ESG means so much more than it did before.

Geoff GarrettDean, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California

This webinar series is available to watch on demand via the button below. Click the link, and explore more of the insights of those who spoke at our Reflect. Restart. Rethink. webinar.

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