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Online Learning Is More Versatile Than You Think

Virtual campus at NEOMA Business School
How can Schools ensure their digital platforms can maintain meaningful connections and enhance the student experience?
  • Online learning platforms have been developed at breakneck speed
  • Expressing emotion is still vital even when communicating virtually 
  • Digital platforms should still enable students to feel engaged and connected

Student mobility has been halted all over the world due to the pandemic. As a result, teaching within business schools has been particularly affected, with the introduction and development of different online learning and teaching approaches being accelerated in order to enable students to safely work from home without halting their education. 

Over the past year, traditional face-to-face methods of teaching have been increasingly integrated with digital tools as business schools have directed their efforts and investments towards transforming their interactive teaching capabilities, creating spaces where students can feel as immersed in student life as possible without having to be physically on campus.

However, according to Alain Goudey, Chief Digital Officer at NEOMA Business School in France, despite the rapid response in transforming the way they teach and communicate, business schools need to be careful that the interaction between students and professors is not compromised in the process.

Goudey said he saw a need to “re-engineer the lecture to increase the engagement, the motivation, and the communication between teacher and student”. As such, to meet these challenges, in early September the school launched their fourth campus– which is entirely virtual. Represented by avatars, students and faculty members can gather inside the virtual school buildings to host and attend seminars, classes and conferences, or even have discussions in virtual corridors. “I see this is as a new way of working, by learning and collaborating as best we can whilst being physically apart”, he explains. 

Goudey shares that by developing personalised Avatars, as well as enhancing their learning, it is also much easier for students to express their emotions. This is important because, as Goudey says, “expressing emotions from a student perspective is something that has been overlooked as a necessity throughout the pandemic, especially as it is seemingly harder to express emotion through online platforms”.

So, online platforms not only have to be sufficient for teaching educational material, they also need to consider the complexities of human interactions. Another business school that is exploring the different ways that online tools can be developed to meet the ever-changing needs of their students is MIP Politecnico di Milano in Italy.

Dean of MIP, Federico Frattini, says that the school recognised that even prior to Covid-19 there existed a growing demand from students for greater digitalisation, flexibility, and accessibility of their learning. Most prominently, he witnessed that digital tools could be incredibly valuable for student inclusivity. 

“Several times in past years and more recently during the pandemic I have encountered students who, for serious health or work problems, have had to “pause” their participation in a traditional, face-to-face training course. Digital training can have a great value in ensuring the continuity of the training path for those in difficult situations,” affirms Frattini.

Such tools, he says, should be developed within business schools in order to efficiently and effectively transform classroom-based knowledge into an extensive hub of online educational content. This should be delivered in a personalised and specific way for all students in order to give them both the interaction they require and the skills they need for a professional world that will become ever more dependent on technology. “Information is truly endless online, and it is important that online platforms are seen as not only a tool to deliver content, but rather the main driver of innovation and learning,” he says.

Where NEOMA has their new and highly interactive virtual campus, MIP has FLEXA – an AI learning platform which acts as a career coach for potential students, current cohorts and alumni networks. Developed in partnership with Microsoft, FLEXA analyses each individual and suggests personalised materials to close skills gaps whilst promoting their profiles to recruiters. FLEXA also allows participants to decide where and how to access their lesson material from anywhere in the world and with any device – an invaluable element, particularly during the recent health crisis. 

Whilst technology has become an invaluable tool in allowing students to continue their education throughout the pandemic business schools should consider that, through lack of face-to-face contact, engagement and overall fulfilment can potentially be compromised. By ensuring that they develop digital platforms that allow the members of their community to maintain meaningful connections institutions can only enhance the student experience – both during the pandemic and beyond.  

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