Online Class Transformations: Oneline Lessons for Business Schools

Online lessons Grenoble

As educational institutions across the world make the transition to an online environment from diverse starting points, the challenge falls heavily on faculty. Business School faculty are faced with the task of adapting high-quality, interactive pedagogic experiences to a new landscape of online technologies, anxious stakeholders, and students with variable levels of connectivity — all with very short lead times. Here are eleven things we have learnt at Grenoble Ecole de Management in the last couple of months that could help faculty and management of faculty.

1. It is all in the mix

Try to avoid the tendency for faculty to replicate the face-to-face module with a PowerPoint videoconference of the same duration. A mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities contribute to the enjoyable and autonomous student experience and provides the faculty member with the space to manage their new environment.

2. Keep it simple

Online does not have to be fancy and it is not a replication of the classroom experience – try to reserve synchronous time for rare and precious exchanges. Record these synchronous moments and post them on the VLE platform just in case student connections fail and/or they wish to revisit the session. Better safe than sorry!

3. Keep it really simple

For asynchronous activities rely on the existing VLE platform that is familiar to both faculty and students. Students can use materials to study in advance of a synchronous session — handouts, articles, texts & videos and, if they wish, faculty can pre-record video with commented slides.

4. Scheduled hours

Even if the school is no longer using those classrooms, the assigned teaching slots provide a regular rhythm for the students (and avoid an administrative re-timetabling nightmare!). The teacher does not have to be interacting with their students in each planned session but the students can be working in order to balance their own schedules.

5. Communication

Use plenty of communication before and after a planned session in order to structure students’ workloads and so that they know what they should be doing (even if the faculty member is not present with them online). This clarity provides a safety net for students with low-quality connections, internet dropouts and different time zones.

6. Just do it

‘Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good’. Even experienced online teachers do not expect “perfect” – nobody does in the context. So free up faculty and students to be creative. Some faculty will be very at ease with the new environment but trust all of them to be adaptable and creative in their own way.

7. Participation

Unless there is an online classroom assistant, do not try to monitor participation and presence but rather use the technology to follow deliverables. Design deliverables to upload to the VLE platform in order to follow student participation, and limit demands on faculty. Deliverables can simply be a non-evaluated part of the learning journey.

8. Share and share alike

Encourage faculty to share good practice amongst themselves. Trusted colleagues who have experience – as debutants or experts – have a high level of legitimacy for reassuring and passing on informal advice. Meanwhile, the Dean or Associate Dean can provide standardised guidance on the assessment and inter-group consistency in order to minimise reinventing the wheel.

9. Group work

No need to drop the planned group work. Students can still undertake effective and rich teamwork activities online. Students can be assigned to groups in a conventional way, via the VLE platform or web conferencing software. Either way students are more than capable to working together online.

10. Examinations 

Focus on the point of an exam. If exam conditions cannot be guaranteed, faculty can still perform summatively (end of module learning acquisition) assessments. In redesigning assessment make it short and sweet… so that “those who know, can do” within the limited time slot. Also, privilege application as opposed to pure knowledge acquisition.

11. Support the faculty

Deans and faculty management need to support their colleagues with clear student communications for non-academic matters. Faculty should not be bogged down in answering questions about issues beyond their own modules so provide a clear communication channel for questions and answers about school policy, fees, health, etc.

By Mark Smith Dean of Faculty and Professor in HR at Grenoble Ecole de Management,  with the contributions of Nancy Armstrong Associate Director of pedagogy at Grenoble Ecole de Management. and thanks also to Marc HUMBERT, Federico Pigni& Emmanuelle Villiot-Leclercq.