Identifying innovative learning experiences at business schools
Today, the business school classroom goes far beyond the lecture hall and face-to-face interaction between student and teacher. Accelerated since the global health crisis, there is no doubt that business school classrooms have become increasingly innovative in recent years. Business school PR experts Stephanie Mullins and Olivia Nieberg from BlueSky Education take a look at digital learning experiences, tech-focused programmes, and new virtual and hybrid campuses that are now infiltrating the business school community with huge enthusiasm and excitement.
One business school that is not only embracing innovation, but is also transforming their whole classroom experiences for both their students and wider community is NEOMA Business School in France.
“Our students are evolving in a world that is constantly changing and we are training them for jobs that do not yet exist,” says Professor Haithem Marzouki, Director of Innovative Pedagogy at NEOMA. “In order to reduce the gap between companies and classrooms, we have the double responsibility of listening to the market and to our students, but above all understanding the needs of each one, which are different.”
Indeed, in response to these student needs and market trends, NEOMA was the first school in Europe to open a 100% digital campus in 2020. The purpose of the digital campus is to create the interactions and atmosphere of a real campus, guaranteeing the most authentic and gratifying academic experience possible from a remote location.
Through the use of a personalised avatar, students can study and progress in this new space as if they were on a real campus. Once connected, they can access a virtual building to take their courses, meet with a workgroup, or even attend a conference. As well as this, the school’s services ecosystem, which includes the Talent & Career Centre, the Wellness Centre, the library, and the incubators, can also be accessed on the virtual campus.
Using digital innovation to enhance the learning experience is also key at POLIMI Graduate School of Management in Milan. World-renowned for its innovative teaching facilities, this has now been taken one step further with the launch of its new Navigli campus, where physical and virtual learning has been combined.
Based in the heart of Milan’s creative and cultural centre and built in partnership with Microsoft and IBM, the Navigli campus is a place where future business leaders can learn in a highly interactive space. The nature of the classrooms meet the needs of students who are becoming increasingly aware of how digitalisation will be blended within their careers.
This is the same sentiment at EHL Hospitality Business School in Switzerland, where virtual experiences are also being used to enhance students’ future career prospects. Regarded as the best hospitality school in the world, the school trains students whose goals are to obtain managerial careers in the hotel and hospitality industries. Now, it has launched its first-ever ‘housekeeping virtual reality’ course.
By allowing students to integrate a virtual world, the technology helps students to develop practical and interpersonal skills in situations that mimic reality or even different realities. VR tools allow students to enter actual work situations so they can practice what they’ve learned. VR’s flexibility means that stressful, demanding and surprising situations can be simulated, which of course, reflects a real-life working environment.
Another business school that has launched a pioneering new programme is WU Executive Academy in Vienna. Partnering with EdTech firm ‘Tomorrow’s Education’, the business school has now launched a Master’s degree in the Metaverse.
In fact, WU Executive Academy and Tomorrow’s Education aim to transform education with a string of remote-first degrees taught via the school’s cutting-edge campus in the Metaverse. The Professional Master of Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET) is the first programme to launch after recently accepting its first cohort. The highly flexible programme design allows students to learn at their own pace via the school’s campus in the metaverse, which is accessible via an online app.
With online learning platforms becoming more and more advanced across the business school community, WU Executive Academy seems ahead of the game with its new educational offerings in this virtual world.
Beyond teaching, Imperial College Business School has also enhanced their learning experience with their ‘Data Observatory’. The Data Observatory lets students see their data from almost every angle, unlocking new perspectives and inspiring new strategies. With an immense data processing capacity, centred around a 310-degree visualisation space, the Data Observatory includes data science studios and conference facilities that allow students to sit down with academics and business advisors to co-create strategies that help solve their greatest challenges. Imperial uses this facility to teach students across the MBA and Masters Suite.
Of course, it is worth noting that if business schools are implementing digital learning experiences using online learning platforms, they must also evaluate them to ensure that they are performing at their highest possible standard. At GBSB Global Business School, an international business school in Europe, with campuses in Spain, Malta and Online, they recently used a ‘Capability Maturity Model’ to help them determine how well their virtual learning platforms were working, but also how they could be improved.
Through a Capability Maturity Model (CMM), a school does a 360-degree assessment of all aspects of student learning, from methodology to employer satisfaction. After conducting an assessment, a school might implement new platforms and new technology, as well as revamp the delivery of individual programs.
At GBSB Global- where they have a strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovative teaching methodology, offering Masters programmes, MBA and BBA courses, and are also a Microsoft Showcase School – they offered asynchronous learning options long before COVID hit. However, during the pandemic, they shifted to blended learning to meet the needs of on-campus students. They wanted to evaluate how well their virtual learning platforms were serving their students and how they could improve, hence why they turned to a CMM. During the analysis, they investigated best practices in technology, which led them to make several improvements. Indeed, all business schools should consider using a CMM if they are to continue offering their online learning experiences to the best of their ability.
The world has changed, and educational methods, programmes, and campuses are adapting to meet the needs of both students and faculty. Technology is developing at a rapid rate, with virtual experiences and blended classroom structures sweeping the business school community. With this in mind, business schools should constantly be evaluating their offerings in order to keep up with this pace of change so that their students can continue to be at the forefront of this transformation.
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