In conversation Education

The way forward

Photo: Special arrangement

Photo: Special arrangement  

Online classes and remote teaching have become the key to making education accessible to more than 8,000 students across the globe. Patrice Houdayer, from SKEMA Business School, sheds some light

The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc across the globe, and has brought every sector in the world to a screeching halt. It has forced companies and organisations to rethink their way of working, especially educational institutions. At a time when classes have been unceremoniously suspended, and exams postponed, the onus of implementing innovative solutions, and going digital to combat the situation, falls on educational institutions.

SKEMA Business School, Lille, France, which has seven campuses across five continents, promptly stepped up to the situation to ensure the continuity of studies for its 8,000-plus students across the world. It is among some of the first business schools in the world to offer all its courses online to its students. As one of its campuses is in China, the country which was the epicentre of the pandemic, authorities went all out in setting up a comprehensive distance learning system for students there. Excerpts from an interview with Patrice Houdayer, SKEMA’s vice-dean of programmes, who sheds light on how the institution is handling the pandemic and ensuring continued education to students.

From-home campaign

“Since the temporary closure of our Suzhou campus in China, mid-January, we had already prepared and set up a comprehensive distance learning system for our seven campuses. Thanks to this, we were quickly able to switch to a 100% remote teaching mode,” explains Houdayer. “Many B-schools are now following the same approach. Besides this, we are organising online well-being and fitness activities for students as they are essential to help them stay positive. We are also running the #SKEMAfromhome campaign, on different social media platforms, to showcase the efforts of the business school’s students and faculty, and answer the queries of students.”

Are there any differences in the measures taken for undergraduation, postgraduation and other courses? “They are more or less the same,” he is quick to clarify. “Undergraduate students are given various case studies to work on. All students have access to our knowledge-sharing online platform that is regularly updated by professors. At the master’s level, we have more live sessions and project-based courses to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and experience they need, before they enter the job market. Many of our students pursuing undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD and other programmes, choose to take up entrepreneurship and open a startup. SKEMA Ventures, our incubator-accelerator, has been conducting online workshops to provide them with the necessary tools and guidance.”

Tools to facilitate online courses

“We are making optimum use of the Microsoft Office resources. We have been able to utilise various Office 365 applications such as Teams (collaborative platform for teamwork) and Stream (video streaming service), depending on teachers’ needs, on a large scale. For external speakers and experts, specific online support (tutorials, webinars) and a dedicated hotline have been deployed,” he explicates.

“It was essential for us to alternate synchronous (live sessions on Teams, Skype, Google Meet, and so on), and asynchronous activities. Marcos Lima, director of SKEMA’s MSc International Marketing and Business Development programme, suggested the use of a little-known, but useful PowerPoint function for distance learning — the possibility to record a “screencast”. This makes it possible to create interactive presentations that professors can send to students prior to the live session, which is used for discussing the content, case studies and project presentations,” adds Houdayer.

Going digital

He elaborates on how the institution is conducting online classes for around 70 different programmes, including BBA, M.Sc, double M.Sc, PhD and executive MBA, at its campuses in the U.S., France, Brazil, South Africa, and China. In total, an average of 250 different courses are being delivered every day. By the end of the semester, more than 6,000 sessions will be delivered to nearly 7,000 students. All of this is managed by the institution’s Innovation Department and the Knowledge Centre.

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 9:23:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/the-way-forward/article31376407.ece

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