Best possible learning experience thanks to innovative hybrid teaching
It’s a question many executives and high potentials are pondering these days: is the crisis the right time to take up an MBA? “It absolutely is,” says Prof. Barbara Stöttinger. In the following, the Dean of the WU Executive Academy analyzes the reasons why it is a good idea to start an MBA in a time of crisis and explains how the WU Executive Academy has been preparing for the start of the MBA programs in the fall against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic to offer students the best possible learning experience through the use of innovative hybrid teaching.
Business schools know from their past experience with the financial crisis of 2008 that many people make use of the time during a crisis to prepare to climb the next rung on the career ladder. “And this will work out best if you invest in your own (leading and management) competences, i.e. your own market value, in order to gain an edge on the labor market after the crisis. In this context, many people ask a valid question: is this possible to a full extent also in times of the pandemic? The answer is yes. It is possible because state-of-the-art hybrid teaching involves everything that an international top-level MBA for professionals and executives needs,” says Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy.
The coronavirus crisis has catapulted the MBA programs of the WU Executive Academy into a new era in a matter of weeks – with a significant added value, as it turns out: “We have a clear policy in place for the cohorts of students starting their studies from fall: the offers on site have top priority because we believe that the physical interactions and studying at our modern campus are unique experiences. But if participants are affected by travel restrictions due to Covid-19, we have prepared attractive alternatives,” Stöttinger adds. Each lecture hall will be fitted with state-of-the art IT and interactive multimedia equipment enabling true hybrid teaching. This way, the students who are present can form small groups with their colleagues who were unable to travel to Vienna and work on tasks in remote sessions. Physically absent students can also be included in plenary discussions by the lecturers. “It is especially important to us that also MBA students who have to participate from a distance can fully benefit from the programs at the campus. They should feel that they are not missing out on anything.”
“We have racked our brains learning and trying out so many new things these past months – it would be a sheer waste not to continue all of those things that give participants an added value also after the crisis,” Stöttinger says. Already during the lockdown, all modules were offered digitally and virtually, and a host of digital formats were brought to the screens of participants from all over the world. Interactive working groups, discussions, and reflection exercises as well as business case studies echoed the real classroom experience, only virtually.
Prof. Barbara Stöttinger
Looking back, the overall impression is surprisingly positive: We are well prepared. This is also reflected in the participants’ feedback. We have received a lot of praise not only for how fast we were able to switch to distance teaching but also for the quality of our online learning offers. Our experiences in the last months and the feedback from our students make us optimistic regarding the fall semester.
It is particularly gratifying that in the last couple of months, alumni have organized multiple virtual reunions and networking events, which turned out great. “This also gives students and alumni who live abroad the opportunity to participate in our networking events remotely and thus make better use of the WU EA network,” Barbara Stöttinger points out. As a further offer, guest lecturers from executive search companies provided a virtual glimpse into the job search and coached students for these special times on the job market.
“Fortunately, there was hardly any coronavirus-related drop in MBA admissions this year,” Barbara Stöttinger says, adding: “People’s readiness to invest in their own executive education and career enhancement is more dependent on the state of the economy.” Studying for an MBA requires a great deal of personal commitment. Once taken, this decision is hardly ever impacted by external factors. What is more: “Especially in a time of crisis, there is a need for structure and a solid knowledge base on the executive level to better gauge interdependencies and economic correlations as well as future-proof entrepreneurial decisions. We saw the same thing happen during the financial crisis of 2008,” Stöttinger observes.
The main motives for participating in an MBA program – climbing the career ladder or starting a company – have remained unchanged also during the crisis. These reasons will stay the same in the future, or possibly even gain in importance. The ongoing pandemic has prompted many people to weigh up their career path and recognize a need to make changes. With a fitting key position within the company, know-how in digital leadership, forward-looking positioning, and the necessary technical knowledge, people become indispensable to their employer also in the long run. Also, it is no longer only the established business know-how that counts. What’s equally important is to evolve into a mature, prudent, and sustainably operating executive. “For this, we offer a number of accompanying coaching formats that also take place remotely. The Leadership Lab, for example, was online even before the pandemic. Here, we support participants in reflecting on and fully exploiting their own creativity as well as upskill them in terms of self-leadership,” Stöttinger adds.
Overcoming the coronavirus crisis is a hot topic and cross-cutting issue that is discussed in all MBA modules. Together with their colleagues, participants explore topics such as accelerated digitization and the transformation of business fields based on current cases and against the backdrop of scientific insights. This way, students not only receive much-needed technical know-how and input from the real world of business, they also enjoy many opportunities to invest in their own positioning as digital leaders.
How Covid-19 affects our MBA programs and what you should know about it can be found here.