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PRESENTED BY ESCP BUSINESS SCHOOL

Virtual classrooms: how do you make online learning social?

Personal interactions with your fellow students and teachers are a crucial part of higher education. The ongoing restrictions on life around Europe therefore pose huge challenges to educational institutions.

Virtual classrooms: how do you make online learning social?

ESCP Business School, the world's first business school, has been quick to adapt and ensure continuity of education for its students. More than 2,650 courses are being delivered online and the London Faculty alone had delivered more than 500 classes online before the end of April, as well as running an online open day.

After switching to online learning, professors are using innovative technologies to make their virtual classrooms engaging and challenging.

Exams have also gone ahead online. Now ESCP is planning for a new wave of students to start its Bachelor in Management (BSc) programme come September, whatever the practical challenges. 

Find out more about the BSc programme at the world's first business school

Smart solutions for students

All ESCP students have been able to attend courses and sit exams online since March 16th. But the transition started much sooner, first in Italy. Teachers at the Turin campus switched the BSc programme online without losing even one session.

Professor Fabrizio Zerbini, Associate Dean of the three-year Bachelor in Management, said: “We’re extremely happy about what has been achieved. Our experience in Italy helped when we had to provide smart and safe solutions also to our students in Paris, Berlin, Madrid and London.

Photo: Professor Fabrizio Zerbini, ESCP Business School.

“We also have a very dynamic faculty that is already digitally integrated. Most of our professors had expertise and experience of online teaching before and were able to expand those programmes.”

Frank Bournois, Dean of ESCP, has personally kept up direct contact with students through regular video updates with important news posted on the school's website. These provide students with reassurance that their welfare and education are always the school’s core concerns and key information about the transition to online learning.

Leading in a changing world

The Bachelor programme uses the slogan “leading in a changing world” and emphasises the skills students need to have a positive impact on tomorrow’s societies. ESCP already views education as a social process that goes far beyond knowledge transfer.

Interested in leading in a changing world? Find out more about ESCP's Bachelor in Management programme

Professor Francesco Venuti, of ESCP Turin, co-authored a recent article for Harvard Business Publishing explaining how online learning can still be social. It highlights different ways to keep learning interactive and allow students to socialise their emotions about the current crisis.

The article suggests steps such as shorter sessions to aid concentration, small discussion sub-groups and clear rules, including when and how students can speak or ask questions.

Students could use a handraising function in an online platform or post questions in the chat section. Inviting students to post emoticons and respond to quick interactive polls can further boost engagement.

ESCP's BSc students have also been using Instagram Stories to share their thoughts. Sebastian Ponce de Leon, from Mexico, has posted tips for staying positive and focused while studying online.

These include working out instead of sitting down all day “to get the blood flowing”. He also recommends changing your online learning set up from time to time to keep things fresh.

A sustainable society

The near future may be uncertain. But ESCP already focuses on the major shifts of our time: digital revolution; climate change and ethics in action; expectations that business leaders will focus on multiple stakeholders to serve a better, fairer, sustainable society. The emphasis is on giving students the skillsets to make responsible choices.

Professors are given recommended technological solutions; a tool called Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is generally used for classes. But teachers can also suggest alternatives if they want to experiment.

Some content is recorded and made available for a given time window, so students do not miss out due to any internet connection issues. But the goal remains for students to interact with their professors and each other whenever possible in line with ESCP’s core values.

View videos showing students' experiences of ESCP's three-year BSc programme

“It’s a changing environment but it doesn’t change our philosophy: monitoring with a lot of degrees of freedom for professors to find the best solutions,” says Professor Zerbini. “We want you to be part of a social conversation about how management develops over time. That’s our distinctive value and we want to keep it even in a digital environment.”

Anticipating change

September may seem distant in the current situation. But ESCP's courses will begin as normal, regardless of whether students join in person, online or through a mixture of the two.

Applications are considered on a rolling basis through until July or August, depending on the campus. ESCP says the BSc programme has seen a 70 per cent rise in candidates applying. Students can be reassured that they can do their English language assessment online.

Photo: ESCP Business School

“The etymology of the word crisis comes from the Greek language; a crisis is a cut,” says Professor Zerbini. “It means you cut with the past, look to the future and change the way you approach things.

“We try to foster a new mentality to take this as an opportunity to innovate and adapt or even to anticipate change. Our students are talented, they have the right spirit and energies and we empower their talent.

“We’re already leveraging our students to help companies adapt to the crisis with internships and other modalities. I’m very confident they can make a big difference.”

The world’s oldest business school turned 200 last year. And it is focusing firmly on the future – whatever it may hold.

Want to find out more about studying at the world's first business school? Click here to download the brochure for ESCP Business School's Bachelor in Management .

UNIVERSITY

Five things to know about the ‘best university in Spain’

A new prestigious global university rankings has included several Spanish institutes albeit well down the list. Here's what you need to know about the university that finsihed the highest in the rankings.

Five things to know about the 'best university in Spain'
Photo: Jesús Corrius/Flickr
The QS World University Rankings, one of the big three most-read top schools lists, has just been released, and it includes 27 Spanish universities amongst the world’s top thousand.
 
While no Spanish school ranked in the top 100, university administrators argue that they’re doing more with less – Spanish schools have about €6,000 in funding per student/per year, a fraction of the €100,000 or so spent on each student per year at the American universities at the top of the list. 
 
 
The top Spanish school was declared to be the Universitat de Barcelona, ranked 165th globally. Here are 5 things worth knowing about the university declared by QS to be the best in Spain:
 
A university with tradition
 
The Universitat de Barcelona was listed as one of the 25 best universities in the world with more than 400 years of history by QS. The school was founded back in 1450 by King Alfonso V (“the Magnanimous”) of Aragon, making it 569 years old.
 
While it’s not as old as Spain’s historic University of Salamanca, founded in 1134, it is ranked almost 500 spots higher in the QS World University Rankings.
 
 
Photo: Jordi Domènech/Wikimedia Commons
 
One of the biggest universities in Spain
 
With more than 46,000 full-time students and around 63,000 students all categories included, the Universitat de Barcelona has one of the largest student bodies in Spain. 
 
It is the fourth largest university in Spain in terms of full-time students, after the University of Seville, the Complutense in Madrid, and the University of Granada.
 
Strong points: academic reputation and graduate employability
 
One of the factors that contributed to the Universitat de Barcelona’s “best in Spain” was its good academic reputation, rated at 71 out of 100 by QS. Academic reputation is the most heavily-weighted component in the QS World University rankings, and is judged by it surveying the opinions of over 94,000 individuals in the field of higher education with regards to an institution’s teaching and research quality.
 
Another factor that helped the Universitat de Barcelona distinguish itself was the high employability of its graduates. There, they cracked the top 100, ranking 82nd globally, making them the most employable university graduates in Spain, a quality that demonstrates itself with 90% graduate employment rate.
 
Weakness: a lack of international faculty
 
If there’s one category the Universitat of Barcelona could improve in, it’s international faculty. QS values an international faculty as the mark of a strong international brand and a global outlook, and incorporates into its ranking system.
 
The Universitat de Barcelona was graded an abysmal 5.8 out of 100 on this metric, probably because only 134 of its 3,923 faculty members are from outside of Spain. That’s a 3.4% international faculty for a student body made up of 15% international students from at least 122 different countries. 
 
Looks like that scene in L’Auberge Espagnole where the professor refuses to teach in any language but Catalan might have contained a grain of truth in it…
 
 
An affordable education
 
Unlike the schools at the top of the international list, the Universitat de Barcelona provides a reasonably-priced education, charging domestic students around €1,750 to €3,500 per school year. International students are charged a little bit more, as undergraduates pay €7,000 – €9,000 per year and graduate students are charged €3,500 – €5,500 per year.
 
Compared to the €42,500 – €44,500 per year that top ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can expect to pay, that doesn’t sound to bad.
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