Online was fun, but simply not ‘the real deal’

Everyone agrees: face-to-face education beats online in almost every aspect. Nevertheless, considering the circumstances, the online educational week of MaastrichtMBA was regarded as a great experience. “It was more fun than I originally anticipated and all the efforts of the MaastrichtMBA team definitely contributed to this positive feeling”, says Daniel Weber, Assistant to the Accountable Manager and pilot at Lufthansa.

Missing being in the MBA bubble

The educational week about ‘Sustaining Competitive Advantage’ was originally planned in February, but rescheduled to 12-16 April, hoping for less restrictions and more possibilities for a face-to-face format. Many fingers were crossed, but to no avail. The MaastrichtMBA team had no choice but to offer a fully online format. Mirjam Kort, Head of Internal Affairs at Vluchtelingenwerk Zuidwest-Nederland has mixed feelings. “I admire the organising team and teachers for doing a very good job in engaging the students, offering a variety of teaching forms and letting us work on a project during the week. Still, it just didn’t feel as a real MBA week. Simply because there is less interaction between and after classes which makes it harder to connect and engage with fellow students. I missed being in the MBA ‘bubble’.” Rufin Bajnath, General Manager of Fernandes Bakery in Suriname, agrees: “I also prefer the face-to-face classes. But given the circumstances it still was a great week. The module was very inspiring, with great topics end great professors. For me the only real challenge was the time difference. Living in Suriname I had to wake up in the middle of the night.”

Extra activities

In an effort to maintain and strengthen the community feeling and encourage engagement among students, the organising team offered extra activities. All students received a food & beverage survival kit for the educational week, they were offered an online escape room and a yoga session and on the Kumo Space platform they could interact during the whole week. Mirjam: “Good job! I really appreciated this and participated in the yoga session. I enjoyed it, because it was a physical activity instead of more listening and talking to a screen” Daniel who’s partner Evelyn also participates in MBA: “We visited the online Thirsty Thursday on Kumo Space. It was fun, though it will never beat the real deal.”

In retrospect: pros and cons

Have the students also experienced advantages of the online format? Rufin: “I think this proves that we as humans and organisations are very agile and have an enormous capacity for change and adaptability. Although, I definitely prefer actually being in Maastricht, meeting and socialising with fellow students, this week was still very inspiring. What I liked most is that the module was designed like a small ecosystem on this topic. It was not all about high level strategic management, but also very practical. The strategic management toolbox, value proposition design and human behaviour understanding were tools that I can implement immediately.” Mirjam: “I am glad that we were offered this possibility. I like to keep on track with my MBA and don’t like a long break between the modules to remain in the right ‘study-flow’.” “Working remotely offers possibilities for optimising your daily schedule and of course the opportunity to study, despite COVID-restrictions” says Daniel. “Challenging for me were the long hours with limited movement and lack of social engagement. But let’s be honest, that’s a game you can’t win. Content wise it was a very interesting week, getting a structured approach to driving customer centric improvement and having a better (and practical) understanding of what strategy actually means and how to get there.”

Enough screen time

Daniel, Mirjam and Rufin agree: online is a good alternative but face-to-face classes and interactions are (much) better. Daniel: “You reach a point where you simply have had enough screen time.” Let’s all hope for better times soon!

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