The next best thing during corona times

“The online sessions were quite good, but I missed the social interaction.” “It is possible to get a high quality and interactive course online.” “Fun was definitely lacking.” “I missed Maastricht and fellow-students so much!” “The upside: I didn’t have to make a long trip.” These are just some of the students’ feedback on Maastricht MBA’s online education, organised due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All but a normal year

The executive MaastrichtMBA programme consisting of eight modules with associated educational weeks in Maastricht and one international week. In an educational week students are on campus for interactive work groups, corporate lectures and of course lots of social interaction. In normal circumstances, that is. But 2020 is all but a normal year. The educational week in May was postponed and alternative solutions had to be developed for the educational weeks to come.

Online and face-to-face

In a short period of time MaastrichtMBA has managed to present both online and face-to-face alternatives for the Executive MBA track, both offering the same high quality education that students are used to and are entitled to. The first face-to-face educational week took place in August, in the Crown Plaza Hotel, complying with the social distancing rules. Part of the students followed the face-to-face lectures online and tuned in by means of a live screen, an online chat and moderator. Particularly students from other countries and continents (US, Indonesia, China) made use of this possibility.”

 

Personal experiences

How did students and teachers experience online education? Luca Muchetti: “I live in Italy, so online education was actually quite comfortable, because I didn’t have to travel. However, it was my first module, so I’m looking forward to the next face-to-face module and meeting other students.” “The online experience was much better than I expected”, says Hazal Demirci, who was in Turkey during this educational week. “There were no technical or logistical problems at all, so kudos to the MaastrichtMBA team! The downside was that it was harder to stay focused and of course I missed Maastricht and my friends.” Kai Yin Or: “Online classes offer more flexibility in combining home and study. I also liked that my partner could get a glimpse of how I experience a MBA week. And of course the fact that I didn’t have to travel was a big advantage. Since I live in Indonesia, the most challenging part for me was the time difference, especially with the evening classes.”

A nice experience after all

Teachers share the opinion that although the online classes were generally a good experience, they are nevertheless surrogate for face-to-face sessions. Eric de Regt, senior lecturer: “I felt that interaction was more difficult and I also missed social interactions during breaks.” Giulia Piccillo, assistant professor: “I loved the option of drawing on the screen. I think this feature made the difference in keeping the students attentive. The break-out rooms for teamwork were useful and students were very effective with their online teamwork as the results of the team assignment were original and entertaining.” “At the beginning of my lecture I was merely talking to a computer screen”, says professor Bart Golsteyn. “Luckily students started to participate at some point, which made it a nice experience after all.” “Online is an option for ‘exceptional’ situations, but not a real alternative to face-to-face education. Although I had some valuable online chats and discussions during the breaks”, says Steffen Künn, assistant professor. Professor Huub Meijers did the online session from his home, with two screens, good speakers and a good webcam. “I think it went rather well, both the lecture and the break-out sessions. I had the feeling that the students liked working in the smaller groups.” Professor Clemens Kool: “My experience is that it is harder to engage students and have a broader discussion in an online class.” For Kaj Thomsson the benefits of online education don’t outweigh the downsides. “Several of my students had to turn off their webcams due to Internet bandwidth issues. As my session took place from 4 pm to 7 pm students in Asia seemed tired as for them it was already late in the evening. Nevertheless, everybody did his or her best to be as alert as possible. Overall, I quite enjoyed it.”

Take-aways

What is the biggest takeaway for students? Kai Yin Or: “That we can cope with abrupt changes, more easily and quicker than we think.” Hazal Demirci adds: “I realised that being together with the MBA family and sharing good moments are critical to me.” Luca Mucchetti: “Online education from home can work. But to be honest, I’m really looking forward to the next face-to-face module.”

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