As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the globe, ESSEC Business School has quickly reorganized to continue to fulfil its primary role: to prepare the leaders of tomorrow. Online courses are now available for all students and participants on all campuses. Aside from the technical issues, it is the pedagogy that needs to be transformed and adapted.
Since the beginning of the health crisis, the K-lab (Knowledge Lab) and Innovation teams, who have been working with the ESSEC community on the digitalisation of teaching methods, have been on the deck. Their challenge? To enable students, participants, and professors at the school to move to 100% distant teaching, via digital tools. "We understood very quickly, even before the containment measures, that we were going to have to support a growing number of users," explains Sophie Magnanou, director of the Knowledge Lab. "We set up a reinforced dedicated team in less than 48 hours that was operational very quickly thanks to the expertise we already had. One of the K-lab's missions since its creation has been to support the programme teams in the transformation and digitisation of courses".
The staff already has experience in distance learning. This know-how was strengthened in 2019 with the creation of the fifth ESSEC campus, the digital campus. The challenge now is to develop these good practices on a much larger scale. "We were already in the process of developing online teaching, so the digital campus mechanisms could be generalised on a much larger scale," says Benjamin Six, Director of Innovation and User Experience. "New issues have emerged because of the significantly higher volume, but we have been able to capitalize on what we were already doing before".
A different pedagogy
However, distance learning is not just about digital infrastructure issues. It is also a question of professors and lecturers reconsidering their teaching methods, so as not to lessen the experience, but to best adapt it to a physically distant audience. Thanks to their experience, the K-lab staff collaborated with the Dean's office to set up a website in just a few days to support professors and lecturers. It gives precious advice on the technical aspects, but also on how to best adapt one's course to this new teaching method. "You can't give a 2.5-hour live course by videoconference, with very little feedback and interaction," explains Emmanuelle Le Nagard, professor in the Marketing Department and associate dean in charge of pedagogy. "It is necessary to find other pedagogical methods, to reduce the length of the sessions, to record part of the courses and to rely on the documentary resources of the Learning Center. We're working closely with the Knowledge Lab to find the right asynchronous resources."
Two information sessions led by the K-lab, programmes and Dean's office teams were attended by more than 130 ESSEC permanent professors and lecturers. Finally, a shared forum enabled them to exchange advice and best practices for innovation. "There is no reluctance on the part of the faculty, but on the contrary mobilization, commitment and solidarity," rejoices Sophie Magnanou. "We feel that the professors are not going to stop there, and that this will fuel their reflection on the approach to this type of teaching." A feeling shared by Emmanuelle Le Nagard: "The professors and lecturers play the game and are constructive. This will strengthen the links in this community."
250 daily sessions at term
Since March 16th, participants in a continuing education program have already switched to this mode of learning. Students in pre-experience programs have been benefiting from these online courses since March 23rd. In the first week alone, more than 500 video conferencing sessions have already been planned. The K-lab teams expect to eventually count up to 250 sessions daily.