How to run a MBA online session? IE business school WOW ROOM virtual classroom case sharing

How to run a MBA online session? IE business school WOW ROOM virtual classroom case sharing
studying MBA/EMBA/DBA reviews in China

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March 11th, 2020, 1:00 pm, Continental European time, it was sunny outside. Pablo sat at the desk in front of the window turning on the computer. At this time, 50 personal images of his Global MBA classmates jumped out onto his screen. Some peers were in the living room, some in the study room, with others even in the bedroom. Some were in the day time under blue skies and white clouds, with others having already been into the nights. Neither occasion prevents them from getting online and participating into the course module provided by the Madrid-based IE Business School.

At this time, Professor Ignacio Gafo, the teacher of this "Change Management" course was on campus of IE University in the embassy district of Madrid, Spain. Being in a 100 square meter WOW ROOM classroom, facing a huge set of electronic screens, he said hello to students who are from all over the world. This WOW ROOM is the first virtual classroom in Europe. It is a digital screen wall with 45 square meters, which is U-shaped, consisting of 48 screens with a view of 200 degrees, from the perspective of a teaching professor.

The big screen in front of Professor Ignacio Gafo displays real-time status of his 51 online students. He started class with giving everyone a multiple choice survey question: "How do you manage your career?" 

Option A.  It was a simple straight forward process;

Option B.  It was a mess! I was unable to make any change happen;

Option C.  Got mixed results. Too many things to consider and mild results obtained;

Option D.  It was really tough but eventually managed.

Students made individual choices from their own computers, then professor's assistant based in the control room grouped students in accordance with their choices and facilitated several online discussion groups with each group having students with different choices. While Professor Gafo talking about the survey contexts and knowledge related, he could simultaneously follow expressions of students through WOW ROOM's facial and emotion recognition system. When he found the enthusiasm of one or two students very high, he picked up that student to explain his or her views first, then doing interaction with peers immediately.

After Professor Ignacio Gafo explained the knowledge points and discussion requirements, the students each entered a breakout room for further discussion in accordance with the assigned group. In this session, the students were divided into 5 groups with each group about 10 people. There was no intervention between groups. But Professor Ignacio Gafo stepped into different discussion groups from time to time, raising questions and also leaving his comments. 

This "Change Management" online session lasted for 90 minutes, with no break in the middle. For Pablo, such online courses are delivered at least twice a week, while other times, he needs to complete readings and assignments to meet course requirements. Pablo feels that “the course is very participatory” and he can really see professors in the classroom, the same as offline classes. The discussion atmosphere with peers is just as warm as classes carried offline.

At the same time as Professor Ignacio Gafo teaching at WOW ROOM, another 200 different online courses at IE University (the host University of IE Business School) were being conducted simultaneously.  In addition to WOW ROOM's important role in IE’s online education, IE University also uses Adobe Connect system to provide technical support for various courses of the university's five schools and also including undergraduate, graduate, PHD and executive educations.

The Madrid Region of Spain announced that all schools must be closed due to the needs of the coronavirus epidemic on the evening of March 9, 2020. On March 10, IE University converted all courses to online mode on the date when the announcement became effective, achieving a seamless connection from offline to online. Teaching is now going smoothly and students are based in home for learning. 

The sudden outbreak of the epidemic hit our world, but compared to the state of online education in other business school across the globe, IE University seems very calm to react to this unexpected change. The teachers are comparatively prepared, and the students are more flexible. Why? The reason may goes to the exploration of online education for nearly 20 years and the use of the above virtual classroom WOW ROOM since 4 years ago.

Professor Ignacio Gafo, Professor of Marketing and Deputy Dean of IE Business School who is responsible for Global MBA, IE Executive MBA and IE- Brown Executive MBA programs, said frankly: our use of online teaching modules of high-end programs for global executives is not due to the current pressure of the epidemic outbreak, but an initiative to arrange online lectures in the course design. "Our online courses can help busy executives save time and efforts on business trips, flights, and travel without sacrificing the interactivity of the experience. We have concentrated more of our offline courses so that students can explore different continents, learning different business histories and cultures, with more immersive experiences and exchanges. "

While being asked how IE could ensure the effectiveness of online teaching as offline, Professor Ignacio Gafo replied, "We have accumulated 20 years of experience in online teaching exploration, so we collected know how on online and offline allocation of resources, online content selection, case development, challenge design, software and hardware coordination and etc. Each teacher will make lean improvements through his teaching experience and student feedback. In the fall of 2018, our publishing department also cooperated with professors to develop Virtual Reality (VR) marketing cases to improve online experience of students, and also strengthen the ability to collect and analyze data. And the smooth switch from offline to online during this epidemic is the recognition of our past online education expertise."

The protagonist of this article, Pablo, told reporters: "The Global MBA program I enrolled is a blend program with combination of online and offline, a total of 17 months of courses, of which about one week of offline courses every 6 months, letting students and the teacher has sufficient time and occasions to communication and to interact. The rest of the time, peers are connected via Internet. ” There is also another one-week global project as an elective in the middle of the course. Students can go to a major economic development center across the globe to supplement the knowledge. In work, he usually has a lot of business trips, as Pablo said he will not bother any delay on his learning during business trips with this kind of course arrangements.