To say coronavirus has changed the world would be an understatement. We’ve switched offices for living rooms, pub visits for Zoom calls, and faced the challenge of adapting fast to the new normal.
Business schools have not escaped the need to swiftly pivot. Vital aspects of the MBA experience like internships, speaker events and networking must suddenly be conducted in a virtual environment.
It’s a shift that Emlyon Business School has made remarkably well, pivoting the program to focus more on a new type of learning which embraces the pandemic restrictions–and challenging students to adapt–whilst keeping the focus on the full-bodied MBA experience.
BusinessBecause spoke to Emlyon Business School's MBA admissions and academic team to hear how they've adapted to COVID-19, and how learning fresh and relevant skills is becoming increasingly important.
Professor Rhoda Davidson (pictured right), program director at Emlyon, emphasizes that an MBA is a valuable option in the new, more digitally focused world. Remote learning is undoubtedly an unpredictable challenge.
In response, Emlyon altered their courses to include new ways to work on real business problems in a virtual world. Company executives were brought in – via online platforms – to give students the opportunity to discuss business challenges and pitch their own solutions, digitally.
From offering logistics recommendations to Walmart to the considering new technology with Euronews, Emlyon MBA students have been able to adapt to new innovative ways of learning– echoing the school’s ‘early makers’ culture.
Emlyon students are encouraged to be proactive and agile, and the pandemic offered the opportunity to push these practices into a new focus. Throughout their time in the program MBA students are encouraged to apply and adapt what they learn to realistic and current situations.
“The pandemic has given us a preview of the future of work. Remote projects and teamwork will become the norm. Companies will operate more like the gig economy than in rigid hierarchies,” she says, “and this crisis gives our students the chance to practice these skills.”
Emlyon has homed in on ‘experiential learning’—a way of adapting quickly and sourcing new opportunities—as a method of succeeding in the current situation, which has been reflected in students’ abilities to find jobs.
Rhoda has even seen an increase in the number of graduates applying for jobs in highly digital businesses and e-commerce. “We gave students a taste of these new ways of working on real business issues and we found that people are much more at ease being interviewed for jobs in the new economy,” she adds, “and much more successful at securing these jobs as well.”
How Emlyon adapted
Emlyon also added to the program in order to assist MBAs in combatting the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.
Stephanie Ousaci (pictured left), MBA development manager at Emlyon, details the steps taken when the pandemic took hold.
“We adapted the MBA program to be able to convey the current situation and make sure our participants could work through the crisis both professionally and personally,” she explains, “this included a series of webinars covering topics such as crisis and risk management, remote working, stress management and well-being. Personal coaching was offered on request.”
Not only did Emlyon change the program content, but they also moved the academic year to start in January.
“Hopefully, the availability of vaccines in Spring 2021 will reduce the students’ exposure to the virus,” said Stephanie.
Rhoda emphasizes that while some students were able to find employment in summer 2020, others have found it is taking a little longer as the job market begins to open up again. In response, Emylon extended their academic and careers services up to the end of the calendar year, “to make sure they were feeling positive and confident in their abilities in the situation.”
“There are plenty of companies still hiring. The pandemic has accelerated underlying industry trends, such as digital transformation.”
Emlyon was also able to hold more high-profile speaker events with business leaders explaining how they are adapting during the pandemic.
Lessons for future MBAs
To make it through a global pandemic is an achievement. Future leaders can learn a lot from how business schools adapted during this time.
“Living through a global crisis like this can create a lot of uncertainties and anxiety," Lisa Homer-Rulliere (pictured right), recruitment manager at Emlyon, adds. “We are living in a world where everything is changing very quickly, and in this context, it is becoming very hard to plan anything.”
But the current situation has also spurred business school candidates to think twice about career paths.
“What do I really want to do for the rest of my life? What are my dreams? How can I improve my chances of having my dream job?” These are the questions Lisa has seen prospective students begin to consider.
“Doing an MBA is also the opportunity to take a break to focus on what really matters,” she adds, “and to be more attractive in a very complicated job market.”
By thinking outside of the box and being open to fresh ideas, new ways of working and uncertain possibilities, students can equip themselves with the skills needed to not only survive but succeed in our new world.
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