“Students from around the world can build and expand their network of international contacts from home”

Maintaining school spirit

Get the most out of higher education in the Covid era


October 2020 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters

As we head into autumn, the leaves are changing colours and the nights are growing longer — as usual. But there’s little else that’s usual for students starting or returning to their studies this year. In the era of Covid-19, universities and business schools are making every effort to adapt to the times while keeping their students safe and continuing to provide them with the high-quality education and important experiences they expect from higher education institutions.

More than just a video
Internet-based remote learning has emerged as the most effective way of teaching during social distancing. When done right, it can be much more engaging than a simple live-streamed lecture.
“Students can study for the Financial Times [FT] Non-Executive Director Diploma completely online through virtual workshops, study sessions, and roundtable discussions,” says Chris Moon, head of programme development of the FT Board Director Programme. “They can also access and study the course materials on an e-learning platform. A tutor is available to assist anytime by e-mail or Skype calls.”

Some schools, taking all the necessary precautions, allow limited on-campus learning for their students’ benefit.
Lakeland University Japan [LUJ] offers hybrid learning programmes. All of our courses are online, with some held in person once per week, including classes in communication skills such as Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Public Speaking, and Interpersonal Relations,” says Alan Brender, dean of LUJ. “Our in-person classes are shown online simultaneously for those students wanting to avoid public places at this time.”

Making connections
Networking and building relationships between peers are important aspects of higher education. With face-to-face classes now increasingly rare, institutions are finding creative ways to facilitate student interaction.

“In our webinars, we use a combination of main-room coaching — where we call on participants to share their ideas, insights, and experience — and breakout rooms, which are the virtual equivalent of putting people into small groups,” says Greg Story, president of Dale Carnegie Japan. “In our breakout rooms, participants are carefully coached to make sure that they are engaged and that the discussions are valuable.”

The FT Board Director Programme arranges networking sessions according to students’ interests.

“Networking with other business leaders is one of the most important aspects of the FT Non-Executive Director Diploma,” Moon says. “We have been facilitating this during the pandemic by hosting different webinar meetings on topics such as regulatory updates and cybersecurity, as well as arranging for independent non-executive directors to share their experiences. Students from around the world can build and expand their network of international contacts from home.”

Taking extra care
The hardships of this year mean that looking after students’ mental health is more important than ever and learning institutions have stepped up to do their part.

“Class participants are sometimes under a lot of pressure, and the training environment — in person or virtual — has to be psychologically safe,” Story says. “So, we only focus on two things with feedback: what the person is doing that is working, and how can they make it even better. We want them to feel competent — and never embarrassed.”

According to Brender, LUJ makes caring for individual students a priority. Staff and other professionals are available to help with any issues that may arise.

“To sustain the mental health of our students, LUJ fosters a close-knit family-like atmosphere. We closely monitor students and react quickly to those in need of help by providing professional psychological counselling,” he explains. “Each student is assigned an advisor to provide guidance throughout the student’s academic career and to help solve problems.”

What you learn on higher education programmes will last for the rest of your life. Schools are making sure all students get the most out of their classes, even in times like these.