On March 16, all courses of GSOM SPbU educational programs began to transfer into the online format. The experience of these first days has shown that technological issues are solved more easily than many people think. A key challenge is to change the methodology for content presentation.
There are many platforms that allow users to study online — from Microsoft products to live broadcasts on social networks. Some universities have their own online learning platforms, others use ready-made external solutions. This is for example the case with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, which have already been providing lectures on their own platforms. Erasmus University Rotterdam Business School, ESADE Business School in Barcelona, and Luis's Business School in Rome have selected various turnkey solutions — offered by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex.
Each approach has its pros and cons. In recent weeks, most common platforms are under tremendous pressure due to the widespread transition of education and business to working online. At the same time, the work of such platforms is generally handled by a huge team of developers and technical support, which enables the quick elimination of problems and who are working to continually improve their software. The stability of the work of internal university systems is often provided by a local team, often with limited resources who therefore are not always able to solve technical difficulties as quickly.
The MS Office 365 – Microsoft Teams platform was chosen for conducting online lectures at GSOM SPbU. Students will exchange materials and submit assignments through the familiar BlackBoard system — which has been used at the School for years. When choosing a site for broadcasting, the following factors were taken into account:
- The maximum number of class members. Most platforms have limits on the number of broadcast connections, so it’s important to calculate how many people attend the largest streamed lectures.
- The combination of a broadcast program and a learning management system. Platforms for online lectures are platforms for communication, while students also need a learning management system for homework and grades. At GSOM SPbU, we use BlackBoard.
- The preparedness of faculty and students: one of the main tasks in online learning is the training of faculty. It has been easily solved: at GSOM we developed instructions for using Microsoft Teams and quickly organized training webinars. Six volunteers from the Student Council are responsible for teaching their fellow students: they have received additional training to enable them to answer questions from classmates.
Technical problems in this process are natural, but they have clear, ready-made solutions. Methodological issues can be more difficult to tackle: for example, how to translate classical lectures into an online format without losing students' attention and to ensure the quality of knowledge transfer? To solve these problems, GSOM SPbU has created a working group that is charged with fixing emerging issues, promptly responding to problems as they arise by developing new solutions.