International experience is “extremely valuable” for Fernanda Juárez Trevino, a Mexican Bachelor of Business Administration student at Esade Business School in Barcelona. “One of the reasons I chose to study at Esade was the opportunity to share classes and meet people from all over the world and broaden my thinking,” she says.
At its peak, Covid-19 ended most foreign exchange programs, through which students can spend a semester at a business school in another country. And, while some of them pick up, cross-border travel remains difficult and uncertain as the pandemic continues.
But Trevino, who wants to pursue a career in investment banking, builds his international experience in another way: by enrolling in two online courses in finance and quantitative analysis – one at the SDA Bocconi School of Management. in Milan, Italy, and one at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.
“I was able to make connections with international and local students in the classes,” she says. “It also gives me an idea of what it’s like to take classes at other top business schools with top faculty – and all from the comfort of my own home.”
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Trevino’s virtual study abroad option was made possible by European Common Online Learning (Ecol), a new grouping of eight business schools. The other five members are Aalto University School of Business in Finland, Copenhagen Business School, Rotterdam School of Management, HEC Paris and Vienna University of Economics and Business.
Schools agreed in May this year to work together to provide an international online experience for undergraduates unable to travel due to Covid-19. This virtual option will continue even when in-person exchange programs fully resume, said Josep Franch, Dean of Esade.
“The idea was to provide not a substitute for the experience of going to another campus, but a complementary experience that would allow you to enrich your international exposure in other ways,” says Prof. Franch. “We have always placed a very high value on the exchange experience and when we talk to recruiters they tell us that it is also very important to them.
For this first year of trial, each member school selects and enrolls around 25 students from a list of 48 existing online elective courses organized by their partners, with topics ranging from international business and economics to sustainability and economics. inclusion. Eligible courses must be credited, taught in English, and offer opportunities to interact and work as a team with other students.
Ecol aims to build “a common online program which can be extended and developed over time”. Professor Franch says he may consider the initiative being extended to postgraduate programs, other business schools and perhaps even the basis of a full degree program.
“It’s just a trial this year and we’ll have to assess the results,” he says, “but, thinking long term, why not establish a full diploma or certificate based on this concept? “
Collaboration is becoming the new normal, according to a recent report by consultancy CarringtonCrisp, which notes: “Co-creation of new programs and new approaches to learning will become commonplace. Europeans are used to jointly creating common standards and harmonizing policies and practices. Earlier this year, for example, the Federation of European Academies of Medicine discussed the harmonization of doctoral training and a possible EU-wide common program to simplify the transition of medical students from the classroom in hospital.
The Bologna process initiated by the EU, which dates back to 1999, transformed European higher education and business schools by ensuring the comparability of European degree standards, in part to promote greater mobility of students between nations . It is no coincidence that Ecol members were already connected through Cems, one of the oldest business school networks in the world, which started as a partnership of four European schools in 1988. The Cems now represents more than 30 business schools, with 1,300 students admitted each year. follow a joint master’s course in management in at least two schools, supplemented by an internship in a partner company.
The Qtem business school network, which is interested in quantitative techniques for economics and management, has its origins at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and offers a master’s program. European Schools have also been the spearhead of the most recent Fome alliance, which aims to create a new standard for e-learning through collaborative pedagogy.
But the harmonization process is not straightforward, admits Felicitas Strittmatter, program manager in student mobility services at the Swiss University of St. Gallen who, before Ecol, had already piloted a virtual option to study at the abroad with the University of Economics and Business of Vienna and Copenhagen. Business school. “It’s quite difficult to put it all together because different electives at different schools offer different numbers of credits and have different dates for terms,” she says.
She adds, however, that students like the flexibility of the online exchange, which also gives an idea of what it’s like to study at another business school in another country. She says the virtual option also attracts students who work part-time and can’t afford to quit their job to study abroad for a semester. “Before the pandemic, our travel exchange experiences involved all the costs of travel and living in another country,” she says. “Now students can have an international experience that we hadn’t thought of before. “