From OUR EDITORIAL STAFF we have been investigating what outstanding things have been done, especially since 2020 when the pandemic impacted on a global level, to facilitate postgraduate studies. And we have discovered something very interesting, such as the alliance that is building a common online curriculum to expand exposure to other cultures.
The objective of connecting with their classmates through the virtual option of study abroad is an extremely valuable international experience, since one of the reasons that students give that they have this possibility is to have the opportunity to share classes and meet people from around the world and expand at the same time as open thinking, the way of acting, not being locked in a single culture.
At its peak, Covid-19 wiped out most exchange programs, through which students can spend a semester at a business school in another country. And while some of these are resuming, cross-border travel remains challenging and uncertain as the pandemic continues.
With this mechanism you can make connections with international and local students in classes and also take classes from other important business schools with high-level professors, and all from the comfort of your own home.
A great virtual initiative
The option of virtual study abroad can be made thanks to the international project that is “European Common Online Learning (Ecol)”, a new grouping of eight business schools. This is an excellent initiative. When you enter their website, the first thing they ask you is: “Would you like to gain international experience without leaving home”? And then it says: “Then the ECOL (European Common Online Learning) initiative might be perfect for you!”
So that our readers at the AEEN have it at hand, we transcribe the two essential paragraphs from the ECOL website:
“Together with our partner universities Aalto University, Bocconi University, Copenhagen Business School, Ramon Llull University – ESADE, Erasmus University Rotterdam – RSM Rotterdam School of Management and University of St. Gallen (HSG), we have launched ECOL in the winter semester of 2021. / 22. This network will continue to exist in the next semesters”.
“Each institution offers a variety of online courses at the undergraduate level that are open to a limited number of students from all participating universities. Therefore, you will be part of an international classroom, you will be able to benefit from international learning opportunities and you will be able to exchange ideas with students from different countries”.
Undoubtedly, this initiative of a kind of multinational postgraduate degree has come in handy at a time when mobility within the European Union was increasingly complicated by the pandemic.
At the end of the virtual exchange, students will receive an official transcript of records, which they will need for the credit transfer process, which as everyone knows is the administrative act that consists of including in the student’s file the credits obtained in partial official university studies degree (not completed), taken at any university, which have not been recognized.
The situation was very clear: the pandemic had accelerated the growth of online MBAs, so the schools agreed to work together to provide an international online experience to undergraduate students who were unable to travel due to COVID-19. This virtual option will remain even when face-to-face exchanges are completely resumed.
It is not a substitute for experience on a foreign campus
The idea was to provide not a substitute for the experience of going to another campus, but a complementary experience that would allow him to enrich his international exposure in other ways, since the international experience has always been very important for graduate students and from the same Business Shools, a great value has been given to this study methodology in which the experience in other areas outside the one that the student is accustomed to, is providing a capitalization both in their technical training and in the cultural aspects that it means to be coexisting in companies other than those from which it comes.
For this first trial year, each member school is selecting and enrolling about 25 students from a list of 48 existing online electives administered by their partners, with topics ranging from international business and economics to sustainability and inclusion. Eligible courses must award credit, be taught in English, and offer opportunities to interact and work as a team with other students.
Ecol aims to build “a common online curriculum that can expand and develop over time.” Everything makes it possible to foresee that this initiative can be extended to other graduate programs of other business schools and perhaps even be the basis for a full degree program.
This first year an evaluation of results is being carried out, but as always happens in educational processes (implementation), you have to think about the long term, which can lead to establishing a full degree or certificate based on this concept, beyond of the compensation of credits.
Collaboration is becoming the new normal, according to a recent report from consultancy CarringtonCrisp, which notes: “Co-creating new programs and new approaches to learning will become commonplace.” Europeans are familiar with the joint creation of common standards and the harmonization of policies and practices. This initiative is giving us a clear idea of what it is like to take classes from other important Business Schools and all from the comfort of their homes.
The objectives of the Bologna process
The EU-initiated Bologna process, dating back to 1999, transformed European higher education and business schools by ensuring comparability in European degree standards, in part to promote greater student mobility 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 began as an association of four European schools in 1988. Cems now represents more than 30 schools from business, with 1,300 students admitted each year, to study a common master’s of management curriculum at a minimum of two schools, supplemented by an internship at a partner company.
The Qtem business school network, with interests in quantitative techniques for economics and management, originates from the Brussels Solvay School of Economics and Management and offers a master’s program. European schools also spearheaded the most recent Fome alliance, which aims to create a new standard for online learning through collaborative pedagogy.
But the harmonization process is not straightforward, admits Felicitas Strittmatter, manager of student mobility services programs at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland who, prior to Ecol, had already been testing a virtual option to study abroad with the University. of Economics and Business Vienna and Copenhagen Business School.
Felicitas Strittmatter states that “It is quite challenging to put it all together as different electives at different schools offer different numbers of credits and have different term dates.”
But keep in mind also that students like the flexibility of online exchange, which also gives an idea of what it’s like to study at another Business School in another country. Furthermore, the virtual option also attracts students who work part-time and cannot afford to quit their job to study abroad for a semester.
An objective fact is that before the pandemic, all travel exchange experiences involved all the costs of traveling and living in another country, while now students can enjoy an international experience that had not been thought of before.