Education remote learning

We Faced the Challenge

Who would have thought, just 6 months ago, that not only the students, but institutions themselves would be embarking on such a steep learning curve? Naturally, COVID-19 has forced all businesses to re-think how they interact, conduct their operations, and provide service to their customers. In the case of BHMS, this means our students.

Let’s face it: while most educational institutions had already integrated digital systems and technology in some form to enhance the learning experience, many of us were underprepared to take learning and interaction completely online when the shutdown came. Institutions with established reputations in distance learning were in an enviable position of continuing business as usual, but for those of using a mainly face-to-face, classroom model, the immediate future looked daunting.

At BHMS, with students from around the globe and very different learning cultures, and a multitude of tools to choose from, we had to ask ourselves how best to ensure continued student engagement. How could we facilitate meaningful business and hospitality-based assessments in the new digital landscape? How could we connect with potential future students who no longer had the opportunity to visit the School?

With the input of our learning and teaching technologist, our social media team and inspiration from our international partners, we were able to navigate a new path, allowing us to not simply function in our new circumstances, but to innovate and elevate our offer. Out went the traditional events; nervous presentations standing in front of a class; physical exhibitions to attract interest in the School. In came the digitally streamed event programs, slick virtual student presentations and themed webinars to showcase a variety of study-abroad themes.

Our digitally native students adapted quickly to the change in learning style and assessment. Unprecedented levels of interaction were seen in the digital break-out rooms, and individual online consultations became the norm to ensure students felt supported in a time of relative isolation.

Perhaps more surprising was the speed at which the faculty embraced the tools to engage students. Streaming practical demonstrations with live chat, digital opinion polls, online break-out rooms and roleplays to name just few, meant that students were engaged far beyond simply observing a lecture. Thus, our focus on transferable skills and professional development was not only maintained, but the foundations were expanded to encompass a much greater focus on digital competences.

The lessons learned at BHMS have shown that we can, and need to, be flexible in how we and our students think about meaningful education. We will build upon our recent experiences to ensure that we embed these new channels and tools into the programs so that future students also gain digital confidence and skills. Graduates will undoubtedly have to make virtual presentations, lead online team meetings and undertake online training in their future careers. Facing the COVID-19 situation has shown us that challenges are also opportunities: an important message for all of us as we look forward to an exciting but not always predictable future!

About the Author

Heather Robinson is the Academic Dean at the B.H.M.S. Business Hotel & Management School in Lucerne. She has enjoyed more than 20 years’ experience in hospitality education, while living and working in over 11 countries.

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