It is a balancing act which is not always easy for Dirk Jonach, director of the IT department, and his team: On the one hand, digitalization is pushing new megatrends which are implemented at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management. On the other hand, in the event of a crisis, IT has to find short-term remedies. This was also the case at the beginning of the corona crisis and the lockdowns of the WHU campuses in Vallendar and Duesseldorf. In only six months, the business school was able to establish its own online MBA program. Beforehand, online teaching was rarely taking place at all. The innovative power and the willingness to see it through are huge.
IT has been a decisive cornerstone when it comes to enabling students to continue their studies without interruption despite the corona measures. "Three of our team members immediately aligned their efforts with the Center of Digitalization (CoD) to set up online teaching," explains Dirk Jonach the situation at the beginning of the lockdown. "The rest of the team took care of all the other tasks and the numerous inquiries so that those colleagues could fully concentrate on preparing everything for online teaching.” At the same time, the infrastructure for all the employees to work from home had to be set up. Thorsten Leich, IT Project Manager at WHU, also emphasizes the excellent cooperation between the departments as a success factor, "A few days before the lockdown of the Vallendar campus, a project group consisting of those responsible for media technology, IT, the CoD, and the programs had already been established. At this time, various formats of online teaching, such as live lectures and webcasts as well as recordings, were being discussed.
The corona pandemic functioned as a catalyst for the implementation of a project that would have been taken care of anyway in the upcoming years at WHU: The additional offering of online study programs and hybrid teaching, for example lectures that take place at campus but can also be attended live online. The two IT experts assume that hybrid teaching will prevail as a flanking element to classroom teaching. But the streaming of lectures is not nearly enough. "Participants who do not attend in person must not suffer disadvantages due to the distance. It has to be made possible to experience online teaching in almost the same way as on campus," Thorsten Leich explains.
The launch of WHU's first Global Online MBA is now an additional task for the IT department. For the technical implementation, IT is in constant exchange with the department of media technology, the CoD and program directors. However, it is important that details are not neglected when developing this new program. "Even seemingly simple things like a digital signature have to be feasible at the start of the online MBA program. After all, what would it look like if an online program was to be subscribed on paper and sent by mail?" asks the head of IT. "But such innovations imply synergy effects for the programs and departments."
Digitalization is also breaking new ground in other areas. The IT department’s work ensures that WHU presents itself to be digitally state-of-the-art. This also holds true for services. For example, with "WHU Mobile" students will soon have their own app. “’WHU Mobile’ is designed as a central hub that is always available. Students have direct access to their personal calendar, their grades, online lectures, the menu of the canteen, open evaluations, etc. This will truly offer added value," says Dirk Jonach with conviction. Moreover, students in Vallendar and Düsseldorf will soon have digital access to tickets for public transport. The IT sector’s development will remain exciting in the future.
Read more about how other WHU departments managed the current situation: