It is the fourth week in which WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management successfully offers all courses of the BSc, MSc, and MBA programs digitally in response to the corona crisis developments and true to the motto “we keep WHU running.” After the students' predominantly optimistic interim assessment last week, this week two WHU professors speak about their experiences. Their conclusion: The dynamics are different, but the potential is greater than ever.
Professor Dr. Christian Schlereth holds the Chair of Digital Marketing and has taught at WHU since 2014, thus knows the students well. For him, it was soon clear that he would have to offer his lectures digitally for the following weeks: "On Sunday evening, I got the message that the campus would be closed, on Monday I took care of recording the contents, and on Tuesday, everything was online." In the meanwhile, he even set up his studio with a microphone and a light diffuser, allowing him to offer his courses in the highest possible quality. Now there are only subtleties left, he says, which he is trying to improve. One of the things he is referring to is the fact that online lectures should also be interactive, which is not so easy, especially with large groups of students and different time zones, in direct comparison to regular classroom lectures.
Professor Dr. Fabiola Gerpott, who holds the Chair of Leadership, now also offers her Master’s course completely online. Like Christian Schlereth, she is also convinced that the interactivity and individuality of the lectures must be preserved. "WHU lives from interactive thinking," she explains. For this reason, she is currently working more frequently with breakout groups and actively encourages her students to use features such as the hand lift button. A key question remains, however, how to not only continue an established course online but also to set it up anew. "Trust is the central variable that is built when people interact with each other." But how can it be guaranteed to create a trustful atmosphere digitally? According to Gerpott, professors should become creative and experiment a lot. She, for example, had students record videos at home in which they introduce themselves to each other.
By using the different teaching possibilities offered by programs such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, Schlereth discovered many advantages in online teaching. For students, he reports, not only would there be a high degree of interactivity, but the individuality of learning could also be further enhanced. For example, students can rewind the recorded videos, pause them at any time or even play them at a higher speed. Alongside the individual learning speed, this would also open up the possibility of transferring what has been learned already during the lecture and applying it to programs such as Excel or Python. As Christian Schlereth further elaborates, not only the students but also WHU itself can benefit. WHU is characterized by the fact that professors have already "developed unique course concepts beyond traditional frontal teaching," which now have the great creative potential to be displayed online. Fabiola Gerpott furthermore sees great potential for the campus to become even more integrative and the student body more diverse through the digital course offerings, as a broader target group can now be reached.
Thus, both consider the conversion to a digital course offering positive and are optimistic about the upcoming weeks. As Fabiola Gerpott says, the WHU spirit also means going through difficult times together. In other words, it is time to view the current situation as an opportunity and put the spotlight on the positive aspects.