Learning & leading in a Time of Corona

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the lives and plans of individuals throughout the world. For students, it has meant potentially significant disruption in their studies and plans for the future…
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26 Jan 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the lives and plans of individuals throughout the world. For students, it has meant potentially significant disruption in their studies and plans for the future. Uncertainties have extended from internships to career aspirations to financial challenges to even how courses would be taught. The unprecedented situation has been a true test of adaptability, courage, compassion, and community spirit.

Ensuring academic continuity

As countries around the world initiated lockdown measures, EDHEC was able to capitalize on the innovation strategy put in place several years ago to make the switch to digital learning with exceptional rapidity, offering students on all four European campuses (Lille, Nice, Paris and London) a full curriculum of online courses.

For students based in Asia who faced particular difficulties since January, EDHEC teams provided support to resolve individual problems and ensure uninterrupted studies. The Singapore campus also had to close in compliance with local guidelines. EDHEC worked closely with its academic partners to provide learning continuity and with local authorities to ensure full compliance with directives and standards. The school credits invaluable internal support and excellent tools for its ability to succeed with the transition in all locations.

A leading light

EDHEC was quick to implement a full strategy to ensure academic continuity. This included a pedagogical innovation laboratory run by a team of six, and four task forces of 38 professors, program directors, pedagogical innovation laboratory staff, and support-service personnel. It also drew on two distance-teaching support units for professors and students and a pool of 20 expert professors. “In leveraging EDHEC’s longstanding know-how, we were immediately carried by a wave of energy and faultless commitment on the part of EDHEC professors and support teams, making sure that all our students could continue their academic studies at home and in security, all around the world. This shows how education can remain a beacon in this exceptional period”, says Emmanuel Métais, Dean of EDHEC Business School.

Spotlight on PiLab, the EDHEC pedagogical innovation laboratory 

The purpose of EDHEC’s Pedagogical Innovation Laboratory is to support course digitalization, enriching the learning experience for both students and professors. It also drives research and implementation of digital tools to make learning more interactive and personalized. The  PiLab team comprises two pedagogical engineers, two multimedia engineers, a Learning Management System expert, and a Digital Learning Experience manager. Starting in mid-March, they delivered more than 200 group and individual training sessions in less than a month, supporting professors and staff in moving courses and exams online. Created in 2015, PiLab experienced a major acceleration in 2020.

The statistics speak for themselves

From the very first day, close to 4,000 students connected from over 50 different countries, with 350 virtual classes delivered at distance by 90 professors. The EDHEC online offer encompassed virtual classes, forums, group work, online work and other formats. In the second week of the lockdown, EDHEC continued to innovate, launching an online business game for close to 800 students in the second year of the School’s BBA and based on two campuses. Even students overseas reaped the benefits of the administrative support of EDHEC staff from across the globe–particularly important for those in lockdown far from friends and family.

Alexandre Hoba, for example, is studying on EDHEC’s Global Economic Transformation & Technology program, and is currently in his Master 1 year at Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) in South Korea, where he stayed during lockdown. “We were lucky to have a team that follows us very closely and asks for our news and sends us emails on a regular basis. At one point, for example, we had a video-conference with our program director and the international director to exchange and get replies to our questions, particularly regarding visas,” he explains.

Practical help

To help students in serious financial difficulty, EDHEC launched an Emergency Fund, accelerating the work of the existing Solidarity Fund established by the EDHEC Foundation. The Emergency Fund has made it possible to grant exceptional solidarity aid to French and international students suffering bereavement or the loss of a job or an internship, or who are obliged to  stay abroad and incur extra living expenses. The Fund of around €450,000 had, on April 7th 2020, reviewed more than 150 applications and continues to offer support to students.

Continuing to look to the future

EDHEC’s Student Career Center offered huge support for students looking for internships or jobs by completely digitalizing all its services right from the start of lockdown. As a result, it was able to propose an array of online events, coaching sessions, webinars, and the assistance of the EDHEC community remotely from mid-March onwards. One example of innovative student career support proposed during lockdown was a virtual webinar on marketing careers and the corporate environment led by four successful EDHEC MSc in Marketing Management graduates.

LVMH intern Giulia La Placa was the first to offer her services. She was joined by Johnson & Johnson Commercial Manager, Souhail Lahrour; Mac Cosmetics Retail Operations Manager, Pierre-Yves Cérel; and Lenovo Marketing Director, Wahid Razali. “During my time at EDHEC, I used to enjoy when Alumni came back to share their experiences of the ‘real word’. This was my way of living up to the EDHEC motto and making an impact,” explains Souhail Lahrour.

Opening our (virtual) doors

To complement an outstanding online offer for EDHEC students, the school also offered the general public a cycle of webinars exploring the impact of Covid-19 on business and the economy and looking at ways both to deal with it now and prepare for the future. EDHEC program departments, research centers and chairs pooled their resources to host 32 events online, offering nearly 7,200 participants more than 30 hours of world-leading expertise.

Encouraging entrepreneurs

Also doing its part to mitigate the impact of the crisis on business, the EDHEC Entrepreneurs Incubator team followed and supported all EDHEC entrepreneurs remotely. Our community of experts continued to provide individualized coaching for the Incubator’s start-ups. On-site support, normally provided by the campuses of Lille and Nice and at Station F in Paris, were maintained remotely through video-conference or calls. The Incubator also set up a special Covid-19 program as well as three special hotlines devoted to finance, technology and legal issues.

Students show solidarity mindset

Exemplifying the EDHEC values of innovation, engagement and impact, our students also found in the Covid-19 crisis an opportunity both to learn and help others. The EDHEC Students Against the Crisis initiative leveraged a four-step scenario- based methodology developed by EDHEC’s Foresight, Innovation and Transformation Chair to help businesses navigate the crisis, seize opportunity, and devise robust strategies.

32 volunteer students from the MBA, Master in Management and Financial Economics programs gave 3,200 hours of their time to help 10 companies. They worked with a wide range of businesses, including a company offering mindfulness training to school children, a start-up providing contact lens dispensers, and multinational airline Lufthansa, all of which were battling Covid-19-related challenges.

Another inspiring story of EDHEC student engagement can be found in the work of EMBA student and Iliad intrapreneur Arthur Dagard, who participated in a project to create an emergency artificial ventilator. He was part of a group of 20 entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, inventors and health professionals who entered lockdown together to devote 20 hours a day for 20 days to create a working ventilator ready for industrialization and testing, and which costs just €1,000 to produce.

EDHEC Alumni give back

Proving that our alumni really do carry the school’s mindset out into the world once they leave our campuses, the EDHEC Alumni Association worked with the Alliance for International Medical Action to help provide emergency medical aid to African countries. EDHEC Alumni and two other major business schools launched #OxygenforAfrica to finance ventilators via an appeal for donations. In addition, EDHEC Alumni and BDE BBA students worked on an appeal for funds organized by the French Red Cross aiming to provide medical personnel with protective masks, gloves, overalls and plastic caps. The EDHEC Alumni association matched every donation given, and the initative has now raised €180,000.

The world of work post-Covid-19

It is undeniable that the world has changed post Covid-19. For some of our students, the Covid-19 crisis has not just changed how they study, but also had an impact on how they see the future. Emily Touvet has been studying for a double degree at the Graduate School of Business of Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) since January. “It’s  been a time of introspection, to think about what we really want to do with our life,” she explains. “I was planning to work in the social economy sector and more specifically in financing social entrepreneurship. The unprecedented health crisis has strengthened this idea, particularly thanks to the fine solidarity initiatives we’ve seen emerge. I hope this experience will have an impact on people’s attitudes and encourage them to act and engage in the future,” she adds.

EDHEC intends to continue to uphold the values of innovation, engagement and impact that have allowed us to weather the Covid-19 storm and find solutions to its challenges. Through the solidarity approach shown by all our stakeholders - from professors and students, to program directors, research centers, support staff and alumni–we have emerged from the crisis stronger than ever.