The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in Europe transformed teaching almost overnight. Current university students have to rely on technology to make the most of their studies, socialise with their peers, and find a way to avoid missing out on exciting projects.

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When Vlerick Business School (Belgium) had to organise a week-long online bootcamp for Masters students in March 2020 rather than have it face-to-face, it turned out that this format has plenty of potential for the future. The bootcamp focuses on teaching participants key skills in supply chain management by introducing them to real-life companies.

So what happens when an interactive project takes place online instead of at the company’s headquarters as initially planned?

“I did everything I usually do in class”

Technology has advanced in a way that enables teachers and students to replicate the in-class experience remarkably well. The bootcamp took place on a popular video conference platform which has interactive functionalities especially suitable for teaching. Robert Boute, professor of operations management and lead of the bootcamp, was impressed by the possibility to split students in breakout groups, visit them one by one, and interact with them – just like on campus.

Some of the international students in the online bootcamp had already travelled back to their home countries but the digital connection enabled them to have the same experience as anyone else. Even online, participants could explore different learning formats together such as virtual lunch meetings, intermediate presentations and reporting, and working in virtual rooms.

“Challenging our business approach with a group of eager students”

What about the company experience? The online bootcamp also welcomed the European rail freight and logistics company Lineas which was supposed to be the host of the offline project. Their representatives were available for Q&A sessions, informal lunch breaks, and hours of guidance for students – all while working remotely and adapting their own operations.

Jeroen Spruyt, Director Assets and Network Operations at Lineas, highlighted that virtual breakout rooms and screen sharing enabled them to give bootcamp participants an inside look into how the company works. After a week full of digital collaboration, students presented their insights to the company’s CEO and COO and other members of the executive board through the online platform.

Although the virtual project was challenging, students, professors, business school representatives, and company participants were all able to work together and adapt successfully. The experience certainly brought an important lesson for everyone involved: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Source: Vlerick Business School