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A Rewarding Experience at 12:00 pm (CET Time)

A Rewarding Experience

On Wednesday, March 18, I held my last Marketing session with my group from the Master in Management, which started in January. It is a group that I will never forget, thanks to the unusual circumstances of this moment. This article is dedicated to them.

Miguel Costa, Professor of Marketing at IE Business School.

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At this session, each group was scheduled to deliver a 15-minute final presentation. The groups had been working on their presentations, as well as their final reports, for the entire previous week. None of this would have been out of the ordinary for an IE professor or his students, but on this particular day, something special was about to happen. Things were going to be quite out of the ordinary, because the presentations were not going to take place in Room V101 of our building on Calle Velázquez in Madrid, where we had spent 75% of the course together. Instead, the groups were going to deliver their presentations virtually, from the various locations where they were now weathering the COVID-19 crisis. I haven’t calculated the exact number, but I would guess that students logged in from at least twenty different countries.

Over the previous week, I had received numerous messages from the class representatives, as well as from several groups, asking if they could deliver a video rather than a live presentation, if the deadline could be extended, and if the group presentations could simply be cancelled altogether. I spent the week trying to calm their nerves. I understood why they felt so unsure about an unfamiliar online methodology that they hadn’t expected to form part of their learning experience in this program. For my part, I felt very confident about it. I reassured my students that they could trust the platform because IE University had been using it for nearly twenty years and, moreover, I had personally been using it for more than fifteen years to teach online classes in our blended Executive MBA. I was fully convinced that there wouldn’t be any problem.

An unexpected visit

At 12:00 pm, Madrid time, we were all connected in Room V101, albeit remotely. The first three presentations went according to plan. Then the fourth group started presenting their marketing plan for IQOS, an electronic cigarette made by Philip Morris. As they were speaking, I was inspired to contact Enrique Jiménez, the managing director of Philip Morris for Spain and Portugal, who had been an MBA classmate of mine at IE twenty years earlier. While listening to the students’ presentation and reviewing their slides, I wrote a WhatsApp message to Enrique, explaining that my students were giving a presentation on one of his products. He replied appreciatively, saying how nice it was to hear this news while under lockdown. I then asked if he was able, and willing, to come online and join us. He responded affirmatively, so I sent him an invitation to enter our virtual classroom.

After the group had finished giving their presentation, I posed one follow-up question—and then immediately announced that the managing director of Philip Morris for Spain and Portugal would be joining us to give his opinion on that very question. He was only with us for five minutes, but what a delight!

A space where the impossible becomes possible

After the session, I reflected on how the use of virtual teaching methodologies had made this rewarding experience possible. It would have been impossible to arrange this sort of guest appearance in a face-to-face setting. The head of a major company cannot just pop down to our classroom to join a discussion or give a presentation. Online education makes it possible to significantly enrich the student experience.

The challenge we are currently facing will change how we understand many everyday activities: cash versus electronic means of payment; changes in national and international mobility; widespread adoption of telecommuting; automation of numerous tasks; profound changes in healthcare management; training on and greater use of digital teaching methodologies; social relationships; etc.

I wanted to share this experience to inspire professors and students who are now tackling the challenge of online learning for the first time. Beyond every setback lies an opportunity. Make room for imagination, for innovation, for things once thought to be impossible. We have an opportunity to improve in every field, but particularly in education.

It has been said—far too many times—that the students of the 21st century are being taught by 20th-century teachers using 19th-century methodologies. As far as this last factor is concerned, we have not only a great opportunity but also an enormous responsibility.