These are trying times, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to thwart normal life. For MBA students across business schools, this means learning has moved from in-person to online, interactions become more challenging and most club activities are put on hold. At INSEAD, the school community has risen to the related challenges and Nataliya Rogachkina, INSEAD MBA ’20J, tells us all about it below.
Nataliya Rogachkina, INSEAD MBA ‘20J
How is the online classroom experience going at your school? What’s different about it?
Online significantly diminishes the MBA experience, but it exceeded my expectations overall. Very few courses were cancelled, professors adapted very fast (more tech savvy ones did what they could to support colleagues who are not as used to this way of communicating), more speakers were added to classes. I just registered for my p5 courses and was surprised to see how few were cancelled.
Professors really do a great job. And we try to do our part to participate, keep our cameras on even at 8:30 am, make sure we prepare for the discussions well, etc.
That said, it is a lot more difficult to focus:
- I am very stressed out and the level of uncertainty is the highest I have ever encountered (and I moved from Russia to the U.S. alone at 16!)
- It is harder to pay attention to computer versus a live person
- It is easy to get distracted at home.
What suffers most significantly is classroom sharing and group work. We can’t chit chat, quickly exchange ideas, have impromptu group meetings, etc. Many students who speak in class aren’t as comfortable to share on zoom. I think the format works for heavy lecture courses with professors doing most of the speaking, but does not work well in classes requiring active student discussion, which is most MBA courses… I miss my classmates!
I think some of the memorable moments were the “funniest background competition” our communications reps organized in week 1 of Zoom classes back in March. I believe the winner was background with many rolls of toilet paper.
What is the technology platform your school is using to deliver classes online? Does it vary from class to class?
INSEAD uses Zoom, which has worked fairly well. All classes use the same platform – I cannot imagine switching between multiple systems class to class. Zoom has a lot of useful functionalities: breakout rooms, instant polling, chatbox, hand raising, etc. I have actually been quite impressed with it.
How are you maintaining relationships with your classmates, professors, and other b-school community members during this time period?
I had quite a busy schedule this period and my next one is looking rather packed as well. I see a lot of my classmates during lectures. Most people are keeping their cameras on, and it really helps now that we can’t see each other in person.
Many students started community initiatives, such as Ce La Vi(rtual), which is our online version of a famous Wednesday night party in Singapore. A bunch of us across the world get on a Zoom call, play games and split off BOR rooms of 2-5 people to have more intimate catch up sessions over a glass of wine or coffee depending on the time zone you are in.
The latest one has been un(conference), which is a collection of events hosted by students over several days: presentation on effects of Covid on venture capital and private equity, quiz night, bread baking class, standup, happy hour and more. We have students hosting yoga and HIIT workouts from different parts of the world they are in, cooking challenges, Covid-19 innovation competition – you name it… There really is a lot out there, which helps us stay home without feeling completely isolated from MBA life.
Some of our professors, such as Claudia Zeisberger, have taken initiative as well and have been incredible in organizing events with speakers from around the world, hosting webinars, connecting students with virtual project opportunities, etc. I look forward to every fireside chat she hosts, as the speakers she brings are very knowledgeable and engaging. To be completely honest, I don’t think I would have ever attended this many talks, if times were normal. Many of us are trying to take this time to learn new topics & skills.
Is it enough to substitute seeing each other in person and working on a project together? Not even close. But all of this makes me love INSEAD community even more than I already did.
If you are active in any clubs, how has their work continued?
My main club involvements are with RCLG (Retail, Consumer & Luxury Goods) and Wine clubs as well as being a student life representative in Singapore. RCLG club has been quite active with our team bringing in a lot of interesting speakers via Zoom and organizing speaker panels. Wine club activities had to mostly be suspended, as wine education courses and tastings cannot be conducted via Zoom, but we look forward to the times where we can get together again.
I have been mostly active as a student life rep, organizing virtual social events & efforts to work with administration on student concerns, which range from visas to online class quality. If anything, I am busier than I was before this epidemic started.