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The LBS Experience During COVID-19

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We continue to catch up with MBA students across leading business schools about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their education.  From London Business School, two first-year students share how classes & clubs are maintaining their strength, as well as what new opportunities they’ve gained from online learning.  Read on for accounts from Tiffanie Sutanto, LBS MBA ’21, and Juan Soler, LBS MBA ’21.

Tiffanie Sutanto, LBS MBA ’21

Tiffanie Sutanto, London Business School MBA ’21

How is the online classroom experience going at your school? What’s different about it?
The online classroom experience has not only been new for the students, but also for the faculty members of the school. When it was first implemented, many—including myself—were sceptical about how engaging a virtual learning environment would be. However, the LBS virtual experience has exceeded my expectations so far!

Firstly, the online format has enabled the faculty to invite many prominent speakers around the globe. The CEO of BP, Bernard Looney, was a guest speaker in our Performance Driven Strategy Execution class. He shared his strategic perspective on how the current crisis will transform the organization to emerge stronger. Paul Williamson, who was responsible for the pricing of the London Olympics in 2012, also became our guest speaker in the Pricing Strategy and Tactics class. The online learning experience does not limit the students’ opportunities to continuously learn from the best in the industry.

Secondly, the school and professors have clearly invested a significant amount of their time and effort to adapt to the changing circumstances. The school has provided us with new course content related to the professors’ latest research on the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also broadened the online class offering for students by providing access to LBS Executive Education online courses. The professors also leverage online tools, such as polls and breakout features, to enhance the virtual learning experience and enable students to engage actively in the classroom discussion with other classmates and professors.

What is the technology platform your school is using to deliver classes online? Does it vary from class to class?
Zoom has been the primary medium for the online classes and group discussions. The classes have also been recorded to accommodate students who currently do not reside in London and are in different time zones.

How are you maintaining relationships with your classmates, professors, and other b-school community members during this time period?
People’s connections and networks are always the core element of the MBA program. As the community goes through the same experience together, I feel that each student has put in an amazing effort to stay in touch and connected. Game nights, workout sessions, and cooking classes on a virtual basis are something that I am still looking forward to every day. There is always something planned for any given week—from a Tiger King-themed virtual party to a virtual concert by our own talented friends. The interactions, in fact, are more inclusive and personal, enabling me to reach out to some friends who I would have not known otherwise.

The professors also try to maintain a close relationship with the students. They have been responsive to the follow-up questions regarding the course by staying online after the class ends or replying to questions sent in an email.

If you are active in any clubs, how has their work continued?
I am currently an LBS Student Ambassador and the Co-President of Asia Club. The COVID-19 situation requires us to be adaptable and to make an adjustment to some of our programs.

From the Student Ambassador side, the drop-in sessions for potential MBA candidates and the Welcome Weekend for the newly admitted students have been shifted to virtual platforms. As for the Asia Club, social activities that involve a physical group gathering and travel treks have been postponed. However, we are planning to organize a series of virtual social activities and professional talks for the rest of the terms.

Juan Soler, London Business School MBA ’21

Juan Soler, LBS MBA ’21

How is the online classroom experience going at your school? What’s different about it?
The online experience is good. The ongoing quarantine means we don’t have as many events and social activities, so I am actually enjoying having more time to read all of the cases and additional class materials in detail, and getting better prepared for class discussions.

Professors at LBS have adapted fast to deliver virtually through Zoom and being at home has benefits (although it’s easier to get distracted when you are alone at home, so you have to take some measures to stay engaged).

Class discussions have been very interesting and professors know how to manage participation well. Some make great use of virtual break-out rooms to facilitate group discussions, as well as other virtual tools. We’ve also had some amazing guest speakers: during COVID-19 times, many renowned executives and experts have had more free time in their usually tight agendas, and the fact that there is no geographical barrier means we can have guest speakers from anywhere in the world.

What is the technology platform your school is using to deliver classes online? Does it vary from class to class?
Lectures are conducted through Zoom and it works really well. We also have our own internal Canvas platform to find any information related to courses, cases and materials, and to submit assignments, among other things. All courses use the same delivery tools and we have all adapted to them.

LBS has also made a big effort in adding more courses and special webinars relevant to current circumstances, using the best faculty to tackle some of the most pressing questions of these COVID-19 times. Instead of being bored at home like I thought might happen initially, there is a lot going on and our agendas are very busy with interesting things to do.

How are you maintaining relationships with your classmates, professors, and other b-school community members during this time period?
During the first weeks of virtual classes, we were all a bit lost in terms of social contacts, but the entire social life of the school has moved onto virtual platforms very fast. Once we noticed we could use Zoom for almost any activity we used to have at school, we started having virtual social hangouts, group meetings, and guest speaker events. Clubs are organizing virtual events every day.

Juan’s Home Workspace

There are also several online business school competitions that keep us engaged and working as groups. For example, my group was selected to represent LBS at the Harvard Global Case Competition and we had to present to judges via Zoom. We were selected from the 10 finalists and then had to submit a video defending our case; that was a lot of fun to prepare:

In terms of social events, we now have our traditional Thursday Sundowners via Zoom, greatly organized with break out rooms and games. There are also pub quizzes and streamed events every week, so you never feel alone. Quite on the contrary, our agendas are pretty packed.

I have also found it easy to reach out to professors, who are trying to be more available than ever to help students going through a new virtual experience. It’s easy to talk to them via email and Zoom.

If you are active in any clubs, how has their work continued?
Clubs at LBS have always been very strong and key to our experience, usually having several events clashing every day and sometimes making it hard to choose which one to attend. Despite initially cancelling many events due to COVID-19, I find that clubs are now organizing a lot of activities again. We have more than 70 active student clubs at LBS, and it’s stunning to see their creativity and energy put into practice to organize great events.

Being a part of the Executive Committee of the Private Equity & Venture Capital Club, I have organized some guest speaker events via Zoom myself with 100+ attendees, and all clubs are doing the same. We have also had some of the best VC speakers I have heard this year. And again, I think clubs are benefitting from amazing speakers who are willing to help and talk about their experience more than ever, no matter where they are located in the world. For example, we had an incredible testimony from a holocaust survivor recently, a presentation and Q&A with British Petroleum’s CEO and a great exposition by a former Italian prime minister. And this was only one week! Every week there’s a lot going on.

I am also in the Executive Committee of the Sailing Club, and we are competing on virtual regattas and organizing events, such as teaching people how to prepare sailing-themed cocktails, as well as preparing for many weekends of cruising and competitive sailing as soon as we are allowed to go out! The Italian Club has held several online cooking masterclasses (they recently held one on how to prepare Orecchiette, a type of home-made pasta), while the Social Impact Club has held crash courses on social entrepreneurship, just to name a few examples. We also have some upcoming online stock pitching competitions.

The Rugby Club has been one of my highlights at LBS so far, providing one of the best platforms to make friends for life and have fun with social events almost every week, and they have been very welcoming to those of us without much actual Rugby experience. During quarantine, they have organized virtual gatherings and have been strong promoters of our Mental Health Week, inviting experts to promote awareness of mental health, giving us tips on how to take care of our community and be more self-aware.

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Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.