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Blog post

JMSB’s challenges and online agility

April 29, 2020
By Chris Wise, Graduate Recruitment and Marketing Associate


The COVID-19 crisis we are presently living through is having unforeseen affects on our social, work and study lives. Our JMSB community has had to react swiftly to safety measure restrictions put in place in mid-March in response to government guidelines.

This situation has presented a tough challenge for our staff, who have had to displace and reconfigure their administrative work, and for our faculty, who have restructured and re-tooled their curriculum. Most importantly, our students have had to adapt to online leaning to complete the term and, for many, their degree.

According to MBA candidate, Geneviève Roch, “Not being able to see people face to face has been harder than I expected. However, online platforms have come a long way and have been phenomenal at bridging this gap, both for class work and social gatherings. It was saddening to have all our final presentations, competitions and events cancelled, but out of hardship comes enormous creativity. I'm thrilled to see the innovative ideas coming out of these challenging times!”

While the challenges confronting us are many, there is hope to be found in the many success stories of how our community members have adapted to this transition to online learning and working. Despite much uncertainty and anxiety, there is equally as much agility and ingenuity.

The Goodman Institute of Investment management hit the ground running

One such story comes from the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at JMSB, which manages the John Molson MBA in Investment Management program, was immediately ready to transition to online teaching after safety measures were announced. The program’s structure already allowed it to conduct classes for its students in Montreal and Toronto simultaneously.

“In spite of this recent challenge, we were able to hit the ground running. We are fortunate to have nearly 20 years of experience using technology to conduct our classes since our Montreal and Toronto classrooms have always been linked using videoconferencing software. Our professors are used to teaching onscreen to their remote classroom, so they already knew how to engage students from a distance,” explains Rahul Ravi, Director of the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at JMSB.

Not only are the students used to interacting with each other remotely, but the program’s smaller class size makes it easier to maintain intimate connection between students and faculty, allowing for a social, interactive experience in-person and online using Zoom. In addition, online Q&A sessions have been offered with the director to facilitate information sharing, while an online alumni lecture series is also in the pipeline.

The program’s ease with teaching remotely allowed it to transition quickly to online only and, in the spirit of collaboration, to also share their expertise with others.

“Our classroom coordinators trained all of our professors on how to use Zoom within a few short days and we were also able to provide training to professors of the Executive MBA program,” claims Aisha Topsakal, Associate Director, of the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at JMSB.

The John Molson Executive MBA sets a milestone

With the help and guidance from the MBA in Investment Management staff, the John Molson Executive MBA was able to host the first online courses in the history of the program, all within the same week as the official closure of the university. It took only 4 days to switch to a new class format using Zoom.

Faculty worked hard to quickly make adjustments to their assignments and deliverables, while some professors were using Zoom technology for the first time to teach classes.

Mehdi Farashahi, PhD, Professor, Management at JMSB, developed a role-play simulation that was up and running for his March 20th class, during that first week when the university had decided to cancel classes (classes officially resumed online on March 23rd).

“It was a great team effort. I appreciate the coordination and great training that we received during the first week. Having a role-play, in-class simulation is a very complex experiential learning activity that needs a lot of preparation. I was not sure if we could do such an interactive exercise online, however, we were able to perform the simulation with a great learning dynamic among students with the same, if not better, performance than the in-class version. I was told that this is actually the first time in the history of Concordia University that a role-play simulation as an experiential learning is taking place online, I am really proud of our team at JMSB. Now I am sure we can perform even better during difficult times,” states Farashahi.

The EMBA students were equally quick to adapt to the new way of learning. According to Sharon Nelson, Assistant Director, Executive MBA, “The students were active in all classes and worked with the technology. They appreciated the online format, the fact that they could immediately resume classes in this way and were all very understanding of the situation.”

The Graduate Diploma in Business Administration maintains its connection with students

Faculty from the John Molson Graduate Diploma in Business Administration program were also able to turn on a dime to adapt to new teaching methods.

David Moscovitz, Part-time Lecturer in Marketing, quickly converted the format for his March 24th class.

“I had no issues transitioning to online and, in fact, found it quite interactive and even fun! Somehow, I found it easier to get students to participate by seeing them on video and calling on them individually to answer on certain issues that were being discussed. During the period we find ourselves in, these Zoom lectures provided some sort of normalcy to my students; they were happy to see me and their fellow students,” reveals Moscovitz.

Moscovitz has also set up regular scheduled office hours using Zoom to continue having individual meetings with students who have certain questions or concerns.

For his part, George Dracopoulos, Part-time Faculty in Management, was able to harness his online teaching experience to revamp his course.

“I had well over 500 hours of online teaching and corporate training experience before the crisis began, so the transition was seamless. However, I still remember the belief I had a decade ago that somehow teaching online would mean losing the connection to students. If you embrace the full spectrum of features, your ability to connect is tremendous,” Dracopoulos reveals.

Dracopoulos believes there are three key things to remember and embrace about online teaching. He goes on to explain:

“- Consultations: the use of breakout rooms allows you to speak to teams as they work on final projects (share slides, see ideas developing, debate choices);

- Classroom interaction: It can be very dynamic with the use of the ‘raise your hand feature’ which allows the professor to get feedback while acting like a traditional radio host fielding questions. The chat feature, which students can send to the whole class or privately to the prof, permits some students that are shy to participate effectively;

- Student Presentations: the share feature allows groups to share material with the group and provide seamless sessions complete with student participation.”

Although this post presents just a few success stories, these represent a broader accomplishment across JMSB and Concordia of the versatility, agility and hard work of our faculty members to transfer their curriculum to online.

“I am truly impressed and proud to see how quickly and effectively our faculty members have been working to finish the semester online with very short notice and without adequate preparation.” Anne Beaudry, Director, MBA and Graduate Programs in Business Administration, JMSB

It’s business as usual for the JMSB Graduate Recruitment team

The JMSB Graduate Recruitment team is already well versed in using online platforms to promote graduate programs and host information sessions or one-on-one appointments with prospective students across the globe. As a result, there was no interruption in student advising services, which has been especially appreciated by students who have many questions related to how Concordia is tackling the transition to online learning in response to evolving COVID-19 safety measures.

As mentioned in the first blog post after the Concordia University transitioned to online, the team has vowed to continue posting positive and inspiring stories from the JMSB community in order to stay connected during this time of isolation.

Because of our prior experience, we have also been able to show flexibility and collaboration across departments. Beth McKenna, Graduate Student Recruitment Officer for JMSB, helped train recruitment colleagues from other departments who are transitioning to provide more online programming and redeveloping their recruitment strategy, given the inability to travel to fairs and events.

"Working at Concordia, it's very much a community between staff members, especially among recruitment officers - both for faculty-based recruitment officers and the undergraduate recruiters who visit high schools worldwide. Having already piloted the webinar and live-streaming approach for more than 2 years as part of the JMSB approach to recruiting, it was certainly a pleasure to share my knowledge with my graduate recruitment colleagues in the School of Graduate Studies as well as the Faculty of Arts and Science,” shares McKenna.

In this way, we have been able to further develop stronger connections in communication and strategic collaboration, as well as stronger relations with counterparts in other faculties.

In an effort to continually improve opportunities for prospective students to learn about JMSB’s graduate programs, the recruitment team is also developing e-Meet with an Alumni, a series of webinars featuring alumni discussing their experience during and after their respective graduate programs.

Stay tuned for a more creative and diversified range of online programming currently in development.

Essential services provide support from behind the scenes

Big thanks are also in order for our colleagues – IT, security and other essential services staff – who continue to work on campus in order to ensure that safety measures are maintained and who continue to go above and beyond to facilitate the transition to working from home for the rest of Concordia staff and faculty.

“I am particularly thankful to the IT team that came to drop off a screen at my place to allow me to resume my work activities more efficiently!” adds Keum-Yeo Brochet, Manager of Recruitment & Marketing for Graduate Programs at JMSB


Wherever we are…

Having to adapt to new ways of leaning, teaching and working is a challenge for all. There is still much uncertainty looking ahead, but Concordia and JMSB students, faculty and staff have demonstrated their perseverance in the face of such a challenge. We can attest to a meaningful commitment to not only completing this term and getting ready for the next, but working to improve learning and administrative tools overall regardless of where we are able to utilize them.

Please take care, stay safe and continue to follow the advice of public health officials wherever you are.

For the latest announcements about Concordia University’s COVID-19 response efforts, visit the university’s website.

For more information on the full range of John Molson graduate programs, visit our website. Then connect with a recruiter to arrange a one-to-one meeting or participate in one of our many online information sessions.

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