LBS became a 100% virtual campus in London and Dubai a few short months ago – and lectures, conferences, club activities and social events moved online, with many unexpected positive results. Lina Osman EMBADS2021 explains how the virtual student experience has helped create stronger ties with her cohort and fostered broader and deeper connections with the School community around the world.
Lina, tell us about your virtual learning highlights…
Once it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t disappearing anytime soon, I came to terms with the fact that virtual learning would be the only way to complete the EMBA. At first, I was apprehensive and somewhat sceptical. But after my first set of virtual classes, I realised that I’d judged the experience without giving it a chance. I came to appreciate that ‘virtual’ learning didn’t just happen over Zoom classroom sessions: I was also learning from my classmates, with whom I’d started interacting more regularly.
We started speaking to each other a lot – to discuss courses as well as our different experiences of lockdown, which involve everything from juggling home-schooling and childcare to trying to keep a newly-established business alive.
I’ve also enjoyed having access to all the webinars and events that have moved online, including some of the socials that would have otherwise taken place on site. Our reps have done a great job organising these and you can’t underestimate the value of coming together as a community to support and help one another. It would be delightful to see some of these socials in London continuing virtually (once every quarter, for example) so that we can interact more closely with the rest of the LBS community in London or elsewhere long after we go back to face-to-face interactions.
What has been your most interesting virtual lecture and why?
It would be unfair to single out one virtual lecture, but Professor Nitish Jain, with his rigorous knowledge of the whole class and students’ career backgrounds, made a special effort to make sure all of us understood the concepts discussed in his Decision and Risk Analysis course, regardless of our areas of expertise. When you’re suddenly stripped of the luxury of reading body language, knowledge of your students’ areas of expertise serves as a powerful tool to ensure the most thorough virtual learning experience.
Professor Francesca Franco was also a delight. She made Introduction to Managerial Accounting really practical, with case studies and applications that kept the class engaged, with thought-provoking questions peppered throughout. More recently, we started a course on marketing, and Professor David Arnold kept us constantly engaged, using Zoom virtual breakout rooms and citing real-life examples that brought the topic to life.
How have you found lockdown in Dubai? How have you managed to segment work and studying?
In Dubai, we went through complete lockdown in May, where we needed permits to go to grocery stores or pharmacies. After that, the country introduced a National Sterilisation Programme, an Emirates-wide cleaning campaign to stem the spread of infection. During this period, curfews were imposed from the evening to the early hours of the morning.
It was strange because I started to spend most of my time in my study, moving from a work laptop to a personal laptop in the evening to catch up on school readings and assignments. I learned quickly that taking breaks is critical!
Have there been any unexpected upsides of learning virtually?
The chat function on Zoom has been an unexpected bonus; it allows you to discuss your thoughts with your classmates without interrupting the lecture and enables the professor to highlight interesting points. The ‘record’ function means you can listen to the lectures again, and it was fantastic to see the quieter voices in the physical classroom becoming louder.
What is your biggest takeaway from this extraordinary time?
The pandemic is one of those ‘black swan’ events that renders projections and financial models redundant but sees leadership and strategy-building become ever-more important. What better time could there be to be an Executive MBA student at one of the most sought-after business schools globally, under the direction of world-class faculty? The School has already done a lot of work putting together courses that specifically address leadership through uncertainty and preparing for a post-pandemic future – and I’m confident that this is a network I can continue to rely on long after I graduate in 2021.