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Reinventing Business Education

Blended teaching, learning by doing, virtual classrooms, simulation games... Pedagogy at HEC Paris is reinventing itself, with professors experimenting with new ways to train and coach the leaders of tomorrow in a changing and challenging environment.

Every month, Knowledge@HEC will share stories and insights about pedagogical innovation, via interviews with our professors, program directors, chief digital officer, and digital learning staff. They explain their new teaching practices, how they integrate technology to best enhance the learning experience and open up new opportunities for HEC Paris.

Business Education Innovation In Depth - vignette

Structure

Part 1
Reinventing Business Education
Editorial by Marc Vanhuele, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean. We live in a world of constant transformation. The role of research and education at a business school like HEC is to constantly innovate in order to give our students the knowledge, skills and mindset to live and work in a world with opportunities and challenges that may already have shifted by the time they graduate.
Part 2
How HEC trains future professors to design effective learning situations
Kristine de Valck is Director of the HEC Paris PhD Program and Associate Professor of Marketing. Together with Digital Learning Project Manager, Caroline Meriaux, Kristine teaches a pedagogy course to HEC Paris PhD students. She explains the method and challenges of training future professors to become great teachers.
Part 3
How digital tools can improve teaching and learning in a business school
Caroline Meriaux is Digital Learning Project Manager and teaches a pedagogy course together with Associate Professor Kristine de Valck. She is passionate about Educational technology and Innovative Pedagogy in Higher Education. Interview.
Part 4
Promoting digital education at HEC Paris thanks to major donor Sebastien Breteau
On Wednesday, November 7, the inauguration of Sébastien Breteau room took place. In recognition of his generosity and support towards the HEC Foundation, HEC has inaugurated a classroom on behalf of Sébastien Breteau (MS.97), Founder and President of Qima.

Part 1

Reinventing Business Education

Editorial by Marc Vanhuele, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean.

We live in a world of constant transformation. The role of research and education at a business school like HEC is to constantly innovate in order to give our students the knowledge, skills and mindset to live and work in a world with opportunities and challenges that may already have shifted by the time they graduate.

Business Education Innovation

HEC has always been a place that encouraged individual innovation among its faculty and teachers and where it is easy to get an initiative off the ground. In the domain of pedagogy, we need innovation more than ever, both in terms of what we are teaching and how we are doing it. Our objective with this section of Knowledge@HEC is to inspire our internal discussions on pedagogical innovation and to influence our daily practice. We also want to share our insights with the outside world in a spirit of open innovation.

Digital technology has dramatically changed learning over the past decade. Information on any topic is readily available at our fingertips on the internet. Excellent pedagogical content on a very broad range of topics can be found there for free. What then is the future of higher education in business in this digital landscape? What strategy should HEC adopt in terms of its offer and pedagogical formulas? And how should each individual teacher innovate in order to adapt to this new reality and leverage the opportunities it creates? While digital technology raises these questions and forces us to put a lot of our current practice into question, becoming more digital is not the answer to each of them. 

How can we as a faculty design a combination of activities that will attain our learning objectives?

Pedagogical innovation has to take a much broader perspective. It is clear that the classroom is no longer a place to just transfer content. And only part of the learning in a program takes place in the classroom. How then can we as a faculty design a combination of activities that will attain our learning objectives? And how can we as program directors and managers create an overall experience that, during their time at HEC, fully develops the potential of our already talented students?

Marc Vanhuele Business Education HEC
Marc Vanhuele, Professor and Associate Dean at HEC Paris

Because society is being transformed, we must, in addition to changing how we teach, also change what we are teaching. New degrees need to be created, new courses designed, and the content of existing courses revamped in order to make sure that our offer remains relevant for our students, their future employers, and society as a whole. 

Because society is being transformed, we must, in addition to changing how we teach, also change what we are teaching.

We start this section with articles by two specialists in pedagogy, to present how we think pedagogy at HEC Paris. Kristine de Valck explains how courses can be designed in a methodical way with the objective to make them maximally effective for their learners. Caroline Meriaux focuses on the role of technology in pedagogy and on the support system that HEC puts into place in support of innovation.

I hope that this section of Knowledge@HEC will stimulate your individual creativity and open up discussion on how we can keep innovating together.

See structure

Part 2

How HEC trains future professors to design effective learning situations

Kristine de Valck is Director of the HEC Paris PhD Program and Associate Professor of Marketing. Together with Digital Learning Project Manager, Caroline Meriaux, Kristine teaches a pedagogy course to HEC Paris PhD students. She explains the method and challenges of training future professors to become great teachers.

Kristine de Valck HEC professor

Hello Kristine. What are the implications and challenges of training researchers to teach?

Ph.D. programs are good at developing the research skills of their students, but we also train them to be teachers. What this essentially means is that they need to become managers of learning situations, an approach to teaching I adopted from Michel Fiol, HEC Paris Emeritus Professor of Accounting and Management Control, who has been very involved in the training in pedagogy for PhD students. Often, the first thing to help them with is unlearning the habits they have developed while presenting their research projects. Giving a research seminar for peers is not the same thing as teaching an entire course to Master or MBA students! 

Can you describe how we teach pedagogy to Ph.D. students at HEC Paris? 

The twenty-hour pedagogy course consists of both theory and practice and offers a mix of lectures, exercises, workshops and discussions. 

The "Theory" part

We first address the basics of pedagogy: what is learning? What is teaching? What are the different learning styles, teaching methods, and pedagogical tools? 

This seems trivial, but our Ph.D. students often have very different educational experiences (due to their international backgrounds and diverse disciplines), which brings richness to our collective reflections. You cannot teach mathematics and management in the same way, which implies an adapted learning design. This introduction also helps us to assess what they know in terms of pedagogy, and to adjust the course to their needs. For example, students who already have had some teaching experience often like to exchange about classroom discipline, and how to deal with “difficult” students.  

The "Practice" part

The teaching lab consists of a 20-minutes teaching session by each participant, followed by a collective reflection about the learning design and implementation (including classroom management). We pay close attention to how the “teacher” attracts students’ attention with a hook, how he/she makes the learning more dynamic by means of interactions, and on whether the teacher assesses whether the learning objectives were achieved. Like this, each student gets to practice teaching and receives feedback from his/her peers. Caroline and I act as session facilitators and we offer theoretical frameworks and practical tips to further enhance learning. 

Kristine de Valck HEC classroom

 

Can you describe how you help students to prepare for a teaching session in the Teaching Lab?

Yes. We base the teaching-learning process on four pillars: defining objectives, designing the learning scenario, implementing it by teaching, and evaluating the learning.

First, we define objectives. You have to understand the audience and determine what they need to learn. Before designing your learning scenario, you need to ask yourself who the students are that you will have in your course. What is their background? What do they know from other courses or experience? What are their expectations, their emotions vis-à-vis a topic, their biases toward their success? For example, students taking a course with a lot of mathematics may think they will not understand. This influences how they will approach the learning material and which kind of guidance they need from you. 

You need to try to take as much into account as possible, before you have even started with your learning design. This is often an eye-opener to the PhD students who may wrongly believe that you can give the same course to any audience (undergrads, MBA, executives). 

Secondly, we design the learning scenario. Once you have determined the learning objectives and you know your students’ profile you can start designing your learning scenario. Here, it is very important to be modest about the material you will be able to cover. Many professors are passionate about the topics they teach – this is great, but there is also a danger. Teaching is like filling a glass of water, at one point, the glass is full and everything else that you try to pour into the glass will be spilled. To increase students’ absorption of knowledge, it is also important to vary teaching approaches, to alternate theory with exercises, and lectures with discussion. We encourage our students to be creative in their learning designs and to try out methods that they would not naturally choose. The teaching lab is a safe environment to experiment in front of a benevolent audience. 

Thirdly, we implement the learning scenario, meaning that we put it in practice in the classroom. We advise our students to carefully plan their session with the help of a teaching grid. Still, our students need to be able to improvise and adapt to the circumstances the learners find themselves in. What happened the evening before? What occupies their mind? You have to be flexible. The planned content does not always follow its plan. You need to learn how to deal with uncertainty.

Finally, there is the evaluation phase. Evaluation is something we tend to postpone to the end of a course, but it is essential to check regularly where students are in their learning. You can do this through formative assessments, which do not count towards a grade, but which give both you and the student an insight as to whether they have understood the material or not. Like this, if many students score poorly, you can adapt your course before it is too late. 

In this context, digital tools can be very useful, for example to do small online quizzes. This is what we do in our new online Master in Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MSIE).

What role does technology play in this pedagogy course? Do you address it? 

The use of digital tools does not change anything in the preparation of your course. You have to think about the same four pillars. Caroline Meriaux adds her point of view: "Indeed, some learning tools are innovative without being digital. However, we use several technologies in this course to show students how technology can be used for learning purposes. One example is a reading assignment that students need to do before coming to class. To make sure that all have read it and reflected on it, we ask them to post a comment on the "blackboard" discussion board we have created. The instructions are the following: "What is your main take-away from this article? Do you agree with the author? Did anything surprise you?" Posting a comment is mandatory and we use their comments as discussion starters in class. We have also used a telepresence robot to enable students who cannot make it to campus (e.g., research visit abroad) to attend the course." We now also film the teaching sessions during the course, for the students to be able to view it afterwards.

Awabot Telepresence Robot HEC
Associate Professor Kristine de Valck teaching Ph.D. students. A telepresence robot allows remote teaching

How does the course affect the Ph.D. students’ vision of teaching?

I believe that a lot of them walk away with the knowledge that teaching is more complex than one might think. It entails much more than mastery of the subject matter and developing content. Teaching is also about managing processes, emotions, relationships and context. Everything is complementary. Based on the Teaching Lab experience, they also realize that successful teaching depends on thorough preparation. For most of them, the 20-minute session demands one whole day of preparation time. 

Do you have some final suggestions on how to improve teaching and learning?

I believe that we could exchange more about our teaching practices. To share tips, but also to discuss challenges. Many of us feel quite alone when we face difficulties in the classroom. In the end, many professors love to teach and innovate, so why not join efforts and improve together. 

Finally, I feel strongly about the fact that improving learning is not only in the hands of the professors. Students should also question their role in the learning process. With the rise of the flipped classroom, customized learning scenarios, and online learning formats, students can no longer be passive spectators. They need to take active part in the learning process by discussing, questioning, experimenting, and putting in practice, all the while being accompanied by the professor-as-facilitator.

Kristine de Valck HEC professor
Kristine De Valck
Associate Professor
See structure

Part 3

How digital tools can improve teaching and learning in a business school

Caroline Meriaux is Digital Learning Project Manager and teaches a pedagogy course together with Associate Professor Kristine de Valck. She is passionate about Educational technology and Innovative Pedagogy in Higher Education. Interview.

Caroline Meriaux Digital Learning Manager HEC

Hello Caroline. How does HEC Paris innovate its education with technology?

With the evolution of technology and in the era of social media, education has undergone many changes. A new theory of learning has even emerged, Connectivism (Siemens & Downes, 2008). Teaching without technology is nowadays impossible, not only because technology is part of our everyday life, but also because digital tools can really improve learning, if used effectively. For example, research shows that live-polling tools increase attention and engagement; discussion boards facilitate collaborative learning; and videos are an effective way of engaging students and supporting their understanding.

Our professors not only integrate in their courses the online content and resources they have developed. They also use digital tools inside the classroom or beyond classroom time to support students’ learning.

At HEC Paris, our professors not only integrate in their courses the online content and resources they have developed (videos, simulation games, etc.). They also use digital tools inside the classroom or beyond classroom time to support students’ learning. In addition, some of them are experimenting with new forms of pedagogy such as the flipped classroom methodology or blended learning, which are highly appreciated by students.

How do you adapt to this fast-changing environment in education?

New technologies for education are rapidly changing and we see more and more providers offering new solutions. So on one hand, we need to stay informed about all of these new tools and test them. On the other hand, we always need to ask ourselves: “Does this tool or solution really add value to a course?” If not, we don’t propose it to our faculty. 

Technology in higher education
Breteau room: equipped for new educational uses: teaching with in-class and remote students, inviting a distance guest speaker

Like many schools, we have an LMS (Learning Management System) which is now used by most of our professors to share teaching material, create online activities or assignments, or even to deliver small online courses. On top of that, we offer a range of various solutions like live-polling apps, a virtual classroom tool, telepresence robots, a mini-video studio, etc. 

Awabot Telepresence Robot HEC
An "Awabot" Telepresence robot at the pedagogy course at HEC Paris allows remote teaching and learning.

We have equipped several rooms to run webinars. Professors and students can also book a “creative room” or “co-working room” at the HEC Learning Center (library) (with interactive white boards, writable walls, a camera and movable furniture) to experiment with more interactive forms of pedagogy.

How do we motivate professors to change their teaching habits? 

To me, two elements are very important to embark our faculty in digital learning: communication and support. The first one is to communicate about professors’ initiatives. We always have some “early adopters” who are experimenting with new teaching formats or testing new tools in the classroom. When the outcome is positive, we need to share this information in order to inspire others. 

Kahoot Quiz in Finance classrom by Olivier Bossard
Olivier Bossard, Exec. Director of MSc of Finance, assessing students' understanding with Kahoot's quiz in his Trading course

I recently created an internal website called “Digital Academy” where professors and staff members can find information about the different tools available at HEC and the online programs we have developed, as well as many faculty testimonials on how they use digital in their courses. I have also started sending a very simple newsletter to the entire faculty, with updates on the digital learning initiatives taken by professors. It is very successful: after each publication, numerous professors contact me to discuss about how they can start using digital tools.

To me, two elements are very important to embark our faculty in digital learning: communication and support.

The second element is to provide strong support. Using technology can be time consuming for professors, not only because they need to master the tool but also because it usually involves a redesign of their teaching scenario. It is a long-term time investment. So, the HEC Digital Learning team is here to help them make the right choices. 

Implementing digital learning into a faculty can also be driven by the needs of a specific program. For example, as our Executive MBA wished to reduce the face-to-face time by 10% and replace it with distance learning, the professors involved in this program had to develop online activities (such as virtual classrooms, online videos, simulation games, etc.). Again, with strong support and good communication, we managed to reach this objective! 

Digital Learning Formats_HEC

 

Digital Learning Tools HEC
Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

 

Test your knowledge on e-learning online with this quiz!

 

See structure

Part 4

Promoting digital education at HEC Paris thanks to major donor Sebastien Breteau

On Wednesday, November 7, the inauguration of Sébastien Breteau room took place. In recognition of his generosity and support towards the HEC Foundation, HEC has inaugurated a classroom on behalf of Sébastien Breteau (MS.97), Founder and President of Qima.

tech in the classroom HEC

Sébastien is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist and created, in 2013, the Breteau Foundation which aims to promote digital education for children in developing countries. Sébastien has been a supporter of the HEC Foundation for many years, and he is an Honorary Member of the Big Donor Circle.

Thanks to this support, the classroom T32 has been equipped with innovative solutions and meets the new educational uses: group work, video recording of classes, interaction with a remote classroom, video calls with academics worldwide...

This classroom supports both traditional and modern teaching styles, thanks to the installation of the following equipment:

• Furniture casters allowing for a number of different layouts (e.g. small groups of 4 to 6 students or a classic arrangement)
• 4 video projectors, each with an independent display (e.g. the teacher’s computer screen on the main projector, live footage from a remote location on the second, and a student’s tablet on the third…)
• A short-throw video projector, to avoid shadows on the whiteboard (all renovated classrooms have this feature)
• A T.V. screen allowing professors to see their presentation whilst facing their audience (all renovated classrooms have this feature)
• An interactive white board (all renovated classrooms have this feature)
• Each projector can be paired with a range of devices: the classroom PC, a professor’s laptop, or a wireless device such as a tablet
• A sound system with ceiling speakers to ensure better sound quality and greater comfort for students
• Smart microphones that detect who is speaking, even when a student is asking a question
• 2 cameras for filming classes. The footage can be watched at a later date or on a live broadcast (via web conference)
• For advanced features, these devices can all be controlled via a tablet.
 

A number of demonstrations will take place at the beginning of March so that the staff can experience these innovations first-hand, assisted by the IT services.

salle T32 HEC
Sébastien Bréteau classroom: equipped for new educational uses with various technologies
Related topics:
Reinventing Business Education
Technology

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