As I reflected on the opportunities and challenges for 2020 at the beginning of the year, many issues of different types and importance came to mind. The possibility of a global pandemic was certainly not one of them. Even in January, when I first heard about COVID-19, I could not have imagined that only two months later we would experience a lockdown of this magnitude and international reach. It was simply beyond my imagination. For me, this is an important lesson that we should include the possibility of unlikely extreme scenarios more strongly in our planning for the future.
At ESMT Berlin, we had to discontinue classroom teaching and switch to online sessions on March 13. Despite the sudden onset, our teachers have handled the situation brilliantly. ESMT has already been investing heavily in digital learning for a couple of years, which is certainly an advantage in the current situation. However, the challenges for our school are of course considerable and diverse – for employees and students alike. Almost all of them work and learn from home, and many have to look after their children at the same time. Our students want to graduate on time and rightly expect our usual first-class quality in teaching and supervision.
In the current situation, we rely on constant and open communication with our partners, students, and employees. Our faculty and teaching staff are highly creative, working to inspire the students as much now as in the classroom. For their digital lectures they use various online tools, such as live surveys and business simulation games. We are constantly learning new important aspects that will increase the impact of our online teaching in the future.
We believe that this crisis represents an interruption, not a disruption. But we will prepare strategically for both possibilities. One thing is clear: our students and executive education participants remain our top priority, be it in the face-to-face classroom experience or online learning.