The Star, Pretoria News, Cape Times and The Mercury (Independent Newspapers, Business Report), 28 May 2021
COVID-19 is not just the greatest global public health crisis in living memory; it has also caused the greatest disruption to life as we knew it. One of the first main weapons deployed in fighting the pandemic was to, as far as possible, keep people at home in order to avoid risk and spreading of the virus. Those who could were asked to work from home.
Business Report spoke to Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Business School Africa about how the institute stepped into this “new normal”.
“For Henley Business School Africa, it meant teaching our students at home – from our own homes. But we had already successfully made that move – to online – two weeks before President Cyril Ramaphosa locked the entire country down.
We were able to do that because of what we do. We are a business school. We teach strategy and critical thinking, among so much else. The tools we teach our students are the same tools we developed and used ourselves over the last 10 years to create a business school that corporate South Africa has regarded for the last three years as delivering the best MBA in the country.
Creating a virtual classroom is far more than just pivoting from the stage in a room to another glorified zoom call. Online teaching is about creating a platform that allows both real-time and asynchronous learning; learning on demand when it best suits the students, especially ours who mostly have to juggle jobs, relationships, parenting and studying and, after March last year, lockdown too.
Online learning is about creating access to resources that before could only be accessed through university libraries or attending lectures by specially invited guest speakers on campus. In Henley Africa’s case, we harnessed our incredible global network of faculty from Europe, Asia, America and Africa, leaders in their fields, and had them dial in from anywhere in the world right into the studies of our students all over Africa.
The platform we developed lets our students engage with them with more immediacy and flexibility than actual lectures. We have breakaway rooms, too, to allow for virtual workgroups. Real people, in real time. And we created a raft of free, new, remote yet empathetic face-to-face support: research, systems thinking, academic writing, psychological literacy, team dynamics and our unique family-friendly MBA support programme.
But that’s the online education and support that everyone sees. We also committed heavily to the part that no one sees – like investing in audio-visual equipment, learning platforms and training to ensure the technical aspect of our virtual lectures matches the world-class standard of their content, while maintaining intimacy and connection.
We appointed coaches and tutors for our students to ease their transition to virtual learning and employed counsellors to help them negotiate the challenge of surviving a pandemic while safeguarding their families, earning salaries and successfully completing their studies.
As a business school, we create and innovate. What this pandemic has showed us is that it’s not enough to innovate once – we have to do it continuously; refining until we’re left with the best, and then starting all over again. It’s the only way we’re going to make sense of the new normal, which won’t be solely online, but rather a blend of the best of all worlds: virtual and actual, live and asynchronous, online and on campus. Our brave new future is going to be one of perpetual learning and unlearning, because one size doesn’t fit all.
If you’d like to work with the progressives – whose only concern is to help you succeed in top-level education – then call us. We’d love to discuss your future.”
• Henley Business School Africa is the number 1 African-accredited and campused business school in the world for executive education (FT 2018, 2020), as well as the number 1 MBA business school in South Africa, as rated by corporate SA (PMR.Africa 2018, 2019, 2020).