The world-renowned ESSEC Business School has pioneered a new approach to real-time distance learning thanks to a major investment in a state-of-the-art virtual classroom solution from global technology company Barco.
The school, which has been teaching for over a century, is one of the leading business schools in Europe. At its Executive Education Campus in La Défense, Paris, ESSEC has just installed Barco’s weConnect virtual classroom at its main campus to enable the school to provide business courses to professionals around the world.
The pioneering move by ESSEC reflects and embraces the growing desire by professional students to receive training in a variety of different ways. According to ESSEC, on-campus teaching will always be a fundamental part of education at all levels. But with participants who are often learning while working full-time, the ability to provide remote, non-linear training of the same quality and interactivity as face-to-face learning is now crucial to all educational institutions.
Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi, President and Dean of ESSEC Business School said: “In today’s digital world, educators need to ensure they are utilizing the latest innovative technologies to provide a blended learning experience. Participants need to be able to join lectures flexibly, accessibly and securely, without feeling like their experience will be sub-standard or that they will miss out on important peer-to-peer interaction. Teachers, meanwhile, need to feel completely confident in the technology and the interaction they have with participants, so they can focus on doing what they do best.”
The Barco weConnect solution enables teachers at ESSEC to replicate a physical classroom for remote participants. The teacher stands at the front of the classroom as in a traditional learning environment, but with up to 84 people joining remotely. The participants are all displayed to the teacher on a series of screens at 100% real-life size, meaning that interaction between teacher and participant can happen just as it does in a live classroom environment.
The system has various interactivity features including the ability to issue live polls and quizzes, hold moderated Q&As, and to split groups into breakout sessions – enabling small, close-collaboration working groups between participants who might be physically in all four corners of the globe.
Stephane Potelle, Head of Digital Campus at ESSEC explains: “With a 100% online learning program, students have especially high expectations of the learning they want to receive, and those expectations will often be formed by the ingrained picture they have of a more traditional learning environment. So whether you are providing synchronous or asynchronous learning, in whatever format, you need to do it in a way that feels most comfortable to both teacher and learner.
“Barco’s weConnect solution enables our faculty to offer different learning methods depending on the course material and the preferences of the participants. But by mirroring a traditional lecture it ensures both the participants and the educators are fully engaged and comfortable in the environment.”
ESSEC is currently running an extensive testing phase with the new facility and training its employees – not just the teachers but also the support staff who will manage and ‘produce’ the lessons - on how to use the solution to its full potential. Once testing is complete, they will be rolling out a new program of virtual classes in January – not only enabling a greater cohort of students to receive the benefit of ESSEC’s world-leading training, but bringing in valuable new revenue streams to the business school.
Ellen Van de Woestijne, Segment Marketing Director at Barco said: “The education sector is undergoing a major period of digital transformation at the moment. The most forward-thinking educational institutions are realizing that it’s vital to invest in new technologies to be able to deliver courses in a way that works with students’ lives, which meets their always-rising expectations and, most importantly, to bring in valuable new revenue streams and facilitate further growth and success.
“ESSEC had tried other solutions for this such as traditional video conferencing, but they found that these systems simply weren’t able to facilitate the type of interaction and engagement that makes a virtual course successful. We are pleased that they chose our weConnect technology to ensure their remote students have the best possible learning experience and have been thrilled by the reaction this had from their educators.”