The possibilities and future of online education

Online education has been on the rise in recent years, but the corona crisis has accelerated this development. In March, all educational institutions in The Netherlands, including Maastricht University, had to switch from offline to online education in no time. Before the virus turned our world upside down, we spoke with Dr. Boris Blumberg about the possibilities and future of online education.

Normally, Problem-Based Learning is central in the education of Maastricht University. Personal contact between students and between teacher and student plays an important role in this system. When the government announced that all educational institutions in our country had to close immediately, our largely offline university suddenly turned into an online university. Both technically and didactically, teachers and other employees had to adapt to a completely different way of working. Now that we are a few weeks later, it seems that students and staff are slowly getting used to their new daily routine. In studies that allow this, the university will continue to offer online education until the end of the academic year.

Flexibility

In early March, when everything was still ‘normal’, we spoke to Dr. Boris Blumberg about online education. As captain of MaastrichtMBA, he was closely involved in setting up and organising the EuroMBA Online Track. This online MBA programme has been part of the MBA portfolio of UMIO since 1 January 2020. The biggest advantage of online education is the flexibility it offers, Blumberg acknowledges. “By attending online education, students are not tied to a fixed location and can decide for themselves when to study and at what pace”, says the MBA captain. “This can be an interesting option for professionals with a busy job, but also for people who naturally prefer to sit behind a laptop than next to a fellow student. In addition, it offers opportunities for people who live in remote areas. We may not be bothered by that in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, but I know that, for example, Stellenbosch University in South Africa has many students who have to deal with it.”

Relocation of infrastructure

Do educational institutions themselves also benefit from offering online education? Is it, for example, cheaper than offering regular education? Blumberg thinks that nothing sensible can be said about that at this stage. “Replacing regular education with online education is actually a shift in infrastructure and therefore costs”, he says. “After all, you replace classrooms with server rooms, online platforms and other online facilities. And make no mistake, those facilities also cost a lot of money. I think it is currently still very difficult to make a statement about the difference in costs between the two types of education.”

EuroMBA Online Track

Lower costs are therefore certainly not the reason why Maastricht University started the EuroMBA Online Track on 1 January 2020. Blumberg: “Compared to the US and the UK, we are lagging behind in online university programmes in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. For the past 25 years, UMIO was a partner in the EuroMBA programme. When this programme was discontinued last year, we decided to create a new online MBA track to serve an emerging market. It was high time to start with this, because other markets have already developed much further.

Dr. Boris Blumberg.

Here, the megatrend of digitalisation comes into play. The opportunities to provide high quality online education have grown tremendously. The quality of video and audio is much better than a few years ago, as is the quality of online education platforms. And for our MBA target group it is very natural to communicate digitally; after all, they have been using mobile devices for most of their lives.”

The different nationalities of the students are a major strength of the EuroMBA Online Track. “The students all have different backgrounds and different world views. By discussing and exchanging ideas, they enrich each other’s thinking. That is very valuable. The personal approach is also a strength of our programme. There are 3 residential weeks in which the students come together at various universities in Europe. And within the online modules we work with small groups. We will never allow mass groups of students, because then we cannot guarantee personal attention. Last but not least, the education of the EuroMBA Online Track is of high quality. We work with top teachers and have maximum international recognition with our Triple Crown accreditation from the AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA institutions. Our track recently finished as the highest-ranked online MBA study in the Netherlands in CEO Magazine’s Global Online MBA Ranking. Globally, we finished in 13th place. That says a lot about the quality we offer.”

Blumberg is not afraid that the EuroMBA Online Track will keep students away from the Executive MBA Track of MaastrichtMBA. “I think it is important that students choose Maastricht University, and in that respect we have only increased the MBA options. So hopefully we will be able to bring more students here.”

High quality education

Online courses are often criticised because there is little or no proper and regular interaction between students and teachers and students. As a result, students may not be able to learn at the same level as students in regular education. What does the MBA captain think about this criticism? “There is some truth in it, of course”, he begins. “You give lectures via the internet and have no influence on what the students actually do behind their laptop. In addition, you cannot simply cast your regular 1.5-hour lectures in the format of a webinar. After half an hour of screen time people drop out. It must therefore be shorter, without this being at the expense of depth and differentiated thinking. You have to be creative with that. On the other hand, current techniques allow us to monitor much better to what extent students have really learned. We can find out exactly how long they have been active within our platform and what they have contributed.

As I mentioned earlier, we keep the level of education high by giving students a lot of personal attention. In addition, we ensure that the assignments for students are of master’s level. This means that we do not work with multiple-choice answers and that we assess the result – be it a paper, presentation or video – with substantive feedback. So not only a grade, but also an explanation. The students learn from that.”

Online versus regular

Online education is the future, according to Blumberg, but that will never be completely at the expense of regular education. “There are always people who have a strong preference for face-to-face education. In addition, not every subject is suitable for online education. For example, an ICT course such as learning to code is very easy to set up online. However, that does not apply to a management course on leadership skills. Personal contact is very important in this. That is why we chose the balance between online modules and residential weeks on location at the EuroMBA Online Track.

Maastricht University has always been an innovative player within the Dutch academic playing field, and I think that we are now also confirming this reputation in the digital age.”


If you are interested in more information about MaastrichtMBA, then please visit maastrichtmba.com.

Personal and professional development: an MBA case study

This article originally appeared in Ambition, AMBA’s thought leadership publication (in print and online), and has been republished on this website with the permission of AMBA.

Author: Tim Dhoul (Content Editor, AMBA & BGA)

Google Key Account Manager and Digital Marketing Consultant, Guy Luchting, tells Tim Dhoul how studying for an MBA has impacted his career journey.

While studying for his bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands, Guy Luchting was selected for an internship at Dutch multinational, Heineken. The application process was unusual. Interviewees, including Guy, were secretly filmed as they responded to unexpected situations, such as being led to the interview room by the hand or the interviewer passing out mid-interview.

The resulting footage was used to create a viral marketing video, which amassed 2.8 million views within a week and has now had more than 5 million views. Known as ‘The Candidate’, it picked up a Gold Lion PR award at 2013’s Cannes Lions Festival. For Guy, who hails from Germany, it was an early opportunity to gauge where his career interests lay.

He reflects: ‘I was a great fan of Heineken advertising back in the day; I was studying hospitality management and watched all of the company’s YouTube videos. I see now that this was the beginning of my passion for advertising and creativity – I just didn’t know it then. Overall, it was an amazing opportunity, and an amazing stunt.’

The public attention the campaign, and associated footage, received took a little longer for Guy to come to terms with. ‘In the beginning, it was a lot of attention,’ he recalls. ‘I got recognised on the street, for example. I know this is weird, but it took me some time to say, proudly, that I was part of this, without feeling like I was showing off.’

Ultimately, however, he is grateful for the experience and how he benefited from it: ‘What I got from the internship was that I wanted to work in a creative advertising agency. I still follow what Heineken is doing. I think the company is a pioneer and an example of best practice in advertising.’

Developing a personal vision

Fast forward six years and Guy is now a Key Account Manager and Digital Marketing Consultant at Google, based in Dublin, working with clients who represent some of Germany’s top retail chains.

‘It’s a mixture [that involves] advising them on the digital market, technical troubleshooting and stakeholder management,’ he says, explaining that his role takes him to his home country of Germany frequently for meetings and workshops on product solutions with clients.

Guy Luchting.

Guy’s current role is his first since completing an MBA at ESCP Europe and the latest instalment in a career journey that has provided ongoing insights into what motivates him at work and what he excels at.

He explains that his desire to join Google stemmed from his Business School experience. ‘At ESCP, I developed a personal vision, and from that, I derived what I wanted to do and identified companies that would be aligned with this vision. Google was one of these companies. I wanted to work in an international environment and to learn from the best. When I read the job description and the nature of the job, I was hooked. I was reading it and I thought, “this is me”.’

Guy believes that it is not a job he could have done prior to his MBA. ‘Without it, my mindset would not have been ready to apply for a company like Google,’ he says.

Despite the current ‘techlash’ against Silicon Valley’s tech giants, he is quick to emphasise the strength of Google’s position when it comes to recruiting top talent. ‘If you are into business, but business with a purposeful twist, and you want to have an impact, then this is the company to work for,’ he argues. ‘The culture at Google is unique in so many ways that it will attract, and hopefully, retain people who are looking for something more, who are open-minded and see the big picture. I think that Google will continue to attract great talent, especially MBAs.’

While he does not feel able to comment on the current debate around privacy and the EU’s introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, he points to the importance Google places on its users. ‘The users are the centre of everything,’ he says. ‘Without them, Google wouldn’t be anything. If you don’t respect that, there won’t be a business and you won’t achieve anything. Google is a purposeful company, it’s more than earning money, it’s all the services that Google users can use for free, such as Google Maps, Gmail and Android [the mobile operating system developed by Google].’

Purposeful twist

This ‘purposeful twist’ is something Guy had been searching for prior to his MBA, when the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party rose to prominence in Germany ahead of the country’s federal elections in 2017. ‘The AfD gained a lot of traction in Germany and I was really shocked, thinking “this is not the Germany I want to believe in”,’ he explains.

At the time, he was working in Hamburg for the creative advertising agency, Jung von Matt/Havel, but took the opportunity to move to the company’s Berlin office to work on the election campaign for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This project, during which he coordinated the production of advertising across TV, online and social media channels and drew up presentations for his superior to present to the Chancellor, was his last at the agency before he opted to embark on an MBA.

‘I was looking to change, although I never thought I would do a master’s degree. Then a friend of mine applied for Harvard and I thought, “well, if he is applying for Harvard, I can at least try for a master’s!”’.

ESCP Europe stood out because of its international dimension, the programme’s length and the fact that it would not require him to sit the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). ‘I was scared of
the GMAT and was working 10-14 hours a day already, plus weekends, and I thought, “I’m never going to be able to do that”,’ he admits.

‘It was all really spontaneous, but I liked the admissions process; it felt personal and I think you can see this in the people who joined the MBA. I went to the Berlin campus and was talking to a programme manager and one other person involved in the MBA. It was a nice, open talk and you could really tell what ESCP was about.’

Valuing diversity

Guy took full advantage of ESCP Europe’s international and multi-campus opportunities. ‘I did half a year in Paris and half a year in Madrid, and I went to Turin, London and Berlin,’ he says, before enthusing about the varied (personal and professional) backgrounds of his classmates; one had been working in Syria’s oil industry while another was a former shopping centre manager from the Philippines, for example. This level of diversity was valuable, although he admits he ‘should have asked way more questions and listened more’.

Having finished the programme in the summer of 2018, the class remains in touch, reuniting for graduation in December and establishing an active WhatsApp group. One of Guy’s former classmate even started working at Google at the same time as him, allowing for frequent catch ups.

Guy stresses that his MBA boosted both his personal and professional development. ‘It helped me to develop myself and my
self-confidence, to learn and strategise about my future,’ he says. He also valued the School’s use of the case study method greatly. ‘I enjoyed the cases – you really saw what the main problem is and how one can go about solving it,’ he says, adding that this has helped him to apply a more structured approach to problem solving in his current role.

Eight months into his job at Google and armed with a greater awareness of his career aims and motivations, Guy is focusing on developing in his current role.

‘My priority is to learn my job well; it’s complex and challenging,’ he says. ‘I enjoy working with clients and giving presentations, and I like the proactiveness and the business approach of sales.’

While he does not know what the future might hold, he is fully aware of the part his MBA experience has played in getting him to where he is now. ‘Without it, I would not be where I am,’ he admits. ‘I am really happy right now. It really changed my life.’

How will technological innovations affect the job market over the next few years?

UMIO’s high-quality learning trajectories are fuelled by research carried out at Maastricht University, in particular at the School of Business and Economics (SBE). Since the beginning of this year, three researchers connected to SBE have lead a large European research project called Technequality. In a recent report, the Technequality Consortium offers eight possible future scenarios describing how the recent wave of technological innovations will affect the job market in Europe over the next few years.

Reskilling and adapting

In almost all scenarios, jobs are heavily impacted. Under the assumption that innovations would primarily have a labour-saving effect, there is a high chance that unemployment will rise. In such scenarios, reskilling the labour force and adapting our education systems is essential.

More information

You can find the full report on the Technequality website.

MaastrichtMBA releases EuroMBA Online track

As of 1 January 2020, MaastrichtMBA expands its successful international executive MBA programme with an online track, called EuroMBA Online. The structural design of this track is based on 25 years of experience acquired within the EuroMBA; one of the first MBAs managed by six European partner universities, including Maastricht University. Parts of the existing EuroMBA programme structure will be revised and copied into MaastrichtMBA. The current independent EuroMBA consortium and programme will cease to exist and the EuroMBA consortium will be dissolved.

Increased flexibility

The EuroMBA Online track will consist of ten online courses, complemented by three residential weeks on campus. Students follow one week of classes at Maastricht University and decide where to spend the other two residential weeks. They can choose from four partner universities.

MaastrichtMBA’s new EuroMBA Online track will run in parallel with the programme’s current Executive track, which offers participants eight educational weeks in a face-to-face format. The online track allows participants greater flexibility when travelling around the world or while working from a remote location, which for some professionals will ease the balance between work, study and private life.

Quality assured

MaastrichtMBA is part of UMIO, the executive branch of Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics. With a Triple Crown accreditation from the international quality assurance bodies AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA, the business school enjoys maximum international recognition as part of a select group of 1% of all educational institutes worldwide. The MaastrichtMBA programme is also acknowledged by the Dutch-Flemish accreditation organisation, NVAO.

MBA students who successfully complete the new EuroMBA Online track starting at 1 January 2020, will thus receive an MBA diploma from Maastricht University that is officially recognised by the Dutch Ministry of Education.

Tom van Veen on internationalisation

As UMIO we are part of Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE). Just like SBE, we are an international organisation that attracts students from all over the world. With the Week of the International Student coming up (16-22 November), our colleagues at SBE interviewed Tom van Veen about the importance of internationalisation.

As one of the first faculties to introduce English courses and exchange programmes in the 1990s, Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE) has long been an advocate for internationalisation. One of the academics that has lead the way for SBE on its journey towards internationalisation is Professor Tom van Veen.

“We live in a globalised world. That also implies for me that even if you work for a local company in Maastricht, at some point in your career, you will work in an international context and with people from different countries and cultures”, says Tom. “For this reason, I think that students need to have international exposure and to meet international students, either in Maastricht or abroad.”

The full interview with Tom van Veen can be found on the SBE website.


Photo: Michel Saive

UM academics react to the Nobel Prize in economics

Last week, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019 to Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Esther Duflo (MIT) and Michael Kremer (Harvard) for their work to alleviate poverty. All three Laureates were recognised for pioneering an approach to obtaining reliable answers to fight poverty across the globe. Esther Duflo is the youngest ever laureate, and the second woman after Elinor Ostrom a decade ago.

The news of the prize was received with great enthusiasm here in Maastricht. Our colleagues at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) spoke to several UM academics with expertise in the field of development economics to hear their initial thoughts.

Read the full article here.

SBE researchers lead project to tackle challenges linked to technical innovations

UMIO’s high-quality learning trajectories are fuelled by research carried out at Maastricht University, in particular at the School of Business and Economics (SBE). Since the beginning of this year, 3 researchers connected to SBE have lead TECHNEQUALITY, a large European research project with a budget of nearly 3 million Euros.

TECHNEQUALITY will attempt to answer questions like ‘Will robots take our jobs?’, ‘Are we teaching people the right skills for tomorrow’s labour market?’ and ‘How will Artificial Intelligence impact inequality?’.

SBE researcher Mark Levels leads the project with the help of Raymond Montizaan and Didier Fouarge, who are also connected to SBE. The findings of this research project are expected to inform policy-makers working to support their populations through technological transformation.

Read the full article

Do you want to know more about this fascinating project? Then read the extensive article on the SBE website.

Rianne Letschert named Top Woman of the Year 2019

Last week, Prof. dr. Rianne Letschert was named Top Woman of the Year 2019 (Topvrouw van het Jaar). Rianne is not only the Rector Magnificus of Maastricht University, she has also been involved in our UMIO programmes.

The annual election of the Top Woman of the Year aims to create a platform for female board members in Dutch companies and organisations. In addition to the importance of the current position and the results achieved, the assessment criteria were courage, ambition and leadership.

Inspirational leader

Within the Maastricht University organisation, Rianne Letschert has been an inspirational leader since she was appointed as Rector Magnificus in 2016. Over the past few years, she has contributed to a number of UMIO programmes including the Fast Forward (FFWD) programme.

FFWD is a leadership development programme that helps prepare and support talented professionals in their personal and responsible leadership. In this programme, Rianne is a true source of inspiration on performance, impact and authenticity.

Leadership programmes

In addition to the Fast Forward (FFWD) programme, UMIO offers several other programmes that focus on leadership. Examples are the Executive Master in Cultural Leadership, the management programmes Coaching Leadership and Effective Leadership (in Dutch) and the module Leading Strategic Change in our MaastrichtMBA programme.

On our Programmes page, you can find a clear overview of all our programmes.

How to prepare for changes that are yet to come

Society is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Globalisation, technological developments and an ageing population mean that different skills are needed in both our professional and personal lives. Employment growth areas increasingly show that leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills are more in demand now than ever in the face of an automative and digital society. So, what does this mean for us in our day-to-day lives, and how can we best prepare ourselves for changes we don’t even know about yet?

These questions and themes were discussed at the UMIO Insights event on Tuesday 2 July, where more than 60 business professionals, entrepreneurs, academics and researchers came together to engage in these conversations and participate in a shared pursuit for knowledge and learning.

It is the second edition of this successful annual UMIO Insights event. As refreshments were served, participants had the opportunity to meet and catch up with old and new colleagues, who between them represented a broad reach of organisations from the corporate to government sectors, SME’s to non-profit and education sectors. The introduction from Marielle Heijltjes, UMIO’s Executive Director and Trudie Schils’ plenary session, set the tone for the breakout workshops which followed. Participants could choose from one of three engaging and interactive teaser sessions including; Coaching Leadership, Sustainable Employability and Digitalisation. Academic research underpinned each one led by, Lukas Figge, Martin Lammers, Gordon Miesen, Damien Nunes and Dominik Mahr.

Unlocking potential

For any company that wants to develop a sustainable competitive advantage, unlocking the full creative and human potential of its employees is key. To achieve this, it is important that people feel connected, competent and autonomous in their job and in their relations at work. Research has shown that managers and leaders play a crucial role in providing the right conditions to exhibit leadership behaviour, such as support, mentoring and coaching to promote growth and development of the people in the organisation.

Coaching Leadership is a particular leadership style that contains a specific and learnable set of competences, including establishing trust & intimacy, coaching presence, active listening and asking powerful questions. Learning these skills enhances the learning ability and flexibility of the team and organisation. By supporting colleagues to find their own solutions, this reduces the dependence of others and by spending less time solving other people’s problems, more time is available for impactful and engaging work.

Changing the perception

The concept of Sustainable Employability is a complex one. People are getting older and have to work longer. Retirement age is rising.  We are also living in a shrinking labour market. Navigating these challenges successfully requires a certain approach and mind-set. Self-development, being agile and looking at the building blocks required to influence the situation can help to create a positive and sustainable outcome. After all, what we all want out of our working lives is to be happy, motivated and inspired now and in the future.

Digitalisation and technological developments are society’s ever-increasing pacemakers. For business, it is important to keep a distinctive competitive position. Reflecting on how we might improve our productivity by applying digital technologies can help us create our own future realities. Understanding how these technologies impact us and how we can, in turn, harness this power, is an important part of the journey towards equipping ourselves with the right skills needed for the future.

Striving for continuous self-development and learning was a shared feeling amongst the participants of the UMIO Insights event. Betty Adjadi, a Researcher at Data Human Interaction Lab, was encouraged to hear how the University was involved in researching this area and asserted that taking part in this UMIO Insights event was definitely helpful for her work.

“I am very interested in education and learning. Based on my own experience, lifelong learning is always my passion and I think it’s true of everyone here. I realise that when I have the right balance, I am happier and more creative.”

Lifelong learning has always had its place in forward-thinking organisations, and investing in learning and development is shown to pay off. The Research Centre for Education and Labour Market (ROA) at Maastricht University affirms that a well-trained workforce is related to good business outcomes. Employers can better profile themselves with a positive learning culture. So, the pursuit of knowledge, constructing our own future realities, engaging in active and ongoing learning, both formally and informally, are bold and empowering objectives of the globalised society we inhabit in the 21st century. If you want to change your way of thinking, change the way you see.

So what’s next?

If you would like to find out more about how you can better equip yourself or your organisation for a successful future incorporating any of these themes; Coaching Leadership, Sustainable Employability or Digitalisation, then please take a look at these opportunities.

Coaching Leadership

Coaching Leadership management course

Digitalisation:

Sustainable Employability:
• UMIO is co-creating a unique learning journey around the topic of ‘Sustainable Employability’ together with a consortium of industry leaders. If your organisation is interested in joining our consortium, please contact Gordon Miesen at g.miesen@maastrichtuniversity.nl.

UMIO congratulates new MaastrichtMBA graduates

Three times a year the MaastrichtMBA students visit their homebase Maastricht University for an eventful course week of exchange and co-creation. It is always an intense and vibrant experience. Once a year the week is extra special, because it concludes with the graduation ceremony of the students who have successfully completed the two-year programme.

Graduation time!

Last Friday saw the graduation of ten students, all dressed for the part with the academic regalia. Keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Franziska Gassmann (UNU-Merit) spoke about Social Protection Systems and Development and offered a different perspective on how social protection can contribute to balanced development and stability in poorer countries. A fitting end to the MaastrichtMBA journey, that is in large part about broadening one’s horizon and embracing different perspectives to make a lasting impact.

Student of the year 2018

After the honouring of Student of the Year 2018 Charbel Haddad, who to his own surprise had scored best overall marks for 2018, the event concluded with a reception in Ad Fundum and a sparkling party at Thiessen Wijnkoopers.

Welcoming the new students

The MaastrichtMBA Week kicked-off on Monday with the welcoming of no less than 14 new students from nine countries. They already knew each other from the introduction programme, and on Monday, they familiarized themselves with the current students. The afternoon saw even more new faces as prospective students joined the group for the MaastrichtMBA Class Experience. The welcome was extended in a more relaxed and informal atmosphere, during Monday evenings’ opening dinner. Elzette van Zyl from Stellenbosch University inspired the students with her love for Cape Town and South Africa, where the MaastrichtMBA will travel to in November. Our Dean Peter Møllgaard joined in and was not a little pleased to be initially mistaken for one of the students: “it’s been quite a while since that happened to me!”