On the first day of spring quarter, Katherine Casey, associate professor of political economy at Stanford GSB, greeted students in her Strategy Beyond Markets class — and then asked them to break into small groups and just hang out for several minutes, even though they were all logging on to Zoom remotely from home.
Casey wanted to recreate the excitement of returning to class after spring break and allow classmates to socialize and catch up, the way students do when they haven’t seen each other for weeks. “It allowed us to kind of decompress from the break, and enjoy some of the experience we would have had more naturally had we been there in person,” says Adiam Tesfalul, MBA ’21.
Such are the adjustments teachers across Stanford GSB — and across the world — are making as they transfer their classroom experiences to the virtual world.
“Everything is happening in real time,” Casey says. “Using Zoom, I can see 49 students at a time, and see their expressions. Even my office hours are in Zoom; it’s like a hangout students can drop into. You can see everybody in there, in a Brady Bunch sort of style.”
Since the COVID-19 crisis forced teaching to move online, Stanford GSB faculty have been on a fast track figuring out how to make sure students continue to have the learning experience they deserve.
“I’ve been trying to think about it from the students’ perspective, of how to make it closer to an in-person experience,” Casey says.
Support and Innovation
To prepare for the transition, Stanford GSB faculty and staff examined over 150 class sections, making sure each would translate to online presentation. Almost all made the cut, and new offerings have been added, including:
- Reflections on History in the Making, in which students will reflect on and archive this historic period at the GSB
- Business and Society Lecture Series: COVID-19, featuring prominent speakers at the intersection of business and society addressing the pandemic’s impact
- Civic Workshop, which will allow student teams to practice leadership, management, and problem-solving skills as they launch projects to help communities impacted by the coronavirus
A timely resource has been the Stanford GSB’s Teaching and Learning Hub, created just one year ago to offer a range of teaching support to faculty. The Hub has organized workshops, interactive webinars, and individual consultations; dispersed helpful tips; mobilized a pool of volunteers to serve as Zoom assistants throughout the quarter; and responded to questions posed by anxious instructors.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the team, many of whom have a lot of experience in remote learning,” says Grace Lyo, assistant dean and director of the Teaching and Learning Hub. “Faculty are really thinking about how to make their courses work and getting really creative, and this provides an opportunity for us to help facilitate that, which is exactly what we’re here for.”
Lisa De Simone, associate professor of accounting, worked with the Hub to incorporate technology she hadn’t used before into her new virtual classroom. “Watching them model it was eye-opening, and made me realize that just about everything I do in class can be done through Zoom,” she says. “It’s a little different, but you can get there, and that made me feel so much better — that I can keep role-playing and discussion and debate, all those things, in my class.”
Preparing for a Changed World
Maintaining the quality of the Stanford GSB learning experience — and considering how best to prepare students for the changed world to come — is an ongoing priority for Brian Lowery, professor of organizational behavior and senior associate dean for academic affairs. His hope is that students will embrace the shift, and take advantage of their front-row seat to the evolving, post-pandemic business ecosystem.
“There are moments in history when the world is ablaze, and it’s unclear what’s going to come after the fire, and I think we may be in one of those moments,” Lowery says. “If we are, the question will be what will the world look like — and what should the world look like? What’s the place and role of business in society? How do we think about that? Our students will be the people who will make decisions about how these things will work in the new world.”
That’s a discussion Charles Stone, MBA ’21, and his friends are already having. “It’s a big question among students: How much of this will be the new normal, versus to what extent will we go back to the pre-COVID way of working?” he says. “I think we’re at a unique vantage point to be experiencing some of these issues in the context of the business education here.”
There may be no ready answers yet, but Stone is “cautiously optimistic” about what’s ahead and how his peers will contribute.
“I’ve been so impressed at the energy and commitment all my classmates have shown in getting involved in the COVID-19 response — locally, nationally, and internationally,” Stone says. “Now that we’re out of the workforce and in the business school environment, we’re all wondering what we can do to give back. It’s an exciting time to try and put on our hats in terms of how can we be a part of the solution here.”
GSB spring 2020 welcome
— Beth Jensen