Michel Jordi ignites that spark in the students of BSL on the occasion of their Business Innovation Week!

It was a pleasure to share some exciting times and “aha” moments with the students of BSL on the occasion of their Business Innovation Week this February. Thanks to the invitation of BSL’s Acting Dean, Dr. David Claivaz, and the newly appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Doctoral school, Dr. Dominique Bourqui, I had the opportunity to exchange with the students on their entrepreneurial projects, which they pitched on the last day. As a serial entrepreneur, I was impressed by the creativity, the innovation and the scope of the projects the students presented. During our time together, we worked through the Lucky Clover and the Rainbow Target, the two first stages of my risk filter, to help them determine if their projects are fit for the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship. I could definitely see some promising ones!

Each group used these tools constructively to establish their business plan and this process encouraged them to develop their entrepreneurial mindset. It was interesting to challenge them, and see what ideas and revelations came out of putting them virtually in the driver’s seat of this exciting journey, as well as have them implement these tools to their specific needs. Some differences arose depending on whether they had a more personal or professional approach or a more individual one versus a team one. This illustrated the tools’ range in application and how they can be used to respond to the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship. The students were curious, eager to learn and very interactive, which are key characteristics for success. As my mentor, K. Ueno used to say: “Everyone is my teacher, except myself.”

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In my new entrepreneurial book, “Ignite That Spark – 10 Commandments of Entrepreneurship”, I provide an insight into the world of business in which I share my own “real life experiences” and give a complete 360° view of entrepreneurship in a nutshell. Recognizing that time is precious and we think in images, I deliberately adopted a straight-to-the-point approach. My goal was to keep this book short and simple with memorable illustrations, the size of a notebook. It reads like a fine dining menu at a gourmet temple. You can read it à la carte or go for the full discovery menu with all its delicacies and calories.

But “Ignite that Spark” is not just another entrepreneurial book or a song, it is a message, a philosophy of life to break free and live your passion. The “Lucky Clover” is the kick-off highlighting the first 4 commandments. This is the entry test to have a first personal assessment to find out whether or not you are fit for the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship. The “Rainbow Target” is a roadmap to fine-tune your Business Plan. The “10 commandments” are recommendations, essential tips and “Red Flags” of do’s and don’ts. This book is a condensed guide packed with take-home value, which should be on every entrepreneur’s desk to refer to at any time.

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Exclusively for this special occasion, we presented for the first time our brand new “Ride to Success” illustration, which will enhance our upcoming e-book, and the new version of our Ignite That Spark song with its empowering lyrics, available on our YouTube channel. The event came to a close with the students and the professors all up and dancing, which we hope was a clear sign of a sparkling collaboration!

Today, my mission is to dedicate my time to pass on my good and bad experiences to the next generations. Entrepreneurship is indeed like riding a rollercoaster. You have to hang on through the lows to enjoy the highs. And my hope is that through the anecdotes and stories of my personal journey, I helped to show to the students that anything is possible and that I inspired them to break free and live their passion!

www.ignitethatspark.com

Book signing 1Author: Michel Jordi

Innovation course addressing the learning appetite of students, the imperatives for companies and the challenges for megatrends

As I am correcting the post-assignments of the “Internal and External innovation” course, I am reflecting on the nature of innovation that will have to be addressed by us but more importantly by our students over the next decade.

Obviously, the Digital revolution will continue and it is estimated that half of the jobs in this area in 2030 don’t exist today.

Sustainability: the increase of population from 7.5B today to 10B in 2050, with natural resources that will actually reduce in absolute value, will have to be tackled.

Inequality, with a middle class that used to be the cement of democracy, will get poorer and with an aging population that may not afford the cost of medical care.

There are a dozen more critical topics that will equally require a constant curiosity, critical eye, pertinent innovation, and successful execution.

Along with all the courses of BSL, we hope that the innovation best practices and experiments that our students have played with will better equip them to face these challenges. We hope that the creative teamwork they have engaged in the internal and external innovation class will give them the fortitude to discover, to ideate, to try, to iterate and deliver value for the world.

In the meanwhile, our students will certainly deliver value to customers, helping their company to develop and prosper, but also ensuring that this prosperity will bring true value that will not be used to buy and deplete other companies.

To achieve this ambitious vision, we sincerely believe that we have given the participants an appetite for continuous learning, confidence in the creativity they showed during their childhood and the trust in working in teams, as they did in our class, working for instance on a real venture. They helped indeed a young entrepreneur in collecting customer insights, making sense of them and brainstorming on various scenarios. True Design Thinking process applied in real life!

Yves KarcherAuthor: Yves Karcher, BSL Associate Professor

BSL Alumni Mentoring Program – a year after the launch

careers guidance counsellorThe BSL Alumni Mentoring Program has been up and running for a full year, with 20 Alumni and 20 students involved in this pilot project launched by BSL Careers in January 2018. It is time to share with our community some observations and feedback about the program.

To mentor? Or not to mentor? This is the question that many BSL Alumni may have asked themselves after reading the email about my mentoring idea in summer 2017. It’s been nearly one and a half years since and I have spoken to numerous people both in person and over calls on the phone and Skype for interviews, the launch and the feedback gathering. As the designer of the program, it has been a great experience for me to get to know the Alumni, and to connect students with mentors from around the world.

I started gathering feedback from the mentors and the mentees throughout 2018. This data was collected through emails and face-to-face interactions and has enabled me to identify encouraging patterns as well as some areas for improvement. The results varied with many connections working well, with few barely taking off at all. Let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the program.

Positive patterns

The majority of students selected for the program reported that they found the experience to be a great success and enjoyed their first taste of a high-level networking. These students stated that the program offered them a safe space, free from grading and judgement, offering them opportunities to understand more about how professionals think in the different phases of their careers. The discussions concerning careers and professional development were also found to be extremely valuable.

Most of the Alumni mentors enjoyed opportunities to connect and engage in thoughtful conversations with younger, ‘switched on’ students and gained valuable insight on the next generation’s trends and incentives.

A discussion with a particular mentor made me realize that the program could also develop in directions that were not necessarily foreseen during the design phase. A very experienced entrepreneur, who was paired with a Master student, shared his highlight of the program, mentioning that “…at some point, the student and I swapped the mentor-mentee role as we reached such a great level of empathy between us. Something I truly enjoyed!”. I found this statement to be highly encouraging, as both the mentor and mentee indicated that they have continued the mentoring beyond the 10 hours and will meet this coming April in person!

Some experienced Alumni have also expressed their appreciation for the program, being of the opinion that it came at the right time in their careers when they felt a need to give back and help others.

On top of these positive patterns, we managed to bring some of our Alumni back to BSL and enrich our MBA seminars while tightening the connection between current students and Alumni, something which is particularly important when nurturing our community.

Where and how can the program improve?

I have taken into account that many of the Alumni who have a wealth of managerial and work experience have never officially mentored anyone before. Taking this feedback into consideration, I will be preparing future mentors with some practical examples to help guide and inspire them. In doing this I hope to improve the overall experience for both mentors and mentees.

Additionally, I received feedback regarding the impact of imposing mentoring time frames. Some felt that by assigning 10 hours to this process, the program ran the risk of limiting an experience that should develop naturally, without boundaries. This feedback will be implemented into future programs when new mentors will only receive a finite amount of hours to decide whether they will continue mentoring their mentees.

Lastly, many mentors expressed concerns that their mentees seemed to be more interested in accessing their networks than engaging in holistic discussions about their future. As the aim of the mentorship program is to create a space in which mentors can share personal and professional decisions, challenges, dreams and fears, we will be adapting the application process, requiring new applicants to submit a thorough motivation statement.

Alumni Mentoring Program in 2019

If you are a BSL Alumna/Alumnus with 5-7 years of management experience and would like to know more about the BSL Alumni Mentoring Program, please contact me directly at daniele.ticli@bsl-lausanne.ch. I will be happy to walk you through the objectives of the program and share some inspiring stories with you!

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

12 Images of an effective learning environment

For quite some time, I have been thinking about the characteristics of an effective learning environment. My objective was to compile a list of ideas in response to the question “What makes a learning environment an effective one?”

Recently, I read the book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas by Seymour Papert. First published in 1980, this book includes Papert’s arguments in favor of using computers as a learning tool in an educational setting. Being an education theorist, Papert characterizes the essential properties of an effective educational system. I was amazed at how close the ideas presented by the author were to my experiences as an educator. Therefore, I thought it was time for me to present the twelve images that characterize an effective learning environment as seen by Papert and experienced by myself.

  1. In an effective learning environment, learning occurs naturally as a byproduct of the learners’ interactions with their surroundings, without the need of structured teaching (e.g. lectures, presentations), similar to the way a child learns to talk or walk. In such environments, learning occurs through embodied experiences that engage a full range of human sensitivities in an interactive and spontaneous way.
  1. In an effective learning environment, the educator focuses on creating personally meaningful and intellectually coherent learning experiences for the learners. In such environments, learning is not separate from reality. The learners are thereby not left alone in making sense of what they learn and are guided by the educators in their journeys of reconciling, accommodating and assimilating new knowledge within their existing intellectual structures.
  1. In an effective learning environment, the learners and educators both challenge themselves by venturing into the unknown and going into a space that is out of the boundaries of their comfort zones. They give themselves permission to fail and learn from their failures. In such environments, exploration, failure, and discovery are key ingredients of the learning process.
  1. In an effective learning environment, the learners make the newly acquired knowledge and ideas their own. They deconstruct what they learn into fundamental ideas, reshuffle and combine them in new and innovative ways and generate a personalized way of applying and communicating what they have learned.
  1. In an effective learning environment, theoretical knowledge is a means to amplify and expand the learners’ intuitive understanding of their surroundings. In such environments, not only does theoretical knowledge not oppose the intuitive insights of the learners, but it also serves as a mechanism through which the learners can enhance and refine their intuition, and subsequently their creative capacity.
  1. In an effective learning environment, interaction, communication and collaboration amongst the learners and between the learners and the educators are facilitated and enriched. In such environments dialogues are viewed as a free flow of meaning and knowledge is viewed as a means of creating harmony between the learners and their surroundings.
  1. In an effective learning environment, measuring learning provides an opportunity for more learning, rather than hampering it. Therefore, the learner’s understanding of a subject matter is not merely judged as “right” or “wrong” but considered, by the educator, as a powerful starting point and a foothold for designing further learning.
  1. In an effective learning environment, the learner and the educator’s roles are interchangeable. In such environments, learners learn from their peers, realizing that the educator’s role is not exclusive to the educator and that they themselves can be sources of inspiration when it comes to knowledge acquisition and development. Educators also realize that to be an educator is synonymous with being a lifelong learner.
  1. In an effective learning environment, the learners learn from the educators not by “what they say” but by “what they do”. In such an environment, the educators are the embodiment of the ideas that they want the learners to encounter, and they look sensitively for conflicts between what they preach and what they practice (i.e., their stated and revealed preferences).
  1. In an effective learning environment, both the learners and educators think about the ways they think and learn about the ways they learn. In such environments, every topic provides the learners and educators with an opportunity to become a better learner and thinker by reflecting upon their assumptions, mental models and cognitive heuristics and biases.
  1. In an effective learning environment, learning is an interdisciplinary undertaking. Meaning that, boundaries between different disciplines fade and that learners and educators are encouraged to transfer insights from one field of inquiry to another. In such environments, the focus is on creating connections between seemingly different ideas.
  1. In an effective learning environment, the fundamental assumptions underlying what constitutes an effective learning environment are continually challenged and critically reflected upon. In such environments, education is viewed as a fluid and ever-changing phenomenon that should dynamically adapt to cultural, pedagogical, scientific and technological developments.

I hope these 12 images can give you a bigger picture of an effective learning environment. While compiling this list, I quickly realized that each of these 12 images deserves a more in-depth treatment. Therefore, my intention is to elaborate on every point and exemplify it with instances and cases from my own learning design activities. So, stay tuned for the next entries in this series. Meanwhile, if you think some more ideas need to be added to this list, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. I would also be happy to know which of these images resonated most with you.

arash golnamAuthor: Dr. Arash Golnam, BSL Professor

Educators’ dilemma: is neoclassical economics consistent with the laws of physics?

As educators, our most important task is to help prepare our students to lead successful professional and personal lives, for the next 40+ years, until 2060 and well beyond. While much is unknown on this time scale, we now do understand the big picture, including fundamental human needs, as well as the material basis for satisfying them, especially around biodiversity and energy – the previous blog “Reflections on 2018: complexity, messiness, progress” provides a few illustrations.

So, while we cannot provide recipes valid for half a century, we certainly can help our students develop a way of thinking, even a worldview, which will prepare them for the challenges they will face.

This means first and foremost understanding human society and the economy in “real”, biophysical terms, including the underlying energy and material flows.

We could start with biophysical economics, a school of economics based on biological and physical resources, with a strong focus on energy, especially around food production, new energy sourcing, and the concept of EROI (energy return on (energy) invested). Biophysical economics has a long history, starting in the 1920s with Frederick Soddy (building on 19th-century insights, especially the laws of thermodynamics), with major contributions by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in the 1970s, and more recently by Charles A. S. Hall, Cutler Cleveland, and Robert Costanza. The Encyclopedia of Earth provides an excellent overview.

So far, this work has remained outside of mainstream economics. There are many reasons, including a much higher complexity of looking at underlying material and energy flows instead of money, and the fact that most leading practitioners, including all listed above, are not economists. It requires a fundamentally cross-discipline approach. At the same time, this is a big opportunity for teachers of other disciplines beyond economics to help expand learners’ perspective. I sincerely hope this gives rise to many fundamental reflections.

Biophysical economics is closely related to ecological economics, but differs in its focus on energy and entropy, compared to the latter’s focus on ecosystem services. Both are forms of strong sustainability, as opposed to environmental economics and similar approaches, which complement neoclassical economics with pricing externalities, but regard all forms of capital as interchangeable (for example, human misery or polluted water is OK, as long as sufficient economic value is created). Biophysical economics not at all related to econophysics, which applies methods (originally developed in physics) around stochastic processes and nonlinear dynamics to classical economics – to simplify market economics worldview, physics tools.

Notwithstanding its sophisticated mathematical toolbox, neoclassical economics considers itself (and is) a social science, focusing on markets and human behavior, mainly of consumers and managers. In the classical view, scarcity leads to higher prices, spurring technological innovation and substitution, allowing the economy to continue growing (forever).

Let me illustrate this disconnect with a few examples:

  • Absurd energy-related decisions: producing bioethanol (a biofuel) requires oil, and for every 100 joules (J) of oil, around 80 J of bioethanol are produced – a net energy loss of 20%, in addition to pollution, biodiversity loss, human labor, etc. In real terms, this makes absolutely no sense; with subsidies, in our distorted financial system, it might be profitable.
  • New energy sources: our growth society requires constant discovery of new energy with an EROI (energy return on invested) >11 (Fizaine and Court, 2016, “Energy expenditure, economic growth, and the minimum EROI of society”). Historically, oil had an EROI over 100, current oil sources are around 17 and falling; solar panels typically have an EROI of 4-8. There are currently no known new energy sources, broadly scalable in the coming decades, with the required EROI to maintain our growth economy.

revisiting the limits to growthSource: Hall and Day, 2009, “Revisiting the Limits to Growth After Peak Oil”

  • Decoupling economic growth from energy use is unfortunately not happening. In fact, due to the rebound effect, energy efficiency often leads to an absolute increase in energy demand. For example, our consumption of energy for lighting has increased about 100’000 times over 300 years, or about 10’000 times per capita, in spite of an extraordinary increase in efficiency. The consumption of light itself increased a billion times.

All models are oversimplified and wrong; some are however useful. Unfortunately, the neoclassical economics model has outlived its usefulness. Consequently, many economists, managers, and political leaders make dangerous decisions not understanding the physical limits, or at least the practical limits to substitutability, scaling and deployment. The reason I believe the biophysical economics model will be much more useful is that it starts with the most fundamental constraints of all life: energy and entropy.

To answer the question in the title: with the notable exception of limits to material and energy consumption growth, neoclassical economics mostly stays within the laws of physics (without necessarily paying much attention to them), sadly ignoring the biosphere it depends on. Just as bad, it completely ignores human well-being beyond the idealized, rational, by now discredited “homo oeconomicus”. As such, it is no longer serving the society it is part of.

The way forward: while we know what we need to do, we don’t quite know how to get there in the relatively short time available, in a world of soon-to-be severely constrained energy and degrading-but-still-functioning ecosystem services.

As educators, we’ll succeed if we equip our students to experiment as (social) entrepreneurs and find effective solutions to human and environmental issues. Just as importantly, our students should feel empowered to shape the reality they live in, take proactive steps towards changing the rules of the game, vote and engage in politics, and serve as role models in their communities. Some of their projects could become the seeds of future human prosperity. Helping learners move beyond neoclassical economics will be a necessary first step. A deep awareness of the biophysical reality might be a good place to start. This is our challenge for all teachers and learners, in every discipline.

Sascha_NICK Author: Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

Reflecting on 2018: complexity, messiness, progress

December is an excellent time to reflect on the year, and 2018 requires more reflection than most. Wherever one looks, 2018 was messy, from politics (consider, for very different reasons, Brexit endgame, “gilets jaunes”, or Korean denuclearization) to how we deal with major issues: picture 30’000 COP24 delegates in Katowice, surrounded by coal mines and coal dust, struggling to put in practice the good intentions of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

2018 was a year of extraordinary progress of knowledgeTo illustrate:

In February, Steven Pinker set the tone with his well-researched book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”, demonstrating the spectacular improvement of human wellbeing on 15 dimensions, including health, safety, and happiness, using data to dispel common myths.

This was followed by one of the most important scientific publications ever, the IPCC 1.5°C report. For the first time, we know exactly what to do to limit warming to avoid the worst consequences (simplified: reduce CO2 emissions by 58% by 2030, replant forests).

 

Report October 2018

Source: IPCC 1.5°C Report, October 2018

Scientists from the University of Leeds scaled these limits to a per capita level in their paper “A good life for all within planetary boundaries” (Phosphorus 890 g, Nitrogen 8.9 kg, material footprint 7.2 t). They introduced a new indicator eHANPP (embodied human appropriation of net primary production), representing biomass harvested or killed for human use, with a suggested limit of 2.62 t per person per year.

Why don’t we act as needed? Knowing exactly what to do is only a first step, but it’s not very useful if we don’t act. So, we need to ask, why are most of what we do “business as usual”? Why do we keep collectively creating outcomes most of us don’t want, like environmental destruction, broken communities, lack of trust, financial crises, millions of refugees, malnutrition, or obesity? This includes individual, company and government action, often pulling in the same (wrong) direction.

Part of the answer lies in the way our socio-economic system has evolved, with its stocks, flows, buffers, positive and negative feedback loops, rules, parameters etc. A simplified example: debt payments require growth, which requires cheap energy, meaning burning fossil fuels, leading to pollution and many other problems.

A bigger part, however, is probably linked to the way we think about the economy: as an independent system, following its own mechanistic rules (remember supply and demand curves from Econ101), separate from the environment and partly detached from society. At its core is money, as a benchmark, behavior driver, store of value, in addition to being a means of exchange.

Without this cultural baggage, an independent observer would see a still beautiful planet with a threatened biosphere; closed material flows but open energy flows powered by the sun; a dominant, individually smart but collectively stupid species obsessed with power and money; a highly complex human society and civilization as a subset of the biosphere; an economy as a subset of society and sub-subset of the biosphere, completely dependent on ecosystem services it is busy undermining.

Outlook: Looking back as far as our data will allow, with Steven Pinker’s help, suggests hope. The progress of knowledge in 2018 reinforces this hope, in spite of the rising complexity of today’s issues. The next blog will examine how we as educators can contribute.

Sascha_NICKAuthor: Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

An exotic Internship between BSL & Sumba Hospitality Foundation

In 2017, Business School Lausanne (BSL) and Sumba Hospitality Foundation (SHF) in Indonesia co-created an Internship program tailor-made for BSL students called Sustainable Development Internship.

You may wonder, what is Sumba? And what do they do? So, let us share a brief presentation of this Foundation. SHF offers a vocational training in hospitality for Sumbanese underprivileged youth. The holistic education program provides students with general courses and enables them to graduate in Culinary, Food & Beverage Service, Housekeeping or Front office. To allow the students to apply and train their skills, SHF has opened ten luxury guest pavilions, a SPA as well as a restaurant & bar to the public. Education, environmental awareness and sustainability are the three most important principles of the foundation. It is in the belief of the foundation that tourism can be a positive force in poverty-stricken regions particularly when its community is involved in the process. The goal of the foundation is to assist in providing viable employment to Sumba’s young inhabitants and break the cycle of poverty while also protecting the environment and their culture.

A large part of the campus is dedicated to the growth and maintenance of a sustainable, organic farm, created with the precepts of the burgeoning field of permaculture in mind. Produce from the land are used in the restaurant and the students are taught current farming methods with guidelines to better cultivate their land. SHF aims to raise the students’ awareness of their environment. The school is powered entirely by solar energy allowing SHF to be completely off the grid and re-uses wastewater for irrigation.

One of our BSL students on Sumba Island, Morgan Manin, is doing his internship as part of his Capstone Project (Master of International Business); I took the opportunity to ask him via email for a preliminary description of his internship, to share with our community.

BSL internship

“Reading about SHF on the website and social media made me choose it to do my internship, as my values match perfectly with the foundation’s values and I believe that I will be learning a lot during my Sustainable Development Internship. After the first week, I have identified areas where I could be helpful and learn, which I can summarize with three main tasks and responsibilities. The first one is to analyze the financials at SHF and therefore create a budget for each department meaning the actual school, the administration, the hotel, sustainability and the F&B, including an indication of Capex by departments. I will also guide the SHF finance team towards greater transparency and define cost improvement initiatives.

The second main responsibility I have is to create a Triple Bottom Line Reporting (TBL). TBL is a progressive mode of reporting and seems suited to the SHF. Sustainability centric practices are deeply entrenched in the DNA of the SHF business model. Environmental and social responsibility sit at the core of daily practices and this alongside the true cost of these operationalized initiatives must be reported. I will then gather information to facilitate understanding around the social, environmental and economic practices of SHF. I will conduct research into TBL, using these understandings and research knowledge, with the aim to create a presentation that highlights sound reasoning and justifies or rejects TBL as a means of reporting at SHF. If TBL is found to be preferred mode of reporting, the presentation will include a step-by-step guide detailing a prescribed pathway toward the implementation of TBL reporting at SHF, and then create the strategy that details how to implement TBL as the reporting mechanism for SHF. In the event that SHF management decides to implement TBL as their primary mode of reporting, I will then begin the process of implementation.

To finish, I will be the IT ‘go-to’ person for the team, helping everyone out on Excel, Word, etc.

I will also consider improved ways of using IT for communication for the SHF team.

Before I arrived here, it was planned that I would have to formulate a business plan to be shared with others wanting to duplicate the model of the SHF. I will, therefore, formulate a business plan, constructed in such a way that it has the capacity to facilitate like-minded operators wanting to duplicate the SHF model.

In addition to my primary tasks and responsibilities, I will have ad-hoc tasks set by the Executive Director, I will take care of the students during their study hours and exams as well as shepherding them at night and being in charge of sport activities for the students; also, I will monitor Community English classes for young Sumbanese children living in the neighborhood.

I strongly believe that I will learn so much through this experience, being in a different environment, living in this community, having multiple tasks matching with what I have learned at BSL, and matching the BSL values”.

Morgan, we are all proud of you, we wish you a great experience and let’s see if we can come visit you at some point on that amazing island!

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

Learning Design for Millennials Measuring learning: are final exams relics of the past?

One of my father’s recurring nightmares is sitting a geometry exam. He has told me about it several times. I also have similar nightmares, very recently I dreamed the final exams period had started and I was not ready. Even when I woke up later, I could still feel the tension in my body! The gap between my father, myself and my students spans across four generations. I believe there are certain aspects of the educational system that have been taken as given for long, we neither question them nor try to change them. Final exams are one of them. “The thought of a final exam still gives me and my father nightmares, and I have not seen many students who are fond of the idea, neither have I seen a teacher who is keen on correcting exam papers, so how come they are still around?” I thought to myself a few years ago. I had always been reflecting on the effectiveness of final exams as a means of evaluation and finally decided not to give final exams anymore in the courses I teach. “But, how do you manage to measure learning and grade the students?” you may wonder.

I will give you a very recent example. This fall, I taught a course on Systems Thinking at Business School Lausanne, where the students did not have to take a final exam. Instead, they collectively created a blog that summarized and synthesized the most important lessons they had learned from taking the course. You can find their blog here https://bit.ly/2K0KRen.

BSL students

40% of the students’ grade came from the work they did on the blog and every single one of them received the maximum grade here. I will now outline here why I was convinced they all deserved it.

They spent much more time on creating the blog than they would have spent on preparing for the final exam. I asked them to create an activity log that captured what everyone did and how much time they spent doing it. As this was a publicly shared document and everyone including myself had access to it, there was no chance of free riding. The moment someone claimed they have completed a task, but was, in fact, incomplete or was done by someone else, others would have reacted to it. Towards the end of their work, we collectively decided it would not be necessary to keep track of activities as everyone thought the contributions were equal.

A friend of mine who was part of a rowing team, once told me that a competition was approaching and her team had to prepare for it. The team met at 5 a.m. every other day for six months. “There was no way to stay in bed and ignore the alarm. My other seven team members would be there waiting for me,” she said. Perhaps, this was something every member of the team was thinking and it was difficult for all of them to get up regularly at that early hour for such a long time, but the team spirit made them get up on those mornings and put in that effort. She later said that they won the championship that year and she regarded this as one of her best experiences. A similar situation happened in the case of my young bloggers. Almost all my 17 students met outside class hours, sometimes on days, they did not have any courses at Business School. They did not want to disappoint their friends. They all managed to put in the effort. At the end of the day, some ended up doing more than others, but those who did less did much more than they would have otherwise done, had they been faced with a final exam.

Teaching is the best way to learn. I made it clear that the blog should be written for those who were completely new to systems thinking, with no technical background. Achieving this meant that learning the course content became a secondary challenge. As a guitar player, once I heard a valuable advice that if I am not able to play a part, I should try playing something that is a bit more complicated, even if I keep on failing at it. After a while when I go back to the original challenge, much to my surprise, it is not a challenge anymore. The same thing happened with my students. There are so many ways that the way they presented the content in their blog can be improved, but here the blog was not an end, it was a means, a transitional object, and a vehicle for learning the course materials.

In their journey to create the blog, they developed various soft skills, such as working in teams, writing, creating short tutorials, project management, etc. Based on my experience, I have realized that the best way of designing for learning soft skills is as a by-product and in an emergent way. Such skills are not best transferred in a direct and intentional fashion. They should emerge as a result of carrying out other tasks. In addition, my course was the first occasion for many of these students to meet. The blog they created provided an opportunity for them to get to know one another and made them closer as classmates. Their collective effort resulted in the creation of cohesion among them as a class. It made the whole class a very well-functioning, self-organizing team.

In retrospect, there was no better way I could have directed them towards learning and internalizing systems thinking concepts than having them create the blog. There were a few technicalities involved in how this happened.
– I gave them the choice between creating the blog and doing the final exam. I could clearly see that anything that exempts them from doing the final exam would be a joy for them. In other words, in their view, nothing can be worse than a final exam and avoiding final exam served as a good incentive for them to create the blog.
– I told them that we can skip the final exam only if they do a great job with the blog. I even told them that their work will be evaluated by how many readers they can attract to the blog.
– I followed their progress on a continuous basis, tracked the changes they made and met with them outside course hours to give them feedback to improve their work. I wanted them to feel that what they are doing is important to me.
– Another acceptance condition I put forth was that everyone should know all the contents of the blogs since it would not make sense if an author is not aware of the contents of what he/she has created.

My final question for all learners and learning designers: are final exams relics of the past? What other components of the current educational system can be replaced, modified or improved?

Stay tuned for the next blogs in this series and Keep on Learning!

Learning Design for Millennials is a blog series capturing Arash’s experience as a learner and an educator.

Profile Pic_ArashAuthor: Dr. Arash Golnam, BSL Professor

 

Keeping the student spirit up!

We meet with BSL professor Erdal Atukeren, who’s telling us about his journey into continuing education.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your background?

I am Turkish by birth and Swiss by marriage. I studied Economics & Business Administration (B.A.), and Econometrics (M.A.) in Turkey. Then, I went to Canada and completed a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Ottawa. I came to Switzerland in 1995 and worked at the UBS in emerging markets research and credit risk management areas. Afterwards, I joined the ETH in Zurich and worked there for more than 13 years in economic research, mostly focusing on macroeconomic modeling and forecasting and doing third-party projects. Currently, I teach at BSL and other business schools. I am research-oriented and I have published a good number of articles in academic journals. I serve as an Editorial Board member in International Journal of Sustainable Economy, Journal of International Trade and Economic Development, and Investment Management and Financial Innovations. I am also serving as Guest Editor at the Journal of Risk and Financial Management (Special Issue on Macroeconomic Forecasting) and at the Resources journal (Special Issue on Global Economic Development, Resources and Environment).

What do you teach at BSL, and how long have you been part of our faculty?

I started teaching at BSL in Fall 2010 with the MIB Economics for Business course. Afterwards, I taught BBA courses and later on Master’s courses as well. I currently teach Business Mathematics & Calculus, Business Statistics, and Sustainable Business Strategy at the BBA level. At the Master’s level, I teach the Economics for Business, Risk Management, and the Sustainable Economy courses. In the past, I taught the BBA Operations Management and the MSIF Quantitative Methods I courses as well.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I like to see when students start a course with little or no knowledge in some subjects and how it changes overtime. Sometimes, the students think they know a topic; but upon systematic thinking about the concepts, questioning how they are operationalized, and scrutinizing the assumptions they are based on, they see that it is not an easy task. If they are confused about what they think they knew before, I am happy. This is also important for being innovative and developing the thinking-outside-the-box skills. The class environment at BSL is very multicultural. I like to see how students from different cultures and backgrounds tackle an issue and also work together to generate diverse ideas.

How did you get to start up studies again? And what did it bring you?

I live in Zurich. I come to the BSL by train for my classes. Depending on the term, I travel a lot between Zurich and Renens. I read a lot on my trips but I was thinking about using my time more productively and do my readings on a more systematic basis. Four years ago, with these thoughts in mind, I enrolled in a distance education program in Sociology offered by Anadolu University in Turkey. Anadolu University has a Western European Office in Köln – Germany, which coordinates their distance education programs offered in Europe. I’ve now graduated with a B.A in Sociology. Sociology provides a broader perspective into the issues we are facing today. It gives a more holistic perspective – going beyond the narrow lenses of other disciplines.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to a graduating student?

Congratulations! Keep learning, keep the student spirit up. We are always students.

 

 

Innovation at BSL: GAME OVER? – Transforming the lives of the elderly

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 3 BSL students: Alexander Svetlitskiy, Amin Riaziat, Andrea Sacco, Deem Almuhaidib, Dmytro Kovtoniuk, Luis Miguel Becerra, Valentina Korobeynikova, Victor Gladskoy

Today, we are neglecting our elderly more and more as a society. Moreover, current retirement homes are not responding to the basic human communication needs of the elderly. There is also a need to incentivize the elderly to remain healthy as long as possible in both mind and body.

As Group 3 of 8 student groups overall during the Spring Gap Frame Week, we selected the “Quality of life” area of focus on Day 1 of the Gap Frame Week so that we could design a useful solution for the future. Our research on Day 2 provided us with significant insights into the “pain” of our stakeholders. By addressing the pain points identified, we felt we could provide an additional choice for the elderly to spend time in retirement, using a mobile application and developing a specialized community center for the elderly. During the rest of the week, we had a challenging time developing an early prototype of our concept, but it was a lot of fun at the same time. Click HERE to view our fun team video so that you can get a sense our positive collaborative spirit!

Our research revealed that many elderly people are suffering from loneliness. In many cases, the elderly have limited communications with other human beings and over time, they may engage in increasingly limited activities. Often, the highlight of an elderly person’s day is simply reading the newspaper. Retirement for many represents a “long wait for the inevitable”. We want to change all that by introducing an easy to use application, supported on all mobile platforms, called “Game Over?”. Our innovation aim is to create a tailor-made application that is extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate. The app would provide several functions – newspaper, TV, a net-working and communication platform, games, activity schedules and plans, with related activity sign-up sheets. Our idea is to provide an easy to use platform where the elderly can engage in a favorite activity such as reading the newspaper but also try other activities. For example, on the Game Over? App, the elderly will be able to play games especially designed to be beneficial to the health of the elderly. Playing video games increases brain stimulation, reduces arthritis, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, improves memory and attention, slows down the aging process, improves hand-eye coordination and helps with depression. To appeal to the target group, the design and interface of the App games will appeal specifically to the elderly.

We also discussed including a concept of related Game Over? community centers.  The idea is to provide a room for elderly citizens to enjoy gaming experiences and for those not yet initiated to gaming, provide an introduction class to new technology. Exploring our ideas further, we felt that the “Game Over?” community center could cover other aspects of elderly well-being. It could also have a meditation room and garden to hold meditation and or light yoga sessions with a meditation instructor. This would help elderly citizens learn the art of relaxation and good breathing techniques but also help retain a certain level of physical fitness. We also had the idea of equipping the community center with an emergency treatment room. Another idea was to provide a system whereby the elderly will be able to tutor young students for a profit, depending on their skills, potentially with the profit being used for our platform subscriptions. As we discussed and worked on our prototype, plenty of new ideas came up.

With the target market of elderly (aged 65+), our group felt that the App and linked community/activity center will not only make the lives of the elderly more meaningful but it will change and improve quality of life.

With Game Over?, we are reintroducing a selection of elements that complement and enhance quality of life. In our view, Game Over?, if developed fully,  has the potential to create a new found purpose in life for isolated populations of the elderly in Switzerland and outside. During the next GFW, we will be developing this prototype further, into as feasible a start-up idea as possible in order to attract the attention of potential (albeit hypothetical – for now) investors. Watch this space.