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Interactive and online

The MBA International Management Part-Time inaugurates its virtual meeting place

By Sven Rottner

Video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings, group work in chatrooms, and student fairs on screen instead of in person - for institutions of higher education, the pandemic leaves no alternative but to move online. Yet the unmistakable "Spirit" of ESB Business School continues in this new format. In this era of social distancing, the MBA International Management Part-Time programme introduces its Topia platform - a way to bring together students from different regions and even across national boundaries.

New paths in the virtual world

Unlike the usual video conferencing tools, Topia is primarily a virtual meeting place. The focus is on mutual exchange. In Topia, students are on the move with little avatars and can get in touch with people in virtual close proximity, as if in real life. Although they can see the avatars of other users at all times, they can only interact with them when they approach them and thus come within virtual sight and hearing distance.

This interactive component makes Topia a bit more realistic than other conferencing tools. Students are given a special incentive to actively participate instead of passively listening to a lecture on the screen. Manuele Pilloni, an MBA International Management Part-Time programme coordinator, was instrumental in setting up the platform at ESB Business School. He sees clear advantages. “Topia focuses on interactive student involvement. We can get new students involved more easily via the platform, while offering the higher semesters a welcome change from their online studies, which can get monotonous,” he says.

Unlocking new potential

In addition to the conversation function, Topia offers a wealth of other interactive options. Users can pass the time during breaks by playing games or using other external services. The platform also makes it easy to play videos accessible to all users - at set times or on a continuous loop. This gives users a great deal of flexibility as to when they access which information. At ESB Business School, the MBA International Management Part-Time programme has already used the meeting platform twice. At the welcoming event on March 12, 2021, the programme team made it easier for the new cohort of students to get into the online semester. The platform was also used at the graduation ceremony on March 27. And the programme also said goodbye to its graduates in a relaxed atmosphere. In this way, the graduates experienced this new innovative tool at ESB Business School at the point of completing their studies.

The new format was well received by participants at both events. Heike Trost, another programme coordinator for the MBA International Management Part-Time, sees even more potential in the platform. “The inhibition threshold for communicating with each other is lower with Topia than with other tools. We should use this opportunity to not leave students alone in front of the screen at other events,” she says.