Darden | Mr. Military Communications Officer
GRE Not taken yet, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. Fill In The Gaps
GRE 330, GPA 3.21
INSEAD | Mr. Behavioral Changes
GRE 336, GPA 5.8/10
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Texas Recruiter
GMAT 770, GPA 3.04
USC Marshall | Mr. Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Qualcomm Quality
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
HEC Paris | Mr. Introverted Dancer
GMAT 720, GPA 4.0
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. Navy Vet
GRE 310, GPA 2.6
Kellogg | Ms. Retail To Technology
GMAT 670, GPA 3.8
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Entertainment Agency
GMAT 750, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Quant
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
Ross | Mr. Top 25 Hopeful
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Well-Traveled Nonprofit Star
GRE 322, GPA 3.0
Yale | Mr. Gay Social Scientist
GMAT 740, GPA 2.75 undergrad, 3.8 in MS
Wharton | Mr. MBA When Ready
GMAT 700 (expected), GPA 3.3
London Business School | Mr. Low Undergrad GPA
GMAT 760, GPA 65/100 (1.0)
Harvard | Mr. Aspiring FinTech Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.9
Chicago Booth | Ms. Hotel Real Estate
GMAT 730, GPA 3.75
Chicago Booth | Mr. EduTech
GRE 337, GPA 3.9
Columbia | Mr. Infra-Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.68
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Vigor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Comeback Kid
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
London Business School | Mr. Family Investment Fund
GMAT 790, GPA 3.0
HEC Paris | Ms. Freelancer
GMAT 710, GPA 5.3
MIT Sloan | Mr. Sans-Vertebrae
GMAT 730, GPA 3.78
INSEAD | Mr. Business Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0

Stanford’s Pandemic Playbook: How The Scramble Online Is Working For MBAs

Senior Associate Dean Sarah Soule teaches a course via Zoom

Senior Associate Dean Sarah Soule teaches a course via Zoom. Photo by Tricia Seibold, GSB


In her own classes on organizational and social movements, Soule asked students to draft their final papers, exchange them with another classmate for a review, and then prepare five slides in a Google-shared deck on their partner’s paper. “They are crowdsourcing more ideas for the papers,” adds Soule. “These kids took it so incredibly seriously. I am humbled by how great they are. It turned out to be a real lemonade story.”

In the school’s famous “touchy-feely” course, students provided feedback to each other via Zoom. “They didn’t notice the difference,” says Soule. “That has always been done in person, though I don’t know what it will look like in the spring quarter.”

Several GSB profs were pleased with the initial result.  “Students realized the gravity of the difficult situation and responded gracefully by being even more engaged,” says Amit Seru, a finance professor at Stanford. “They were also creative in how they participated which kept their peers as well as me in a lighter mood throughout. As a faculty, it makes the job easy when students take the big picture perspective on the situation.”


Stefanos Zenios, a professor of entrepreneurship, who had to switch to virtual pitches for the school’s iconic Startup Garage course, was surprised at how it went. virtual pitches went through Zoom. “The digital format worked surprisingly well and the sessions went smoothly,” says Zenios. “We all used Zoom and did not encounter any technical issues, apart from the first minute of participants getting accustomed to the tool and checking their microphone and sound quality.

“Students were able to go through their presentation slides via screen sharing, and that went smoothly. Some faculty even adjusted their feedback (which normally includes feedback on their in-person presentation style) to include feedback on how to present in the online format, which is certainly a useful skill to have now, but will be useful in future teleconferencing situations as well.”

Soule says the transition for her was easy, in part because she has been teaching a couple of LEAD courses and is comfortable in an online environment. “I had to think about it for 24 hours, says Soule who did her class from her office instead of a classroom.  Stanford had to cancel a campus networking event for LEAD participants and alumni that would have brought more than 400 people to campus. Instead, the school made it virtual. “It was a huge bummer to cancel it,” says Soule. “But all the faces were on Zoom and we toasted them with champagne.”


The experience led the faculty to learn features of Zoom that many didn’t even know existed, from breakout rooms and the chatbox to the raise-your-hand feature which allows a student to come on camera and speak to the entire class. “When I am lecturing in Zoom it is very handy to have people asking questions on the chat feature and then pausing to go through the questions which have come up during the lecture,” she says. “You can put students into rooms in groups of five and then bring them back to the full classroom and that has been terrific. I am a huge fan of Zoom and the more I use it the more I love it.”

Students, who have been given the option of taking courses on a pass/fail basis,  agree. “The faculty are using features of Zoom I didn’t even know existed,” says Sinisterra-Woods. In a class taught by Rob Urstein, a lecturer who teaches courses on innovation in higher education,  she notes that he found a way to do breakouts of three to four students. “He was able to pop into our virtual breakout rooms to see how everyone was doing. I was really impressed by the faculty’s commitment to give us a great last class.”

So far, students find themselves missing some of the small pleasures of social life. “I love going into the gym and I never realized how much I like the energy of other people working out at the same time,” says Sinisterra-Woods. “But it is really quiet. Many second-year MBAs don’t live on campus so there is probably a decision daily on do I come to campus or not.”


“Most of my social interactions happen outside of class,” adds Agarwal. “In class, you don’t get to chat a lot and connect. What has been reduced is the random interactions. I tried taking some of my classes from my room but it was so beautiful outside I took my classes outside on the grass and on a bench.”

While the remote class experience has been jarring for some students, the ban on travel has been equally disruptive. Student trips to Israel and South American were canceled. “A lot of students would have traveled to different places and that loss in social interaction is disheartening,” says Agarwal. “So we are thinking of doing things locally like driving to Yosemite and other road trips.”

Doing a couple of weeks online, of course, is not the same as delivering an entire quarter or more online. “What we do really well is immersion and high touch engagement,” says Soule. “There are a lot of faculty who believe they can’t recreate what they do in class. I hope they will realize this is a huge opportunity for education and learning. They may still come back to the view that this isn’t the same as classroom teaching but they will come to realize it’s pretty close.”

Meantime, Soule and her faculty colleagues are actively engaged in trying to make the best of the upcoming spring quarter. Dean Levin is planning a virtual student town hall during the week of March 23rd when MBAs receive course offerings and registration details for the quarter. “We are embarking on a new phase,” wrote Levin in his last message to the community three days ago on March 15th. “Let’s keep in mind, as events unfold, that we are in a relatively privileged position to weather the storm. The next weeks will be a period of necessary innovation. In a way, it is extraordinary for an entire faculty to rethink their teaching simultaneously, and so rapidly. Let’s try to celebrate the successes, be patient with the failures, and learn together. If anyone is in a position to be innovative in this way, it’s us.”


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.