The Secrets Of Kellogg’s Hybrid Learning Success

Kellogg photo


Kellogg MBA Class of 2022 students were not just thrown into the deep end this fall. As in every new class, they also had the opportunity to attend the Complete Immersion in Management, an annual orientation that was completely reimagined to accommodate the school’s hybrid approach.

The response to the CIM — like the response to the summer courses in the 1Y and MMM — was overwhelmingly positive, says Minya Nance, director of strategic student experience. In fact, she says, some CIM innovations have become part of Kellogg’s fall programming.

“The summer was really awesome,” Nance tells P&Q of the August 28 to September 2 event. “I felt that it really allowed some of the values that we always talk about at Kellogg to really come to life in very quick ways, but also in very real ways, both in terms of how we’re performing as an organization, but also the lessons that we’re allowing our students to experience.

“A lot of what we do, almost everything that we do, is always in partnership with students. And so it was just really great to walk through this with them, this CIM that really joined them in and gave them some agency over their experience.”

Minya Nance. Kellogg photo


Nance, who is in her seventh year at Kellogg, had one overarching concern prior to CIM: How do you engage virtual participants in a hybrid environment? How do you reimagine an experience to make sure that wherever a student is in the world, they are still getting an immersion into the Kellogg culture? She had two main goals for the CIM orientation: Create a sense of belonging no matter the student’s physical location and time zone, and prepare students by giving them the tools they need to start their Kellogg journey.

“We tried this summer to make sure that we did those both in terms of the programming — making sure we’re designing programming that feels accessible and that no matter where you are, you feel like you’re actually a part of the programming,” she says, citing Kellogg Professor Leigh Thompson’s research on boosting creativity and comfort in virtual meetings. “I was really excited about some of the things that we implemented, and we definitely got better as the summer went along in how to do that and how to train our staff, but also with the programming.”

One of her team’s innovations: converting two of the CIM’s most popular activities to exclusively virtual “to make sure that it leveled the playing field.” That helped non-native English speakers immensely. “One of the challenges of hybrid is that everybody, all the speakers, are masked. And so there are students that are in other countries where English is not necessarily their first language, and they rely on seeing mouths move. So we learned really quickly that in the completely virtual environment, everybody can take their masks off and you can connect more. And then the other thing that we did was we actually added closed captioning to make sure that everybody could be able to track, especially for those opening ceremonies where everybody is masked and you to do have people in person.”

The other big innovation: the introduction of pods of seven to eight students who would gather to meet in person. Intentionally diverse, the pods helped facilitate greater connection through empathy exercises and other activities, Nance says. Students returned to their pods through the fall pre-term and will continue to do so co-curricularly, she says.

Pods were introduced “because of all the limitations around how many people can be in one space at a time in Illinois, you can’t have more than 50, and we’re even more rigorous with our safety protocols on the college campus,” Nance says. “So we thought, ‘Well, how do you make connections with people where you can’t all be in the same room together?’ So all of our students are assigned a section or a cohort that they’re a part of, but those are over 50 people per section, so we actually broke those sections into smaller sections that we call pods. And we started the pods in CIM where we went and we did a lot of exercises that really helped us strip away those barriers.

“That was among some of the most popular activities that students had the opportunity to do. They really appreciated that they could bring their whole selves into that conversation and share components about their life, but still within a safe environment. It was really, really successful.”


Senior Associate Dean of Curriculum and Teaching Mike Mazzeo says Kellogg’s evolution is not complete. There remains a big vacuum in the MBA experience, one that no school has yet figured out: How to spend more time together.

“In my experience, that’s the thing that they have been craving that we are continuing to develop,” he says. “And I think that us being in the classroom as much as we will be going forward and have been, is a vital part of that. Because it’s the anchor, it’s the breathing of this institution — the education part. But I think that — just like all of us have been craving the contact of other humans — this is an especially important need for the special species of MBA students, and even more for Kellogg MBA students. And so I think we’re prioritizing that and trying to continue to iterate improvements to that.”

One thing is certain: Students will be partners in creating whatever system emerges. And whatever pivots are necessary after that.

“Traditionally, MBA students, when they’re new students and when they come into the classroom, they have the expectation of something that is super polished, that we’ve done a thousand times,” Mazzeo says. “But no one has that expectation this time. We are in this together. We are partners with the students in this development in real time.”


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