After MBA students’ dissatisfaction with the amount of in-person and hybrid instruction planned for this spring at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management led to a week-long delay to the start of class bidding, Kellogg on Thursday (February 25) announced an increase in the amount of time students will have access to the school’s main campus building. Nearly 30% of classes will now be taught in the Global Hub, whether entirely in-person or by a live professor to a mix of in-person and remotely learning students.
The shift comes less than two weeks after the school delayed the start of spring class bidding after student complaints over plans to have just 16% of spring classes in the one- and two-year MBA programs involve an in-person or hybrid component. Launching a petition that garnered hundreds of signatures, MBA students rejected the school’s coronavirus protocols as too rigid, saying they were misled through the winter about the amount of virtual MBA classes they could expect when spring quarter begins at the end of March, particularly since so few Covid-19 cases have been discovered on campus. Students who asked for anonymity leaked communications with the administration to Poets&Quants, prompting the school to issue a lengthy defense of its Covid protocols.
“We recognize that this has been a tough year for our students — especially those graduating in a few short months,” Sunil Chopra, deputy dean, said in a statement to P&Q on February 12. “Few could have anticipated that we would still be operating in a Covid-19 environment nearly a year later. Through this period, our students have been great partners in shaping a distinctive Kellogg experience, providing candid feedback and real solutions as we work together to address disruption.”
17.2% OF KELLOGG MBA CLASSES WILL BE IN-PERSON, 12.4% HYBRID
Chopra reiterated the theme of partnership in a new statement to P&Q on February 25, writing that “following ongoing discussions and partnership between Kellogg leadership, faculty, and students,” the school’s leadership has decided to offer 17.2% of classes in-person, where all students and the professor are physically in the classroom together 100% of the time; 12.4% hybrid, where a professor teaches in-person to a group of students, with an additional group learning live remotely; 19.3% “Remote Plus In-Person,” where students participate in live classes entirely remotely with an optional opportunity for in-person, small group experiences with faculty; and 21.4% “Students Together,” also known as Zoom together, where a group of students has the opportunity to attend a remote class together in the Global Hub, with the professor teaching remotely. Nearly 30% of classes will be fully remote courses, Chopra says.
“In addition,” he adds, “we plan to optimize in-person opportunities with Kellogg’s seat swapping app, which allows us to maximize our ability to fill all available in-person class seats (within social distancing restrictions). For instance, some students are registered for hybrid courses but are unable to use their in-person seat on a given day — due to feeling under the weather or a potential Covid-19 exposure, for example. Those students can give up their seat on the app, and it can be claimed by another student who is registered for the class but whose in-person session was happening on a different day. The app allows students who prefer the in-person experience to attend class at the Global Hub more frequently.”
The seat-swapping app is one way the school is learning and adapting to the changing circumstances of the pandemic, now fully a year old. Among the other lessons the school has learned, Chopra said in his previous statement, were that certain courses or disciplines are better suited to particular modalities. “For example, masks can limit the learning experience in negotiations and communications courses because students and professors are not able to see facial expressions and nonverbal cues. Therefore, many of those particular courses are offered in a fully remote environment so that everyone can be unmasked for the entire time.”
He added that the modality known as Remote Plus In-Person emerged from the innovations of a pair of Kellogg professors: Carter Cast and Brooke Vuckovic, each of whom “piloted a course option that enabled students to come to the Global Hub in-person to have intimate, student-driven discussions about class-related topics with the professor, in addition to attending remote classes. This innovation was extremely popular and led us to expand it to more Spring courses with Remote Plus In-Person.”
‘WE RECOGNIZE THAT THIS HAS BEEN A CHALLENGING YEAR FOR OUR STUDENTS’
Chopra, who is also Kellogg’s IBM professor of operations management and information systems, says in his new statement that the school understands the difficult circumstances MBA students face.
“Throughout the past year, we have been deeply committed to providing our students with the best possible academic experience during the pandemic,” he says. “This is a complex challenge, as there are a range of preferences and priorities among our student population. We also have the benefit of faculty insight and student input, gained from our experiences since the Summer Quarter, that some courses and disciplines are best delivered in a particular modality. Hybrid co-curricular programming has been a strong focus as well.”
And there are signs of improvement, he says.
“With the recent expansion of gathering sizes to 50 people in Cook County of Illinois, we are looking forward to convening co-curricular hybrid events with in-person experiences at the Global Hub in addition to the continued opportunity for remote participation,” Chopra says. “We are partnering with student clubs to explore in-person components to some of Kellogg’s signature spring events, and we are hosting more casual co-curricular events like trivia and movie nights.
“We recognize that this has been a challenging year for our students. Through this period of disruption, they have been strong partners — providing feedback, sharing ideas and shaping their own experience. We will continue to lean into this partnership in the weeks to come.”