The coronavirus outbreak has posed an unprecedented challenge to universities and business schools around the world, forcing them to adapt their teaching and admission practices while protecting the health of their members.

In the face of uncertainty, many schools have sought to inspire their respective communities with courage, urging them to stick together, virtually. “This is a generation-defining moment,” said Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania (US). “And like every such moment that has gone before, it is not only the crisis itself but also how we respond that matters most.

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Improving and helping out

Most business schools have responded by replacing face-to-face lessons with online classes using a wide variety of online platforms. MIP Politecnico di Milano Business School (Italy), for instance, is using its AI platform, Flexa, originally developed as an online career coach for alumni, to distribute course teaching material to students. Duke University (US) uses Coursera, while the Yale School of Management (US) has opted for Zoom and Canvas.

Read: 6 B-schools Launch a Digital Learning Platform

In fact, schools that have invested time and energy in expanding their online offering are now finding it much easier to adapt to the unforeseen circumstances. IE Business School (Spain), where all classes and exams occur remotely, now feels confident that the crisis will not disrupt its operations. “We were fortunate. Since we have been doing online programmes for 20 years we were prepared,” Gonzalo Garland, vice-president of external relations at IE, told the Financial Times.

While some schools are spotting an opportunity to improve their online offering, others are seeing a chance to help others. Project GreenCross, an initiative by former INSEAD (France) students, was initially dedicated to collecting medical supplies and helping those in need in China. The initiative has recently shifted its focus beyond China. INSEAD and the Project GreenCross team have created a closed Facebook group for the business school’s community where people can share problems and seek help. Educating social responsibility and supporting social entrepreneurship has been part of the business school’s agenda for a while.

A flexible application process

As test centres began to close, first in China and later around the world, there were concerns that students would not be able to submit their applications on time. Many schools, however, responded by extending application deadlines and allowing aspirants to apply without submitting test scores immediately.

London Business School (LBS) announced that it will accept applications without GMAT, GRE and English scores if applicants are unable to take the test and don’t already have scores. LBS expects successful applicants to take the test later when restrictions cease and advises aspirants to carry on with their preparations and training. It is also possible to take the test upon arrival in the UK or receive a waiver, depending on the timing of the test centre closures. INSEAD has also extended some admission deadlines and started considering applications without a standardised test score, Poets&Quants reported. The school has also shown readiness to conduct admission interviews online instead of face to face.

Maintaining a high standard

Teaching may have gone virtual, but many business schools have pointed out that remote instruction and exams does not mean less work and dedication. NYU Stern School of Business (US) reminded students that online classes have the same goals as face-to-face classes. IE stressed that its online instruction has the same level of rigour and academic requirements as the face-to face experience.

The sudden migration online has certainly left many students wondering if they would be able to adjust to working remotely. This is why it is important for them to establish a routine that will help them increase their effectiveness and preserve their mental health.

Here are five simple rules that will help in this respect.

Get dressed

It may be tempting to work in pyjamas, but that would be a mistake. By getting dressed as you would for a lecture, you prepare your mind and body to start work. This does not mean that you should put on a suit and tie every day! A T-shirt and jeans will do in most cases.

Set hours of work

It is important to stick to a schedule when studying remotely. It will also help if you have a specific area in your home designated for work and study. At the end of a day, switch off your computer and leave the space, as you would after your lectures at business school.  

Get out (if possible)

It is also vital to get out of your home at least once a day, subject to authorisation. You can go for a walk, just to take a breath of fresh air and clear your head. This will do wonders for your mental health.

Use your phone

If you are alone at home you could spend a whole day without speaking to anyone. Hopefully your school organises online discussions on a regular basis. Still, make sure you call your relatives and friends and have a real conversation once in a while.  

Take regular breaks

You will be much more effective working and studying at home if you take regular breaks rather than spending hours glued to the screen. Take regular breaks and move around. You can use the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method which breaks down work into intervals of 25 minutes, separated by five-minute breaks.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is a massive scientific and societal challenge. While business schools cannot escape the crisis, they are demonstrating that they possess the know-how and courage to adapt to this new reality.