The spread of Covid-19 has underscored the challenges facing some sectors, including education. In just three days in March 2020, ESADE (Spain) rapidly responded to the crisis, migrating the classes of 4,200 students to an e-learning format and achieving a high participation rate, namely, 94% student attendance and follow-up. Today, the institution has launched an innovative methodology for administering online exams with the necessary academic supervision to optimise students’ testing experience in digital education.

The evaluation model has been one of the main concerns in the university world. At ESADE, teaching innovation is a strategic pillar, which, coupled with the school’s prestige, enabled a very agile roll-out of a specific methodology for digital exams. “Our students can breathe easy. We have already successfully evaluated more than 1,000 students,” explained Koldo Echebarria, Director General of ESADE. “The educational experience is the key factor setting us apart; that is true in the digital arena, as well,” he added.

Online presentations and evaluations

At ESADE, innovation in educational methodology also applies to the evaluations of its academic programmes. In this regard, 400 students from the subject Corporate Strategy from the school’s Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) and Double Degree (BBA + Law) programmes have been successfully evaluated. To accomplish this, five different exams were drawn up and randomly assigned to the participants through the Moodle platform, indicating a time for their completion.

According to Alfred Vernis, an associate professor in the Department of Strategy and General Management and the subject teacher, “Teachers are going back to basics: making sure students learn with us. The digital methodology poses a twofold challenge: first, we need to be able to move to the online world, keeping students motivated and retaining their attention; and, second, it forces us to rethink how we teach, in order to do better in face-to-face contexts.

Some 180 first-year students from the Full-Time MBA programme were also pioneers, sitting an online exam individually, using the Moodle tool and the Zoom platform, with video cameras to ensure proper supervision. Ivanka Visnijc, an associate professor in the Department of Operations, Innovation and Data Sciences at ESADE and director of the ESADE Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Management, explained, “Zoom and the requirement to enable your camera allowed us to ensure random supervision of all students, whilst also establishing a two-way communication channel between students, the professor and the staff remotely supervising the exam.

Additionally, due to the lock-down at the time, students have given online presentations of their final projects for some subjects, such as the Full-Time MBA subject Business Analytics.

In accordance with ESADE’s Student First methodology, the 340 third-year BBA students enrolled on the subject Financial Strategy were assigned a project. The decision has been quite satisfactory, both for student learning and as an evaluation mechanism for the teacher. “For the project, students had to identify and analyse the concepts we saw in class at real companies, based on the market information that we gave them. They also had the option of sitting an oral exam to raise their mark. This evaluation format had an additional positive impact insofar as it allowed students to strengthen their sense of connection and belonging to a group, helping them cope with the forced isolation,” explained Carmen Ansotegui, a professor in the Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting at ESADE and the leader of the initiative.

As for Executive Education, 337 students from face-to-face programmes are now following their classes in the various online formats and online evaluations are being used. Students on the Executive Master in Finance programme, for instance, sat a three-hour exam using the ProctorU platform.  

Specific e-learning methodology

ESADE has managed to create the largest portfolio of 100% online programmes, establishing itself as the Spanish-speaking market leader in online and blended education amongst the world’s top universities and business schools. The institution is committed to opening new, more flexible, personalised and effective learning paths with its in/on Executive Education programmes, which span a wide range of subjects, from Legal Tech or eSports to Artificial Intelligence in Business.

According to David Dinwoodie, Director of ESADE Executive Education, “The in/on project has sparked a revolution in ESADE’s teaching methodology, not only by boosting the institution’s digital capabilities, but also by enabling us to go even further in the degree of student achievement and learning. This has happened with online subjects, but also in hybrid formats, and we have converted our content for another dimension, achieving superior learning outcomes for students.