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AKSOB’s EMBA Online Experience: Sharing Thoughts

Faculty, students and guest speakers reflect on their EMBA distance learning experiences.

By Chirine El-Mchantaf

Proving once again its commitment to expose students to the best practices in bridging the theory-practice gap, LAU’s Executive MBA programat the Adnan Kassar School of Business (AKSOB)was quick to shift its teaching online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Reflecting on their virtual experience, faculty, students and guest speakers weigh in on the challenges and ways of applying online learning and on the future of education. 

For AKSOB’s faculty, the online experience was a testament to the school’s innovative approach in experiential teaching and learning.

“I was a bit worried at first about lecturing online, wondering if I would be able to keep the group focused for consecutive hours,” said alumnus and member of the Board of Trustees Fouad Zmokhol (BS ‘96, MBA ‘99). “The result, however, exceeded my expectations; we had very productive discussions and exchange of opinions.” 

The contribution of international speakers was a turning point in the experience. 

“Involving professionals from all over the world gave a lot of weight to class discussions, and the students were highly motivated by the speakers’ international experiences and exposure”, Dr. Zmokhol added. 

To make the courses more innovative, poll questions and breakout rooms were adopted to “encourage reticent personalities to be more actively involved,” explained Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management Rania El-Haddad. 

On the future of eLearning, opinions varied. 

Dr. Said Ladki, chair of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department, believed that eLearning was here to stay. “Universities and government bodies should invest in eLearning technologies,” he said. “Likewise, students should make the most out of it to advance in their careers.”

For Dr. Armache, director of the EMBA program, eLearning is not a substitute for traditional education, but rather complements it. 

“With the advancement of technology and the unforeseen events that could hit the world at any time, eLearning has become a vital method for seeking knowledge in a very practical and effective matter,” he said.  

The use of virtual reality or even augmented reality is the future of eLearning, said Dr. Zahy Ramadan, assistant professor of marketing as “these tools would greatly enhance online teaching and learning.”

Although the highlights of the experience differed for each student, it was certainly rewarding for them all.

“The online experience has facilitated the learning curve and saved me a lot of time especially that I was working full time during the lockdown,” said EMBA student Hassib Arab, currently senior marketing manager at a leading medical instruments manufacturer in Africa, the East Mediterranean and the Gulf.

For Finance Manager and fellow student Denise El Nawwar, the experience was the best alternative to the traditional on-campus classes. “The professors’ dedication to keep delivering high-level courses made the experience an interesting, rewarding and enriching one,” she said. “We were all able to make the best out if it without jeopardizing the quality of the intended result.”

As Council Chair of the Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MOC) network at Harvard Business School, Dr. Pablo Collazo was thrilled to join assistant professor of management and official affiliate with MOC network, Dr. Amine Abi Aad’s executive online course. 

“I was glad to contribute to Amine’s course,” said Dr. Collazzo, who is currently a visiting professor of strategy and innovation at Vienna University of Economics. “My session with LAU’s EMBA students was very engaging, allowing us to collectively reflect on the challenges and opportunities the country is facing to increase productivity and unlock further social and economic progress.” 

“I encourage them to take advantage of technology to connect with peers across geographies and learn from each other, just as we did in our virtual session,” he added.  

Dr. Armache summed up the experience. “The interaction among our executive students, the presence of international guest speakers, the dedication of our faculty and students, and the sharing of a world of knowledge from the comfort of your home made it unforgettable,” he said. “I am very proud of our university, our EMBA team, and our great students. They have proven time and time again that the sky is the limit to what they can achieve.”