‘We need to offer a higher impact learning environment’

A sense of doom and gloom about the digital transformation? Not for Marion Debruyne, Dean of Vlerick Business School. ‘We also need to focus on the new opportunities which are available today and give people the tools they need to deal with the changing world.’

‘Perhaps I'm an eternal optimist, but I am mainly interested in the extra opportunities provided by the digital transformation. This certainly applies to our own sector too,’ begins Marion Debruyne, Dean of Vlerick Business School. ‘We are coming from a model in which the transfer of knowledge was mainly restricted to a physical location, which everyone actually needed to attend. There was almost no scope for more flexible models and the emphasis perhaps lay too often on ‘teaching’ rather than ‘learning’. Today, we have the opportunity to offer learning paths which are extremely flexible in terms of location and timing – to suit our ‘consumer’, if you will – and which we can customise to a far greater extent.’


‘In addition, the actual transfer of knowledge can now take place digitally, freeing up time and scope for interactive moments which have an extremely high impact. These can focus on applying the knowledge which has been acquired and sharing experiences,’ adds Debruyne.

Does that mean it's all sunshine and roses for an institution like Vlerick? Despite the range of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) or even a highly customised online range of programmes and courses? ‘This huge online range is often so broad or so lacking in customisation that it doesn't really compete with us to any great extent. When it comes to traditional business education, our reputation and brand already provide a solid guarantee of quality. And in my opinion, this will certainly not change in the new digital environment.’

‘This doesn't mean that we won't be taking this kind of disruption into account in the longer term: as a digital evangelist, I know all too well that it's already too late once you really start to feel the impact. We must therefore proactively seek out new models and applications which arise from this digital transformation, so we can offer a higher impact learning environment ourselves. For example, we are already collaborating with the Belgian platform Showpad which supplies all our course material online on iPads.’

‘Disruption certainly doesn't mean that everyone needs to reinvent the wheel themselves,’ says Debruyne. ‘Above all, you need to learn how to think and collaborate in a broader ecosystem. In the lessons, for example, we are already making frequent use of apps which allow students to test their knowledge online right away. The lessons focus far more on active learning and the exchange of experiences. Programmes in webinar form have also become very common these days. Many of the custom programmes which we develop for companies are almost entirely digital now. The Take The Lead programme is a good example of this.’

Strategic thinking

Disruption is everywhere these days, but Debruyne thinks that this actually increases the need for programmes which help people and companies to see the wood for the trees. ‘Everyone is gradually becoming convinced that the world and our working environment are changing at lightning speed. I therefore see it as our primary mission to advance the strategic thinking in this area and at the same time to arm people individually against the impact of this disruption.’

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