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Business School Professors Recommend Activities to Pass the Time in the Pandemic

online learning innovative courses

During the coronavirus pandemic and its periodic lockdowns, people are trying to pass the time and continue their education.

Online education has gone mainstream, classes are meeting on Zoom, and professors and students are communicating via discussion forums, email, and videoconference.

Soon, summer vacation will be upon us, and a few professors from top business schools want to help you enhance your education even if you can’t get to a campus or library. These professors shared their recommendations with QS, to make social distancing a little more bearable, not to mention productive:

Prepare for the aftermath

The world and the global economy will be transformed when this pandemic is over. Already the changes are overwhelming, so reading material that can help you deal with whatever comes next could be helpful. Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management and founder of the MIT Leadership Center at the MIT Sloan School of Management, suggests the following titles:

Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Press, 2009)

“This book offers a systematic way for people to choose an improvement goal and determine how to achieve it,” says Ancona. “Their change process is unique in that it takes into account the assumptions and cognitions that get activated to thwart change efforts—and a way to deal with them. This book includes a step-by-step guide to personal change that can be useful to MBAs with time to further develop as leaders, managers, parents, and people.”

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, by Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2015)

“Simple Rules provides guidance, and many examples, of how organizations can replace complex, onerous rules, and regulations with simple rules that direct, align, and shorten decision making and innovation cycles,” says Ancona. “One activity for MBA’s at this time would be to read the book and come up with ways that organizations might employ this strategy to come away from this moment better able to cope with a new landscape.”

How to Keep Employee Morale Up While Working From Home

Just think

Being home provides a chance to reflect and spend some time inside your own brain, as a result, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on your creativity. Hal Gregersen, director of the MIT Leadership Center, recommends:

Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull (co-founder of Pixar and former president of Pixar and Disney Animation) with Amy Wallace (Random House, 2014)

“Few leaders have built a sustainably creative culture like Ed Catmull did at Pixar, then Disney Animation. Even fewer leaders can explain how they did what they did so others could do the same,” says Gregersen. “Indeed, Catmull’s book is a blueprint for anyone engaged in creative work and who cares about creating the conditions for others to do the same. It’s one of the best books ever – I’ve read and re-read it multiple times – on the topic of creativity and innovation. In short, it’s required reading for any manager in any organization who cares about building a better future.”

Question Burst: Brainstorm Questions Create Better Solutions 

To help people get out of a rut, Gregersen recommends setting a timer for four minutes and solely ask questions about whatever challenge your organization is facing. Don’t answer the questions or explain why you’re asking the questions (to yourself or others). Try to get 20 questions. You can do this alone, but it works even better with others. “Take turns sharing your challenge and building a better relationship with someone else,” he says. “Eighty-five percent of the time you’ll make progress on the challenge at work or at home.”

How to Stay Engaged While Studying Online

Get educated

With the possibility of a recession or even depression, many people are seeking ways to get an edge on the job competition. One way to boost your resume or CV is to take additional courses or invest in a degree. Judy Frels, clinical professor of marketing and a senior fellow in the Executive Development Programs at University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, says to do the following: 

Sample a MicroMaster’s Program

"Instead of reading about business, why not actively learn about it? By trying the MicroMasters in MBA Core Curriculum on the edX platform, users can sample MBA-level courses, like those Maryland Smith offers – or those from many other schools – in marketing, accounting, data analysis, and global business,” says Frels. “Trying this out now is especially timely for deciding whether to enroll full time in an MBA program for this fall. Or, a student can continue in a MicroMasters program and complete up to 25 percent of an MBA for less than a credit."

Others might want to make the most of their time by weighing options, such as whether to apply to a graduate business school. If that’s the case, now is also a good time to get primed for the application process – research schools (online, of course), reflect on your qualifications, and study for standardized tests. And remember, social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t reach out through technology – meaning you can still keep in touch with mentors, potential employers, classmates, friends, and family.

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Business School Professors Recommend Activities to Pass the Time in the Pandemic

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Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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