Digital education and training through research, a partnership to innovate in a management school

Currently, there is a tendency in certain speeches to consider educational innovation and research activity in management schools as two activities that are totally disconnected or opposed in terms of results and skills. Some statements suggest that a “good researcher” cannot be a “good teacher”, the starred publication activity being considered too time-consuming to devote time to educational innovation or leading to results of interest only. academic community.

Researchers who excel in their publication activity would not care at all about the impact of their research activity on the student or on the manager because they are too focused on the theoretical impact of their work and on their academic career. Such assertions can already be called into question.

Indeed, international accreditations now strongly encourage the demonstration of an impact of research activity on the practitioner and the student (examples of AACSB, EQUIS or even BSIS accreditations which assesses the impact of the activities of business schools on their territory). Management schools must therefore deal with new imperatives structured around the notions of impact on the practitioner and impact on the student.

Moreover, management sciences, it should be remembered, are by nature dedicated to the action of the manager. Their purpose is to inform the manager’s decision-making by using rigorous methodologies for observation and analysis of managerial reality (qualitative methodology through in-depth case studies, quantitative methodology, etc.).

Educational research and innovation: interdependent activities to stand out

In terms of teaching and pedagogy, we cannot innovate without new content or new knowledge that research activity is able to generate. There is no high-level higher education without prior research activity. The research activity makes it possible to produce and transmit cutting-edge knowledge, thus facilitating the constant updating of teaching in the various management disciplines.

Denying the usefulness of research in terms of educational innovation amounts to obscuring, for a management school, the potential sources of strategic differentiation through the development of expertise resulting from research work. Is it a coincidence that EQUIS accreditation focuses on the link between research activity and the business school’s offer in terms of executive education  ? Are not trainee practitioners looking for new knowledge based on reliable and generalizable knowledge that only the scientific approach can guarantee? The promoters of educational innovation have everything to gain by making a fruitful association between the digitalization of education and training through research.

Distance learning through research: the example of digital teaching of research thesis methodology in continuing education

In higher education, training through research is not limited to the completion of a research master’s or doctorate. It refers to all the educational exercises based on consulting and / or testing scientific literature and which strengthen the critical spirit of the student as well as his analytical and synthesis skills.

In management school, we can cite in particular the case of the research thesis prepared in the last year of the master program. This type of exercise participates in the co-creation of new knowledge with teacher-researchers (the professor of thesis methodology and the director of the research thesis) who initiate the learner to a process of producing reliable and generalizable knowledge. which may lead in some cases to joint publications.

The research dissertation helps develop the following skills:

  • the ability to develop expertise in solving a specific management problem, internal to an organization (HR function, marketing function, strategic change management, etc.) or linked to the external environment in which it operates (relations with suppliers, consumers, competitors, etc.);
  • the ability to step back from immediate and incomplete solutions thanks to the scientific process;
  • the ability to develop managerial recommendations.

At EM Normandie, all students enrolled in the master’s program have the obligation (or rather the opportunity!) To write a research thesis. This requirement also applies to learners applying for a diploma through e-learning. It therefore required a digitalization of the teaching of thesis methodology. Available on a Moodle platform, this teaching module is structured around five stages characteristic of a research process in management sciences:

  1. the choice of a research topic;
  2. the definition of a research problem;
  3. the construction of a theoretical framework and the development of research proposals or hypotheses by consulting the scientific literature;
  4. collecting empirical data;
  5. the analysis of the results and the application of a set of managerial recommendations.

This distance education consists of five videos accompanied by reinforcement messages, teaching aids written by the teacher (the “mags”), glossaries, Internet links and exercises aimed at testing learners’ mastery of the different stages. of the master’s thesis (introduction to scientific managerial literature, construction of a poster dedicated to the research issue, etc.).

A forum available on the platform encourages learners to ask their methodology teacher questions relating to the course or to express their difficulties. In summary, the use of digital tools allows e-learning learners to benefit from the educational virtues of writing a research thesis in management science.

Complementarity between digital teaching and face-to-face teaching

The effectiveness of the teaching module presented above stems from a complementarity between digital teaching and face-to-face teaching. Indeed, all learners physically attend two workshops devoted to the presentation of their individual work.

The professor thus ensures their progress in mastering the scientific approach (ability to problematize, that is to say to construct a relevant research question and ability to build a theoretical and empirical framework facilitating the resolution of the problem) . Each learner is also supervised by a member of the faculty (physical meetings during the weeks of presence on site of the learners and / or telephone exchanges and / or exchanges by Skype).

The digital pedagogy , in turn, promotes learner empowerment in its research information dedicated to solving the research problem through the exercises to achieve online. It also contributes to the optimization of the face-to-face (on-site grouping seminars) by setting up preparatory work available only on the learning platform and made possible by remote access to scientific databases.

Contribution of digital education to the dissemination of research results

For EM Normandie, digital education facilitates the remote dissemination of the results of its research activity:

  • through the use of scientific publications written by the faculty and intended to illustrate the different stages of the scientific process in management sciences;
  • through the use of videos produced in collaboration with researchers from the school and relating to the results of their individual or collective research work;
  • through the use of the school’s blog which posts Internet links to forums and popularization articles written by researchers from the school.

In other words, digital pedagogy contributes to increasing the impact of the school’s research activity on the continuing education audience, thanks to the implementation of a pedagogy oriented towards the development of ” managerial expertise based on a scientific approach. The virtuous loop “educational research-innovation” is therefore possible!

It is therefore urgent to put an end to the less fruitful dichotomies in the discourse and to practice a management of synergies between two activities which are in essence inseparable and complementary: teaching and research! This obviously requires the establishment of appropriate incentive mechanisms for faculty members: recognition of the importance of popularization activity, better valuation of digitized teaching in relation to face-to-face teaching, support for teachers in digitization , etc.

This article was originally posted on Digital education and training through research, a partnership to innovate in a management school

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