Interview with Stéphane Ouvrard, Professor of Financial and Managerial Accounting in the Global EMBA.
Q: Professor Ouvrard, thank you for sharing this moment with us. Can you tell us more about you professionally and about what you are teaching in the KEDGE Global EMBA?
I am a former Chartered Accounted. I worked 15 years in the accounting & finance fields before deciding to get enrolled into PhD studies to become a Finance Professor. Today, as a permanent professor at KEDGE,I teach Corporate Finance and Accounting (IFRS) in specialized programs, MSc Supply Chain Management, MSc in International Business (I have been running this program since 2014) and at an Executive Education level (Global EMBA in France and China, finance training sessions for companies in France and abroad). With respect to my personal field of research at KEDGE, I work on the question of Business Models (specifically in the wine industry) and performance. My academic outputs are mostly pedagogical books, case studies and articles.
Q: How have you first reacted to the confinement measures?
Like everybody, I think... At first sight, it appeared to me that it was a kind of loss of freedom to move, especially for my executive training activity where I need to travel quite regularly. Then very soon, I took the only viable option: stay confined at home, develop pedagogical activities online and wait until the sanitary crisis ends. In such exceptional circumstances, one feels very humble and resilient… We just have to wait and pay tribute to all those who have to fight against the virus in their day-to-day life (nurses, doctors,…).
Q: How would you define your teaching style and how has Covid-19 impacted it?
In my face-to-face teaching, I try to be as much participative as possible. My aim is to create interactions with the participants to get them involved in my course. I thrive to mix different pedagogical events in order to avoid any kind of monotony…Put oneself in the position of an executive who has decided to undertake an EMBA program after 10-year+ professional experience: this must be quite a challenge, don’t you think? If the professor is boring, it’s even worse! Besides, Finance is not always perceived as the easiest topic to grasp… With my current online classes I need to change my teaching style. During a face-to-face training there are different techniques to involve the students: exercises in group, MCQs, pedagogical games… Online, you have to be very very well organized in order to maintain a constant relation with the distant learners. Moreover, everything has to be thoroughly defined at start (organization and format of the online sessions). An important question at stake is how to be certain that the participants will remain involved. You need to sequence accurately your different pedagogical events (lessons, pre-readings, MCQs, short exercises) in order to make sure that your distant learners will be sufficiently busy without getting them bored… Moreover, it is important to organize regular online Q&As meetings to create interactions. Even if this is time-consuming, this is necessary. What is most compelling for a distance learning professor is to be available on a day to day basis and not lose the connection with the participants. In my case and additionally to short zoom online sessions, I used a forum on CrossKnowledge.
Q: What concretely have been the direct consequences on your course and value proposition to your EMBA students?
The consequences relate essentially to the time spent to get prepared for the online class. I needed to record my voice on my ppt slides which took me many days. Moreover, I had to work closely with the back-office teams of the EMBA program (both in France and in China) in order to make sure that the Zoom sessions worked smoothly. I am really grateful to them for their strong involvement and their efficient support. For instance, they took in charge the scheduling, the attendees’ checks, ... Moreover, all along my first online presentation, they helped me presenting the CrossKnowledge platform. That was a good way to make the participants more familiar with it (even if most French participants are already acquainted with CK). Another thing that worked well was the presentation of the different group works.
Q: Do you think the current situation will change the relationships teacher/learner? In what way?
I don’t think so. In Executive Education, we need to be very practical and straight to the point. When executives have decided to join a training session, they know exactly why they are here and what they look for. The instructor has to meet their expectations as efficiently as possible. Furthermore, some questions are not always covered in the training programme that was decided upon at start. In this case, the professor needs to adapt. Some questions are sometimes imbedded in a specific context (the professional environment of the participants) and the instructor needs to get out of his/her comfort zone to provide relevant inputs and sometimes open new horizons. Online teaching is for me an efficient way to transmit the fundamentals, i.e. the basics that the participants need to monitor beforehand to get the most out of a face-to-face training. Actually, this is a kind of prerequisite. On the other hand, face-to-face teaching helps sharing professional experiences and competences. That’s the reason why I personally see the online teaching as something complementary to face-to-face training. In my opinion, the sharing of management experiences cannot be done online.
Q: There is good and bad in everything - on a longer term, what do you think the negative and positive outcomes of this sanitary crisis maybe?
It is a vast question. If you don’t mind, I will narrow it to the teaching activity which is the topic we address…The positive outcomes are that online teaching has spread quickly to tackle the current sanitary crisis. Each instructor has to cope with online platforms (Learn,…) and/or virtual meeting tools (teams, zoom, webex,…). Furthermore, it urges him/her to become more innovative in terms of selection and use of IT tools. It is important to take benefit from digital technologies to improve the value proposition to our students. However, tools are only a way to gain effectiveness, nothing more…One has to bear in mind that pedagogy should remain at the core, i.e. the method and practice of teaching. In other words, the challenge is to successfully innovate having the best of both worlds, the best of humankind and the best that digital technologies can offer!
Pr Ouvrard, Many thanks for this exchange and for your time.