Moving beyond Covid-19: Inter Metro, Puerto Rico

Inter Metro’s Antonio Fernós Sagebién looks at how the Puerto Rican institution’s offerings and plans for the immediate future have been affected by the pandemic

How will Covid-19 affect Business Schools’ outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future? Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out.

In this third part of our serialisation online, Antonio Fernós Sagebién – Associate Professor at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, Metropolitan Campus (Inter Metro) – shares his views on the awaited ‘new normal’, changes to programme structures, and financial challenges for part-time students that work full time. Please note that this interview was given in May/June 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

Yes, my university has a long-standing [history] of 100% online programmes (mostly courses that are 75% asynchronous) but now we have had to move [programmes with] 100% presence to hybrid (courses that are 100% online but that are at least 25% synchronous) courses.

As such, 100% of our faculty is now certified by [edtech company] Blackboard and, in our 100% online courses offer, existing courses are being refreshed with new material and modules and new courses are being created.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

Yes, faculty and students are now required to use online library resources (for both databases and periodicals/journals).

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?  

Our students and my institution take pride in our very low teacher-to-student ratio, along with having personalised class scheduling processes. We now will have less degrees of freedom on our courses scheduling offer.

As most of our MBA students are employed full time, if any specific industry or sector gets affected or labour force is displaced, these students will have no source of funding.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why? 

New concentration in business analysis and a new master’s degree (non-MBA) specialised in banking administration.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

Yes, indeed. As part of the US, our borders/immigration policies are the same as those of the US. It is always a challenge to get approval on visas for international students in Puerto Rico.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School? (E.g. new modules, or new approaches within existing modules)

Yes, financial hardship from new and existing students will force us to create new delivery channels that are not yet validated. Exploring is a part of innovation and students, faculty and administrators are looking for a return to a ‘new normal’ that we have yet to know. Quite possibly, MBA courses will be [start to be] offered in a bimonthly cycle modules.

However, our position is that until we meet this ‘new normal’, we make no sudden moves.

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