Saturday, 15 August 2015

Learning from a distance: making global connections @Royal Holloway

All work and no play ?  

BBQ in Fonders Quad

The summer solastice is the time of the year when MBA and MSc international Management distance learning students come together on the stunning Royal Holloway campus for what we call a plenary session, but is in reality 'summer school'.  

For new students a highly varied range of academic masterclasses are blended with guest speakers, a company field visit and social network events that include a River Thames cruise, quad BBQ and formal dinner.  This is very much designed as an introductory experience to help develop a strong social network at the beginning of the two to five year study journey.  A second 'capstone' week is undertaken towards the end of the programme, a live business consultancy undertaken in groups, which is designed to allow students to put into practise their newly acquired management skills.  

A traditional Royal Holloway BIG THUMBS UP !

Most candidates work demanding jobs full time, many also have family responsibilities, thus the expense and time required to participate in a week long residential learning experience is not always eagerly anticipated.  Time away from loved ones and work can create additional pressures, but the chance to meet the RoHo teaching team and put characters to the email names they are familiar with from their study programme in an action packed and fun learning and networking week is often felt to be a very positive experience for all.  

Field visit to entrepreneurial craft brewer Windsor and Eton Brewery

Week one highlights

Royal connections formed outside Windsor castle

One of the popular innovations introduced by MBA Director Justin O'Brien is the group analysis of a tourist destination.  Self formed, self managed groups agree and execute an afternoon and evening field visit, ostensibly to critically assess a tourist destination.  Justin explains "With some students visiting London for the first time there is an expectation that some time would be available to take in the key sights of central London whilst attending a University of London programme.  Of course others live in the city or know it really well and a careful balance of activities is required."   

Time for a stunning selfie outside Royal Holloway Founders building

The following morning groups recounted their experinces, often using storytelling.  One group took on a quest to find the blue door in the hit Richard Curtis movie Notting Hill and created a personalised video clip montage to celebrate their visit, below. 

Another reviewed the often over looked tower bridge experience (did you know it was a tourist destination ?) and discovered its high level walk way with glass flooring. 

A bridge too far ?

Our third group showed their diverse international credentials, being able to dissuade two Russian female tourists, invited to take group photos at Trafalgar Square, from stealing their phones.  A shot that for one student was the meaningful chance to re-visit this iconic location, the first since she featured as a yet to be born bump with her parents. 

The fourth group chose to head out of town and visit the ancient site of Stonehenge, in a provocative presentation that showed they were thinking out of the box they pondered "What would the Egyptians who had just completed the pyramids have thought of this technology ?"  

Random tourist photo shoot best practise: Tip#3 Always ensure shoes and clouds feature significantly, don't worry about the rest !

Here !  Here !  The Eye's have it ?

First day drama workshop - fast tracking team building

Planning in Notting Hill sunshine

The sun does shine, really...look !

Band of Buddies visit "The woman up the hill"

Students take their work seriously, is that really water and diet coke ?

Fun learning ?  Not your regular seminar...

Establishing a sense of place ?

Ready and able - Mike Robinson's leadership lessons from the battle of Waterloo had quite a few points to it !

Formal networking dinner

Making connections over during a coffee break

Fashion shoot on campus ?  The next Superdry ad for sure.

Spiking those memories - Shardn't forget this one ?

 Thanks to all the Distance Learning Plenary 2015 students for sharing their photos.  I have tried to use as many as I could, without going over the top.  I hope you enjoyed this collection of memories.

Justin O'Brien, MBA Director, Royal Holloway