Innovative Programs and Courses during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The times that we live in are truly uncertain. Intelligible research and predictions could not have predicted that a virus such as COVID-19 could put a grinding halt to the entire world. While the governments all around the world are doing their best to curb its spread, global universities are finding innovative ways to deal with the current situation that the pandemic has presented. Here are a few universities and the positive initiatives that they have taken as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faculty Virtual Programming at Harvard Business School (HBS)

HBS is offering to its alumni, faculty-led virtual programs. The school is offering the recordings of the same under a platform titled ‘Managing Through Crisis’ to benefit the broader community. These programs address some of the major concerns amid a global crisis and point a path forward. 

The programs are titled:

  • COVID-19, Global Markets, and Global Macroeconomic Policy Responses
  • Crisis Management for Leaders 
  • Assessing the Challenge & Making an Impact

These can be accessed by both students and study aspirants.

The Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania)

In March 2020, Wharton launched a new online course on the impact and implications of the coronavirus. The course addresses how global businesses and financial certainty can be managed in the wake of such dramatic events. Discussions featuring faculty and alumni follow classes on the six-week-long, half-credit course, ‘Epidemics, Natural Disasters, and Geopolitics: Managing Global Businesses and Financial Uncertainty’ which can be found on the school’s website. Course lesson titles include “Leading amid Unpredictable Rapidly Changing Events with Contested Facts,” “Financial Market Reactions to the Coronavirus and Disaster Risk,” “Emotional Contagion and Epidemics,” “U.S.-China Relations after the Trade Wars and the Coronavirus” and more.

Johns Hopkins University 

Johns Hopkins University was one of the first research universities to launch a global tracker as soon as the virus started spreading. The university is now offering a free course on ‘COVID-19 and the Science of Epidemiology’ on the digital learning platform, Coursera. The course will be of value to professionals who do not have a background in the medical sciences but are curious to know more about the disease.

The topics will cover:

  • Health care ethics 
  • Vaccine development
  • The mental health impact of the pandemic 

Johns Hopkins University announced on its official news portal that the lessons will cover “how many people have been infected, how infections are identified and measured, how infectious the virus is, and what can be done to combat it.” 

London Business School

London Business School’s faculty have been sharing their expertise in dealing with future shocks, for more than 20 years. They have now brought their knowledge together with an online programme, ‘Building Organisational Resilience’ designed to tackle the challenges firms face in navigating the uncertainty ahead. This online learning series offers practical, evidence-based insights for business leaders as to how they can build resilient organisations. 

The course consists of three modules that comprise current thinking from renowned scholars. The classes are taken by Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, and Kathleen O’Connor, Clinical Professor of Organisational Behaviour. Recorded during the lockdown, the course offers a virtual format designed for employees currently working from home. This course is targeted for organisations, be it any size or sector.

Each module focuses on a different aspect of resilience; the participants will learn:

  • How to place resilience at the heart of what you do and future-proof your organisation
  • What it takes to enhance your organisation’s operational resilience and prepare for large-scale disruption
  • Which tools – both personal and professional – are needed to thrive in uncertain market conditions?

Apart from a few innovative courses and programmes, a few universities have rolled out key initiatives to offer viable solutions to the Covid-19 challenges. Read on!

The Wheeler Institute for Business and Development (LBS) 

The Wheeler Institute at LBS has also introduced a ‘Covid-19 Series’ that seeks to offer solutions to the challenges created by the pandemic.

With an aim to identify the role of business in addressing the novel challenges, with an emphasis on the implications and actions for those in developing countries, the series adopts a unique approach of exploring not only the point of view of those leading enterprises and governments, but also the perspective of the ones struggling to make a living in underprivileged communities globally.

The series consists of three, closely related topics with the ambition of:

  • Interviewing academics featuring topical research
  • Discussing the role of business in developing solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Transferring ideas from across our wide geographic network to contexts that might otherwise not benefit from them
  • Encouraging collaboration

The series commences with a number of interviews by Rajesh Chandy, Professor of Marketing and Elias Papaioannou, Professor of Economics at London Business School and co-Academic Directors of the Wheeler Institute. This is followed by additional conversations, lectures and presentations.


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MIT Sloan 

With the aim of bringing together innovators from across the globe to work on solving unprecedented problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic, on July 1, 2020, MIT launched a ‘Pandemic Response CoLab.’ This is a joint project of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI), the MIT Community Biotechnology Initiative (CBI) at the MIT Media Lab, and MilliporeSigma

Through this open online collaboration platform, the CCI and the CBI’s goal is to mobilise individuals, communities, businesses, and other groups to create actionable solutions to pandemic-related problems. 

Thomas Malone, the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Founding Director of the CCI stated, “There are many people around the world who see problems posed by the pandemic and have smart, innovative ideas that could help solve those problems, but they lack the means of sharing and developing their ideas.” 

He further stated that an online platform like this allows the creation of a community to harness the collective intelligence of such people, to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and find the needed human resources, funding and other resources to implement these solutions.

Becker Friedman Institute (The University of Chicago)

Michael Greenstone, Director of the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics, in a note for introducing the special feature titled ‘Economic Implications of Covid-19’ wrote, “as people and economies around the world reel from the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), one thing is clear: facts are at a premium.”

The feature compiles research, commentary, and news, including facts and figures, from the university’s scholars on the impact and implications of the pandemic. Explaining the objective of this initiative, Greenstone writes, “We decided that what BFI could contribute is a set of facts about COVID-19 that we believe can help people better understand its consequences and potential policy responses.”

The facts presented on their website answer questions such as:

  • What is the economic benefit of social distancing? 
  • Which sectors will be the hardest hit? 
  • What would be the impact of universal testing for COVID-19 for mortality rates and economic outcomes? 
  • What do the latest stock market gyrations tell us about the expectations for growth?
Picture Credit: University of Chicago

This is just the beginning of an era that will witness new and innovative courses! Watch this space for more!

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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