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From 7 until 13 January 2017, EuroMBA students came to Maastricht for one of six residential weeks. Each are organised by one of the consortium partners.

This time, the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University offered a series of classes, trainings and workshops connecting various dots of the main theme, Learning and Development in Organisations. 

Apart from programme-related activities, these residential weeks also cater to the group and community sense among students. Their only chance to meet is during these residential weeks, while another part of the EuroMBA programme consists of online courses connecting students and teachers. This requires a well-equipped IT environment which since the inception of the EuroMBA back in 1996, has come a very long way. 

Louise Stijnen, IT Support EuroMBA, provides a summary: "At the time, the use of internet was not as advanced as it is now; using email for day to day communication was scarce. My colleague Rut Berns (director Operations) and I have been involved from the start, when the EuroMBA was launched as a collaborative education programme for professionals, with business school partners all across Europe. 

To establish communication in between residential weeks and the various distance learning assignments, we looked for a system that would meet our requirements. That was Lotus Notes, a groupware programme. Each partner however operated a system of their own, without the option for any of the other partners to gain access to their network. The next step was to implement an IT structure that would tap into these different networks connecting everyone, from student to teacher and staff." 

While Lotus Notes is still used for its administrative value, the means to communicate and exchange information migrated to another environment and level a couple of years ago. IBM Connections offers everything needed for students to follow their online courses and stay in touch with each other and their teaching staff. Louise: "A lot has changed, and rapidly, since 1996. Using the internet has become a norm, message and communication apps are common now. Connections functions as a virtual community where people can move around flexible, share information or collaborate, and where 'tagging' and searching with key words brings knowledge within reach. Another difference is the fact that Connections functions "in the cloud." It's a highly rewarding job this way, to have the possibility to research what's most efficient and beneficiary in this system, because we always aim at achieving progress for communication methods within the EuroMBA programme."

Even in this residential week, when students meet their fellow-students and teachers face to face, having a virtual system and community network available to support the various tasks and assignments at hand, is vital for the success of the EuroMBA’s. The flexibility of the Connections network fits the pace and needs of those professionals who have to balance their full-time careers and the modular courses of the EuroMBA programme when most convenient to them.   EG

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