Ruth Puhr, Head of Teaching and Learning Development, Les Roches

Ruth has worked for Les Roches since 2006 initially teaching Arts and Humanities electives before becoming Faculty Development Advisor. She currently oversees Teaching and Learning Development. Ruth holds an MA in Music and an MSc in Information Technology and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Education at University College London. Her research interests include professional identity and innovation in higher education. Ruth is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) and serves on the Board of the Swiss Faculty Development Network (SFDN).

 

As leaders in hospitality education, our responsibility goes beyond ensuring that our students gain the right knowledge or skills. Everything we do should ensure our approaches to teaching and learning are generating approaches to teamwork, idea interrogation and problem solving that are transferable into the workplace. And e-learning has a pivotal role to play in this.

It’s all about work-readiness, not just in terms of the traditional hospitality notion of competencies, but in this new world where we can meet employers, colleagues and clients anywhere, anytime, it’s having an ease and comfort with a whole range of digital tools. At Les Roches, we’ve seen it become really important for hospitality students to be able to present in this kind of environment and bring a range of voices both into context and into a conversation.

The outcome is that as graduates take their first career steps in 2022 and beyond, they’re equipped and able to deliver value. And as a result, their employers and entrepreneurial ventures are equally positioned to thrive. This is a key importance of e-learning adoption across hospitality education.

Technology providers are playing their part

In a few short years, the ease of use of a whole range of digital tools has been transformed. We’re now seeing lots of software providers wanting to leverage the needs of education institutions, bringing digital tools that are commonplace in the workplace into the education context.

In addition to the main platforms, such as Moodle and Microsoft Teams, educators can now bring in a range of tools that serve the needs of different disciplines and course types, and really ensure that knowledge, skills and confidence become embedded for the learner. These platforms range from collaborative experiences, such as Mural, that brings together learners who are on campus and remote, to sophisticated data visualisation software like Think-Cell, which is used by many of the large consultancy firms.

What these technology providers have realised is that if students learn to use these tools as part of their programs, then they’re more likely to bring them into their working environment as future leaders and decision-makers. It’s a win-win situation and it’s creating an arena harmony between what learners are using to further their education and what businesses need to develop streamlined and efficient business processes.

From an education institution’s perspective, these tools aren’t just enriching the learning experience, they’re creating a dynamic body of work that can be captured, repurposed and leveraged for new offerings.

Early results – Capturing e-learning outcomes holistically is imperative

Pre-covid, it’s fair to say many leaders in the hospitality education sector resisted e-learning, feeling that the required mindset and competencies needed to excel in hospitality simply couldn’t be taught remotely. As an industry, we now know differently. At Les Roches, for example, the outcomes have been extraordinary and further reaching than we could have ever imagined.

At the end of 2021 we saw results across the board higher than before the pandemic, and moreover students are happier with their learning now than they were beforehand. In terms of readiness for work, learning remotely has developed all sorts of capabilities that will enable students to be more adaptive in the workplace. This capability piece is quite extraordinary, and for many, these high-professional-value outcomes of resilience, adaptability and optimism were not foreseen at the outset of e-learning delivery in early 2020.

“We’ve seen students display incredible recognition of the efforts made by their faculty…”

Academic and skill set results are key, but it’s also important to consider the impact on the learning experience, both for the student and the teacher. We’ve seen students display incredible recognition of the efforts made by their faculty, with high levels of appreciation for the dedication and hard work that resulted in a comprehensive remote learning option being delivered in a short timeframe.

On the other side of this relationship, we’ve seen a renewed sense of the vocation that teaching represents, and the sheer sense of responsibility that faculty have for their students. The role of the teacher has evolved somewhat to encompass mentorship and the fostering of a sense of belonging and community despite physical distance. As we return to face to face, we’re seeing this student-faculty relationship deepen, as students capture the best of their own learning experience and faculty build some of their adaptive teaching practices into the physical classroom experience.

The direction of e-learning in hospitality

Coming full-circle, as education leaders it’s imperative that we constantly evaluate how we can best serve our students. We need to understand what valid learning is, and in a world addressing diversity and inclusion, we must be equipped and capable of delivering learning experiences through a whole range of media modes.

This experiential aspect is key. We should be thinking about online learning as both the provision of materials and resources, and the delivery of remote learning experiences that foster opportunities for collaboration and interactions. This encompasses both faculty and experts on the one hand, and also peer learners on the other.

Flexibility as a feature of learning also now carries more weight than ever before, with students not only keen to learn in a way that suits their lifestyle, but also through approaches that are resilient to world events. Our role as educators when delivering this is to navigate the path between self-paced and asynchronous online learning with relatively little contact on the one hand, and a more immersive experience that allows for more contact, more connection and more collaboration on the other. With the aim of delivering the best education possible.

It’s fair to say we’re all learning here, but two years on from the launch of remote program options at Les Roches, I for one wouldn’t have imagined that the gains would have been as powerful or transformative.

 

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