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Sam Blyth

Stories from CanvasCon: Vlerick Business School -Building interactive and engaging online learning courses

We were delighted to welcome Maarten van der Biest, Business Unit Manager Online MBA, from Vlerick Business School to CanvasCon at the end of last year. Vlerick is ranked the number one institution for executive education in the Benelux by the Financial Times, and is renowned for delivering engaging and flexible learning - most recently bringing a number of courses entirely online, to make the provision of its world class education more accessible.

Maarten took the CanvasCon audience through the business school’s venture to broaden its course portfolio, together with the digital transformation of its Executive MBA programme into a 100 per cent online degree. ‘Online,’ Maarten asserted, is simply a delivery mechanism - a means to an end. What’s been more important to Vlerick is working to an institution-wide strategic goal: to help its clients learn with impact, embracing the widespread digitalisation which is happening in every industry.

It’s been crucial, says Maarten, to engage stakeholders at all stages of the transition journey - achieving buy-in from leaders, learners, and faculty - and ‘winning hearts and minds’. For this reason, Maartens team closely supported the wider faculty in creating immersive learning design, attractive content and subject matter expert tutors. The team has managed to make the transformation process feel collaborative and equitable - and that every stakeholder has a role in ensuring the project’s ultimate success.

Maarten went on to tell the assembled educators, technologists and influencers that underpinning everything Vlerick does is great technology. The business school invested in Canvas nearly six years ago, to provide a flexible and scalable learning environment which would support more collaborative and consistent learning. Today, Canvas is used for all of Vlerick’s degree programmes - although, sometimes at the request of clients, a different LMS system may be used for company specific programmes.

“To be honest,” says Maarten “we don’t really talk about Canvas to the participants of our online MBA. It works seamlessly in the background - as an enabler for our pedagogical innovations and helping us deliver on our ambitions. The best sort of tech is that which you don’t notice - and this sums up Canvas for us.’

For Vlerick, the results have been transformational. Online courses now have a hundred percent retention record, and the evaluation scores by participants are extremely high - comparable to the high satisfaction of other courses. Importantly, this project has paved the way for further innovation initiatives. “Digital learning is now in our DNA”, confirms Maarten. “We have experienced the possibilities of tech-powered learning, and it’s now at the heart of everything we do.”