The QTEM Global Business Analytics Challenge (GBAC) and Why it Matters

Online learning has taken on an entirely new dimension during the COVID-19 crisis. The enormity of the situation has forced us to innovate, change and adopt new technologies and ways of working at an exceptionally accelerated rate. By Anne Vaxelaire

With students spread all over the world, QTEM (Quantitative Techniques for Economics and Management), a global master’s network founded in 2012, actually incorporated remote learning
from the outset, and at a more measured pace, when designing its cornerstone project: the Global Business Analytics Challenge (GBAC). The project gave QTEM the opportunity to carefully analyse the advantages and constraints of distance learning and, ultimately, to create and offer an exclusive remote learning experience to students.

Comprising 23 universities, QTEM selects the best students from each partner institution to improve both hard skills, such as data science, and soft skills, such as communication and adaptability, preparing students to use analytics in a business environment. In addition to earning a master’s from their home institution, these outstanding students get international exposure by studying in two foreign countries, on average, and completing a professional, analytics internship. But in addition to the basic programme, QTEM also wanted to ensure students graduate with a standard baseline knowledge of analytic skills, and thus the Global Business Analytics Challenge was born.

The GBAC consists of two segments taken over the course of the masters. The first is a series of online training sessions with industry and academic experts. Here, students acquire an advanced level of statistical knowledge and data analytical skills applied to business environments, as well as key concepts of online collaboration.

This training prepares students for the second segment: the QTEM Data Challenge (QDC). The QDC is a programme that uses real data, often from QTEM Corporate Partners, and requires students to use analytics to find innovative solutions. For the 2020 Millennium Challenge, one corporate Partner, Millennium bcp, organised a Customer Digitalisation Strategy. For this, students received anonymised data sets and were asked to analyse them and recommend creative strategies and solutions. Amélia Goulão, Marketing Analytics Unit Team Leader at Millennium bcp in Portugal who supervised Millennium’s participation and coached QDC teams said, “This was an amazing opportunity for us to gain meaningful insights into our data from the students and to increase visibility in academia. It is a win-win proposition – and it’s a lot of fun!”

For other Corporate Partners, participating in the QDC is an excellent recruiting opportunity where they can coach top students while also gaining insights into their company’s data sets. Students, on the other hand, get an introduction to the company and their culture, values and business.

Prof. Bruno Van Pottelsberghe, Secretary General of QTEM, further adds, “The idea behind the GBAC was simple: as our students are global, we wanted to create a shared learning experience and increase the cohort effect – all while giving them meaningful training with real data and the participation of leading companies and organisations. While the idea may be simple, the execution has been an interesting and informative journey – especially these last months; and one that we see being played out in real time.”

Many higher education institutions already had distance learning programmes in place to some extent. But the scope of the field now is tremendous, and it looks like these programmes are here for the foreseeable future. So, what has QTEM learned during this process that can be helpful?

While there are currently many uncertainties in the world of higher education – not to mention the world at large – a few things seem definite. Distance learning and international collaboration are here to stay, and adaptability will be a key factor for success.

Dr. Lauriane Dewulf, QTEM’s Knowledge and Learning Officer and the supervisor of the GBAC has some ideas. “Not only is the need for graduates with analytics and digital skills essential, but also – more than ever – global online collaboration, presentation and project management skills. In parallel, we believe the best way to learn is ‘learning by doing’ while benefiting from others’ experience. This is why students must solve real business challenges together with participants from various backgrounds and an alumni coach. Although remote team collaboration can be challenging, we are constantly evolving our online tools and methodologies, so students can best improve and reinforce communication and analytical skills with each other.”

Student feedback

So the programme sounds enriching, but what do the students themselves have to say about it?

“GBAC is the unique experience to combine teamwork, international exposure, data skills, great people, and 100% fun!”
Gianlorenzo Gai, Luiss Guido Carli University

“GBAC empowers me to think broader, to strengthen friendship deeper, and to know this world better. 6 months, at least 10 nationalities and incredible fellows. This is the greatest chance to present yourself.”
Deyu Liu, BI Norwegian Business School

“During the QDC we put our technical knowledge to the test, but we needed our soft skills and trust in our teammates to create a final presentation. QDC is a huge and complex task, but also a way to enrich your technical knowledge. This counts as a valuable experience.”
Éva Mucs, University of Amsterdam

“If I had not signed up for the QDC, I would have missed out on the data analytics and soft skills development I experienced during the challenge. Doing it remotely is one of its hallmarks. Over those online meetings, I made some friends and enjoyed the interactions with my coach who provided invaluable guidance throughout the journey.”
Kashmeel Biserru, BI Norwegian Business School

“For me, the QDC meant three things: deep and meaningful work, invaluable new relationships and an insightful first experience in professional international collaboration. QDC helped me become a better team player – and I made a great friend along the way!”
Jérémi DeBlois-Beaucage, HEC Montréal

While there are currently many uncertainties in the world of higher education – not to mention the world at large – a few things seem definite. Distance learning and international collaboration are here to stay, and adaptability will be a key factor for success. Thanks to the GBAC, QTEM students will graduate with these skills already in hand, using analytical skills along with practical experience to solve real business problems. Today’s graduates face many uncertainties not only in the world of higher education, but also in the job market. As such, QTEM aims to have its graduates enter the world of work with the maximum preparation to become tomorrow’s leaders – and they’re betting the GBAC helps them do it.
To learn more, visit www.qtem.org

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