Campus - 14.11.2023 - 08:45 

HSG students instead of lecturers lead course: "A learning community is created"

In the new format "Be The Change", HSG students and lecturers swap roles: Students from the management consultancy Student Impact lead through a course on sustainability in consulting. This creates a learning community, which is also made possible by the flexible rooms in SQUARE.

"There are around 140 student associations at HSG and many of them do professional work on specialised topics. I wanted to integrate this expert knowledge into the HSG course programme," says Jost Hamschmidt, a lecturer and project manager within the HSG's Responsibility & Sustainability Department. Together with the student-run consultancy Student Impact, he launched the "Be the Change" (BTC) course at Bachelor's level in 2021.

Within this course project, students explore consulting and sustainability practices and learn about the consulting industry from multiple perspectives. The course is mostly run by Students. As a lecturer Hamschmidt himself remains largely in the background  and describes his role  "as a coach for the students who design the course".  

"We see ourselves as facilitators of the learning process, not as lecturers," says Johannes Tschiderer, a co-facilitator of the course. Following the successful pilot, four Student Impact members are currently running the 3rd BTC course edition during the 2023 autumn semester under the title "Be the Change: Discovering Consulting and Sustainability". Based on their vast experience gained at Student Impact, these students are actively involved in everything from developing the course to running the seminar units and supervising the course participants. 

Student Impact was founded in 2012 to make business in the service of sustainability the norm. Most consulting services are provided for start-ups with sustainable business models. "We also support SMEs in their transformation towards sustainability," says Tschiderer, who was president of the association for three years until summer 2023. 

Creating a learning community

In the current course, students are working on real business problems from the sustainable start-ups Noriware (development of bioplastics from algae) and Xilva (evaluation of investments in forest areas). "Practical contacts like these show the value and innovation of the collaboration with Student Impact" says Hamschmidt. 

"The students are motivated because they can work on relevant challenges of the start-ups. They see that their solutions are implemented in practice and thus also make a difference," says Tschiderer. "This creates feelings of collective and personal effectiveness that are much stronger than the usual work on fictitious case studies, which results in lasting learning impressions," says Hamschmidt.

Each course session starts with an open round in which students can contribute topics, questions and ideas relating to sustainability that are currently on their minds. "In 2022, for example, we talked several times about the World Cup in Qatar and the associated business ethics issues," says Tschiderer. In a second part, the students discuss specific questions relating to their start-up tasks. "We coach and support them in this and draw on our experience from our consulting work at Student Impact," says Tschiderer. 

In Tschiderer's experience, having students moderate the course instead of lecturers creates a very open learning atmosphere: "It creates a learning community that engages in lively dialogue on an equal footing." Part of the concept also involves utilising the possibilities of the flexible and configurable rooms in SQUARE: Instead of creating a traditional teaching situation with tables all facing the front, the participants redesign the room together. 

Collaborative work is encouraged

In a third part of the course, practitioners exchange ideas with the students. These are often HSG alumni and former members of Student Impact who now work in consulting or at the interfaces between sustainability and business and provide the students with specialist input. "In addition, these interventions are primarily intended to provide insights into the personal and professional careers of the speakers, whereby critical points regarding personal development and fulfilment, learning curves and impact in the job are also addressed. There have also been speakers who have recommended students not to go into consulting," says Tschiderer. 

Another BTC course started this autumn with Rachel Brooks (Competence Center for Social Innovation) and Fabio Allegrini (BTC alumnus) on the topic of "Be the Change: Exploring Systems Leadership for Sustainability". Hamschmidt is optimistic that the role reversal, in which students design a course, will inspire other HSG lecturers. He says that the course format promotes transferable skills that go beyond traditional specialist knowledge, such as individual creative drive and collaborative and non-hierarchical learning in diverse teams. "These skills are in great demand in business and society, which currently are undergoing a fundamental process of change."

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