Hybrid learning on the Master’s in Hospitality Finance
Pia Hu, Program Leader of the MSc, shares feedback and examples from students who are in the online portion of this hybrid master’s program.
The Master’s in Hospitality Finance has entered its third year running with some interesting success stories. Due to its small size (on average 10 new students per year), this master’s program for finance and entrepreneurship has a high ratio of teachers to students, creating a close-knit academic community in which students find abundant support and mentorship.
During the online portion of the program, students are using their new skills and qualifications in the industry and on their CV. In this short interview, the program leader, Ms. Pia Huh, tells us about this semester’s MSc program events and shares some insight into what the students and recent graduates are doing.
First, what makes you such a strong leader for this program?
I would say that I have experience, knowledge, and a good understanding of students’ needs and wants. Close to twenty years of teaching experience at GIHE has provided me with a variety of opportunities to develop an excellent understanding of students’ needs and objectives and an empathetic approach.”
Financial management concepts can be challenging to turn from theory into practice. What types of applied learning are students doing in the MSc to help them bridge the gap from knowledge to skills?
Indeed, the overall approach in the MSc program is an approach of “learning it by doing it”. The students in the Msc program get involved various projects in three different ways: an applied business project (a hospitality real estate project), a simulation project (investment trading project or a problem-solving project), and a dissertation.
Last semester, MSc students produced a feasibility study for a real development project for 14 chalet hotels targeting Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs), a project worth approximately CHF 45 million in Switzerland.
With respect to simulation projects, they have worked on a Kaggle Project. In 2015.1, the class participated in one of these international data prediction competitions to predict annual restaurant sales based on objective measurements. The project goal was, to predict the annual restaurant sales of 100,000 regional locations in Turkey based on historical data on revenue, demographics, real estate values, and commercial information. Even though the team did not rank, the students were introduced to the concepts of machine learning, visualization of large data sets and open source decision making software such as Knime.
For this semester’s applied business project, the MSc students will do a project in Paris, for which they need to provide recommendations on converting an office building to a lifestyle boutique hotel.
They are also working on the Quantopian Trading Project. This semester, the class will participate in a stock trading competition hosted by quantopian.com. Students will be introduced to some of the tools used by professional traders, including an introduction to programming using the Python programming language, and they will try to automate some of the trading decisions. All trading will run on Interactive Broker’s paper accounts only – so no real money will be at risk. Obviously, the learning outcomes of this project are related to both finance and computing.
What’s in store for the MSc conference this semester?
This semester’s conference will be about hospitality real estate investment and finance.
In general, what feedback are you getting from the students about the hybrid learning structure?
It varies. Some students appreciate that they can do courses online, it allows them to find internships or permanent career opportunities at the same time. Moreover, they appreciate the classmates in the online classroom; they get to meet MBA online students who are mid-to-upper level managers with a long career experience. The MSc students get to learn from these students on the platform discussions because they provide real examples from the industry.
On the other hand, some MSc students preferred the face-to-face classroom learning experience with close contacts with the faculty and classmates.
What are students doing in the online portion of the program?
I can’t say for every student, but I do get some news. From the 1st cohort of MSc students, on young lady really appreciated the online course because the structure allowed her to continue her family business expansion (construction of two hotels). Another student appreciated it because it allowed him to find an internship (and afterwards, a permanent job) with JP Morgan in Geneva. One gentleman had a mixed reaction toward the 2nd semester: He was happy to be able to expand his family business (building a joint venture for his family business) and yet, he would have preferred to have the face-to-face classroom. One of the few students who decided not to work during the 2nd semester did so in order to stay in Switzerland and have close contact with the faculty members for his dissertation.
From the 2nd cohort of MSc, I know that all of the students have appreciated the 2nd semester being online due to the fact that all of them found internship and/or permanent career opportunities. One of them was even able to find an internship but he had mentioned that he preferred on-campus courses. He has taken an internship at Bulle campus is Switzerland because this allowed him to have close contacts with the faculty members. Another young lady from the 3rd cohort, Sonam NANDWANI, appreciated the 2nd semester being online because she is working on opening her own business.