In the face of the global pandemic, a world-class finance program was changed from an on-campus course to a completely live virtual experience in one week to fulfill the needs of a trusted partner.

April 23, 2020

Philadelphia, PA: Over 40 Nanyang Business School MBAs and EMBAs were to arrive at the University of Pennsylvania last month to attend the annual one-week Nanyang Business School: Excellence in Finance Program offered by the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the Wharton School. They were already in California when the rapidly spreading global pandemic abruptly changed their plans, and they were required to fly back to Singapore almost immediately. Without the Nanyang students present in Philadelphia, how would Wharton Executive Education deliver on its commitment to the decade-long partnership between the two distinguished schools?

In just one week, the answer was evident: A real-time, fully designed, rigorous, engaging program — taught virtually.

The course, held March 23-27, was led by the same Wharton faculty who had been scheduled for the in-person program: finance professor Michael Roberts, an award-winning researcher and top-ranked professor; management professor Emilie Feldman, who has received numerous scholarly awards as well as publication in academic journals and major media outlets; and David Wessels, an adjunct finance professor.

"Engagement and participation were incredibly high,” says Feldman. “The technology allowed me to seamlessly lead case discussions and breakout sessions, just as I would in person. I could sense the a-ha moments happening through the screen as students learned and synthesized ideas from the week, which made this a really rewarding experience.”

Interactivity is essential, and the Nanyang course was designed with as much interactivity as possible. Students turned on their cameras so they could see each other and their professors. Abundant exercises, group work, and peer-to-peer dialogue facilitated a strong sense of engagement. A chat box made it easy and inviting to pose questions, offer reflections, or separately contact Wharton staff for assistance.

One feature the faculty found particularly valuable was the instantaneous screen-sharing. Since all the participants were already in front of a computer doing the coursework, faculty could “look over someone’s shoulder” and provide pointers or give immediate feedback. Another advantage was that faculty could create virtual “breakout rooms” at the touch of a button, in which small groups could interact closely to work on projects.

Despite the switch to virtual, the course delivered all the rigor of an in-class program, according to program director Antoinette Simon, senior director of Global Partnerships. She says the faculty were able to “still challenge participant assumptions, give them a new perspective, and help them critically think about business and how some of these frameworks and strategies could be applied immediately.”

After the program’s completion, Nanyang Business School’s deputy director Shirley Yong commented, “Our students were very impressed with the quality of the online delivery and it certainly exceeded their expectations of remote learning.”

After the university transitioned in March to synchronous online learning in degree programs, virtually all Wharton faculty have become adept at teaching in this new environment and the scale and scope of Wharton’s capabilities are unmatched, says Professor Jagmohan S. Raju, Wharton’s vice dean of Executive Education.

“I’m so proud of our faculty and staff who moved quickly to deliver a superb learning experience under extremely challenging circumstances,” Raju says. “We are gratified to have fulfilled our responsibility to a valued partner, the Nanyang Business School, once again this year. My sincere thanks to the Nanyang leadership and their team for being a true collaborator: without their support, we would not have been able to do this.”

Notably, this is not the first time that Wharton Executive Education has pivoted to meet its clients’ needs for innovative delivery solutions. Other examples include designing synchronous programs for EO, a global organization for entrepreneurs, and for the Chinese fintech firm OneConnect, delivered by Professors Tony Cai and Linda Zhang, which blended in-person and virtual delivery to reach approximately 200 students across three different cities in China.

For more information about Wharton Executive Education’s live virtual programs for organizations, please contact M. Levent Yarar, Director, Corporate Partnerships, +1.215.746.8441 or mlyarar@wharton.upenn.edu.


About the Wharton School

Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. With a broad global community and one of the most published business school faculties, Wharton creates economic and social value around the world. The School has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 13,000 participants in executive education programs annually; and a powerful alumni network of 99,000 graduates.


Media Contact

Eleena de LisserDirector of Marketing CommunicationsAresty Institute of Executive Education
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
+1.215.898.7239 execed-pr@wharton.upenn.edu