Focusing on efficient delivery of service to students, AMSE has directed its efforts over the last few weeks - from the first day of the lockdown - towards ensuring continuity of courses, protecting its students and preparing their future. At the heart of our mobilisation lie high standards and caring.
For several weeks now, the motto has been « stay home ». The University, the Faculty and the School are closed to students, who remain in lockdown. AMSE is set up to ensure pedagogical continuity with new technologies, practices and methods of teaching. “A huge amount of work has been done to set up and generalise operational distance learning for all courses; in record time, all were running” explains Tanguy van Ypersele, AMSE graduate school director.
Céline Poilly, Head of M1 Economics, confirms that “the faculties of the master 1 have joined forces to offer high-quality distance learning and to provide an academic monitoring system for students. I thank them for their strong commitment. They quickly took hold of the different tools and adapted the content of their courses to ensure that lessons are lively and meaningful, and to stimulate students’ autonomy”. The school put in place its distance-learning programme using AMUConnect, an application made available by Aix-Marseille University that quickly became crucial in the current situation. It provides a means « to communicate orally and visually, share documents, share screens, write on a whiteboard, all while using relatively little bandwidth and allowing many users to join the virtual class. An app for smart phones and tablets is also available to bridge the potential digital divide” says Ewen Gallic, researcher/teacher at AMSE. This distance learning has been combined with enhanced and expanded use of the Ametice platform to post educational resources, to monitor and support students, offering various activities and online evaluations.
Goodwill and caring are the cornerstones of good working conditions in this lockdown period for students who are sometimes far from home and families. The teaching team and staff are very attentive and particularly responsive to their needs. «The students have taken up the challenge, remaining involved in their courses. They have shown they can adapt to these new teaching conditions. In the end, we believe that during this exceptional period, the students have really invested themselves in acquiring the same skills as under normal conditions» says Céline Poilly. Ewen Gallic adds «The students in Magistère Ingénieur Économiste were able to adapt immediately to the situation, responded quickly and complied with the exercises. They impressed me because, although the workload they were asked to handle was enormous, they met all our expectations.»
Internships and teleworking
Some end-of-study internships started on the scheduled day, but by teleworking. An unconventional way to enter the business world, one that putour students to the test in terms of flexibility and working under crisis management conditions. «I consider myself very lucky to work in a company that wanted to maintain my internship» says Morgane Rahali, a student in M2 track Economic policy analysis, "my tutor at the Europlace Institute of Finance (Climate Economics Chair) is very attentive. During the literature review phase, I spend most of my days looking for information on existing articles and looking for areas of improvement. I exchange e-mails every day with my tutor and once a week we have a videoconference".
Jérémy Parenti, a student in the same track doing his internship at risingSUD, the economic development agency of PACA-Région Sud, explains «as soon as the lockdown was announced and despite this unprecedented situation, I was quickly contacted by my tutor who explained to me how we were going to work so that my internship could continue. I am therefore working remotely, like the whole risingSUD team, thanks to videoconferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging, file sharing and emails». For other students, internships will start as soon as sanitary conditions permit, conditional on government announcements and the evolution of the containment measures.
AMSE has got its students involved in challenges and kaggle competitions related to Covid-19. Thus, on the initiative of Sébastien Laurent, Head of M2 track Econometrics-Big Data-Statistics (EBDS), AMSE started a collaboration with “Business2ideas”, managed by Jean-Charles BRICONGNE (editor, Economist at the Banque de France). The www.b2ideas.eu platform aims to improve interactions between the professional sphere and the creative potential of higher education. The principle is simple: a challenge is posted with educational content and a reward that can be monetary, in-kind or symbolic.
Students, supervised by a teacher, compete anonymously to avoid discrimination and ensure that the best win!
“I offer students who were unable to start their internship in early April the opportunity to work in groups during this lockdown. The idea is to put into practice the skills they have acquired during their academic studies, as well as through their personal experience, and to work in groups on subjects of their choice linked to Covid-19” confirms Sébastien.
Done on a voluntary basis, this is an opportunity to come together during this period while acquiring new skills useful in the labour market. Several projects have been proposed, supervised by Sébastien Laurent, Pierre Michel, Ewen Gallic (researchers and teachers at AMSE) and Hervé Mignot (associate professor at AMSE, Partner in charge of Data technologies & Data Science practice at Equancy). AMSE teams are involved in different challenges, 17 students in all.
Thomas Pical, an EBDS student and ex-president of AMSE Junior Entreprise, describes his work: “the main purpose of the project «Covid: JHU augmented dataset» is to provide a dashboard to monitor the evolution of Covid-19 around the world on a daily basis using graphs, updated automatically and available online. A detailed analysis for some countries such as France and the United States will consider demographic data by administrative area (department or state). The set is developed on Python, which is a force for data processing. We are very happy with the first feedback we have had, and we would like to include an economic slant in our dashboard, with air traffic, for example”.
Apart from Thomas, other students working in this group have now returned home to Colombia, which can lead to late meetings because of time zone differences, but “the good news is that it allows continuous working; when I go to bed, they can continue the work and vice versa”.
Tatiana Maia-Ferreira has entered a kaggle competition that aims to use scientific papers to answer questions about Covid-19: "we have a total of 51,000 articles and must answer 8 main questions. Our goal is to create a «Question-Answer» search engine to answer any questions asked. We use what we have learned and done with Airbus Helicopters as part of our annual graduation project. This is helping us with the Topic Modelling part. We also want to apply a GAN model in X-ray images to predict future Covid patients. GAN, Generative Adversarial Network, is an artificial intelligence technique. Given a training set, this technique learns to generate new data with the same statistics as the training set. For example, a GAN trained on images can generate new images, thereby increasing the number of images".
Others students will take part in challenges on commercial real estate, posted on www.b2ideas.eu, on behalf of the ReFinE research and study network. Thus, Aimane CAF is working "to build a database of office prices and rents using a web scraping technique. This is an opportunity to acquire and implement a new technique. Remote cooperation allows us to forget about our daily lockdown routine for a while."
Apart from data science, for which a hackathon based on web scraping has also been posted by the Lab’innovation Banque de France, other challenges on b2ideas can attract students in economics or marketing/communication. For example, a competition on economics and sustainable development posted by Banque de France. B2ideas is also open to new projects posted by AMSE staff, even outside the scope of the Covid crisis.
Our students are full of ideas and are involved in many projects. Exciting initiatives that give them a chance to get into action in the context of the health crisis.
© Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash