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How innovation is important in Hospitality Education : By Dr. Christine Demen Meier, Managing Director, Les Roches

Friday, December 11, 2020, 12:00 Hrs  [IST]

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By Dr. Christine Demen Meier, Managing Director, Les Roches

Year 2020 has been a turning point in the educational sector forcing many institutions to switch to remote and online teaching in a matter of weeks. While almost only online institutions or those of a certain scale and reputation used to provide their students with online courses before the pandemic, this method of learning has now become a necessity for most schools worldwide.

It is not only the transmission of knowledge that is important when switching to remote teaching, but also student experience which, while different from face-to-face classes, must comply with and even exceed the level of school’s standards. For hospitality education, largely putting customer experience  in the centre of its curriculum, the use of innovative methods and technologies for remote and classroom teaching is crucial.

Through the application of latest technologies in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), it is now possible to ensure the level of plagiarism during online assessments is kept to a minimum and teacher efficiency is increased due to AI systems dealing with automated admin tasks. Moreover, using AI,  it is now possible to personalise the educational content adapting it to students’ needs.

Virtual classrooms using digital tools like Padlet, an online notice board, Mural, a digital workspace for visual collaboration and Wooclap, an Audience Response Tool that offers teachers and students the opportunity to communicate via polls, test questions, word clouds, or gamification, contribute to successful and even improved study process between teachers and students in remote or hyflex study modes.

While culinary classes in hospitality education are yet to bridge the gap between real-time cooking and using Virtual Reality (VR) to access cooking tools and spaces using VR headsets and sensors, this technology has already been widely used by educational institutions to welcome students on (virtual) campus during the pandemic when travelling was not possible. While nothing can compare to practical experience hospitality, it is only a matter of time until this technology complements the physical learning.

It is essential not only for the educational institutions to apply the latest technologies in order to keep up with the digitalization in the education sector, but also for the students to become accustomed to the use and presence of these tools. Giving students a possibility to work on case studies collaborating with actual organisations in developing these solutions is the next step for the hospitality industry to educate tomorrow’s graduates. At Les Roches in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, and Marbella, Spain, two of the very few Innovation hubs in hospitality education have been launched this autumn. Entitled Innovation sphere “SPARK”, these centres will serve as multipurpose online and physical platforms for students, companies, start-ups, public institutions and entrepreneurs to come together and work on projects lead by modern technologies such as blockchain, AI, augmented reality and VR,  robotics and  Internet of Things to name a few.

These innovation spheres on a basis of three pillars, will enhance student learning by first, allowing them to experience new technological solutions and trends by using these themselves. Secondly, they will give students the understanding of how to create future solutions for and with the hospitality industry and thirdly, providing them access to the resources and knowledge needed to start their business while still studying at Les Roches.

In addition to using modern technologies, it is also important to adapt the curriculum and offer courses that will prepare the students to the changing industry. At Les Roches we had identified already the growing need for the hospitality industry to find tech solutions in order to match the expectations of the customers, elevate the user experience and modernize the internal company processes. For this reason, we launched last year the Master’s in Hospitality Strategy and Digital Transformation in Crans-Montana to educate the future professionals of the industry on this indispensable trend. This is the time for the future graduates of the hospitality institutions to surround themselves with the training in hospitality technology and digitalization. Through courses focusing on digitalization, students can access the necessary tools to be able to assess the needs of hospitality organizations and select the most appropriate tech solutions to optimize the processes, maximize the emerging technologies and enhance the customer journey.

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