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For most students, lectures and seminars only take place in their own living room and in their home office instead of in the lecture hall. Due to contact restrictions, the universities had to relocate their campus online and switch to online teaching. But many seminar participants find it difficult to concentrate in front of their own PC for a long time, says Michael Roth, managing director of the Academy of Housing and Real Estate Management (AWI).

Online formats attract new target groups

The AWI responded with new formats. "We offered many short seminars on current issues," says Roth. The sessions were kept so short that the organization would not have been profitable as a face-to-face event, because for many participants the journey to Stuttgart would have been longer than the workshop itself. "We noticed that many managing directors and board members have registered. Finally they didn't have to shovel a day off, but could follow the seminars from their own office, "summarizes Roth. That is why the AWI has adapted the content of the seminars to the new target group. In addition to explanations on current political decisions and regulations on the subject of rent deferrals, there were also tips on organizing home offices, for example.

The Academy of Real Estate Management (ADI), which is also based in Stuttgart, was also able to reach new target groups with pure online offers last year. Seminar leader Anjulie Jäger and study leader Claudia Guida have observed that more and more employees of small and medium-sized companies as well as self-payers have booked courses. For both of them, the reason is obvious: there are no travel costs, which makes the training courses more affordable. Larger companies, on the other hand, continue to prefer extensive operational training at the AWI that is specially tailored to the needs of their employees.

Roth doubts that short online workshops can permanently replace training or advanced training with face-to-face events. Nevertheless, the AWI is already restructuring many offers for the time after the pandemic. This is how hybrid formats are to be created in the future. Pure knowledge transfer should then take place online, discussions and exchange with other participants and lecturers on site. "In this way, we want to meet above all those who are taking further training alongside their jobs."

Many universities have found that the number of people studying alongside their job has increased since the beginning of the corona pandemic. At the EBZ Business School in Bochum, this can be seen in the number of enrollments: While the interest in face-to-face courses has only decreased slightly, three times as many students started a distance learning master’s degree in real estate this spring compared to the 2019 summer semester. "Students are increasingly looking for opportunities to undertake academic training even during the Corona crisis," says EBZ spokeswoman Margarethe Danisch. But companies also encourage their employees to develop themselves further through distance learning, because "the staff shortage does not take a break in Corona times."

Digitization forces "lifelong learning"

ADI director of studies Guida assumes that the trend towards distance learning will continue. "The rapid digital development that occurred with the pandemic is forcing literally lifelong learning in order not to be left behind," she says, referring above all to advanced master's courses and advanced training. At many universities, not only has the way of learning changed. The learning content is also increasingly shaped by the topic of digitization.

While current trends and developments in digital technologies and working methods have so far only been dealt with in individual lectures or seminars in many degree programs, they should be part of the entire training program for EBZ students from autumn 2022. Then the digitalization and real estate management course will start. "Dealing with databases and application systems as well as smart home and smart building, digital transformation of business models and processes in the real estate industry as well as virtual reality and intelligent building are then part of the course content," explains Danisch.

The TH Aschaffenburg shows that this content is in demand. In October 2020, the first year started with around 50 students in the subject of digital real estate management, which offers very similar content. "The demand for places in the new bachelor's degree was very high for a degree that was being offered for the first time," reports the university. A new professor was specially appointed for the course. In addition to a degree in business administration, Sabrina Schork also has an apprenticeship as a creative leader, business coach, Scrum and design thinking coach. At other universities, lecturers are constantly receiving further training in order to be able to include digital topics in their lessons. They are in regular contact with students and companies. Some of the seminars are also designed and held by IT experts.

Previous courses at the universities will not be replaced by the new ones with a digital focus. But in Aschaffenburg it is already clear that the students on the course that has been launched are in great demand by potential employers. Spokeswoman Heike Spielberger reports on inquiries and interests from real estate investors, managers, service providers and proptechs. They hope that after graduation, the students will be fit to assess technologies for buildings and real estate processes and to be able to work in an agile manner.