IE Challenge Is in Desperate Need of Fixing


IE Challenge is now one of the most unpopular classes at IE. Students are so strongly against it that they’ve circulated petitions trying to get it cancelled or to make it pass/fail. But what is it about IE Challenge that students so strongly disapprove of, and is there anything which can be done to make the class popular? This article will approach the issue by analysing why students complain about it, and what solutions could be introduced to address students’ complaints. 

The main complaint most students have is that the program feels completely irrelevant to them. This position is understandable. Imagine you’re a law student who wants to work for a big company like Cuatrecasas. Suddenly, you’re plunged into a class where most things you’ve learned in your degree are useless. On top of that, you don’t see how being able to make a business model canvas will help you deal with clients once you’re working at Cuatrecasas. Although most cases aren’t as severe as this, a lot of students who don’t want to go into entrepreneurship or consulting feel that the class is barely connected to their degrees and future plans. 

This is closely linked to the second problem, which is that the class can be a lot of work. Of course, students have to put in a lot of effort for most of their classes. However, IE Challenge really takes the cake. It is easily the class I’ve had to prepare the most homework, deliverables and presentations for, and I know the same is true for some other students. While it can be very rewarding to work hard on something you find interesting or useful, far too many students don’t feel this way about the IE Challenge. This feeling isn’t irrelevant. It can dramatically affect the engagement and experience of the entire class.  Feeling that your work is meaningless is one of the main causes of “bore-out”. This is a feeling of chronic boredom while working. In the professional setting, it has been known to lead to employees slacking off by chatting or wasting time online. Something similar clearly happens to students, as every professor who has begged their class to switch off their computers surely knows. In IE Challenge, the number of people busy online shopping or planning their vacation during class time goes up with each session. Based on this and the endless complaints about the class, it is safe to say that the perception of IE Challenge as being irrelevant has led to bore-out and disengagement.

This disengagement not only affects the bored students but the class as a whole. IE Challenge is a highly team-based course. A disengaged student who doesn’t pay attention in class will lack the skills to do team-based homework tasks effectively. That’s if they had any motivation remaining to actually continue participating. As a result, the disengagement causes a burden for engaged team members who have to pick up the slack. This increases the workload of the course for them.In this situation, it isn’t surprising that even engaged students can become frustrated and resentful, both towards their team and the class as a whole. I’ve been lucky to have a team where most people pitch in when they have to, and one or two students are highly motivated. But I’ve heard others complain about how they’ve been abandoned and feel like giving up. 

Admittedly, a lot of credit should be given to IE University for its decision to let students pick their challenges. If I hadn’t been able to choose something I found interesting, I would probably have become demotivated. However, the fact remains that many students didn’t think any of the options were useful to them, especially considering that this class will appear in their transcripts and affect their GPA.

The main complaints of students are essentially that IE Challenge isn’t relevant to them and that it’s too work intensive, particularly for certain Challenges. This means that students in some challenges are much more upset than others. For example, my class constantly feels like it’s on the verge of mutiny. We’ve been tasked with increasing trust between a company and farmers, and it has been extremely difficult to find people to interview. A classmate complained about sending dozens of emails to farmers and associations and still failing to get enough replies to finish her homework. Another classmate went to the IFEMA Fruit Attraction to try to find people to interview. He was mostly ignored. The difficulty of contacting some kinds of users has made some challenges more work-intensive. Most of my class feels their grades have been affected by this, which further demotivates many.

Although some students have been calling for the class to be scrapped in the future, I don’t think this is necessary. There are a lot of policies which IE could use to address these problems and make the class popular for next year’s cohort. The problem of irrelevance could be solved through a lot of different policies. Firstly, the IE Challenge could be optional for future cohorts. That way, students who felt it was interesting enough or useful enough could take it, while those who didn’t could do something else. Students would still need to do something that could get them 6 credits, such as an elective or an internship. Another solution could be to broaden the type of Challenges available. Currently, the client challenges are very business and entrepreneurship-oriented, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Making challenges more similar to lab projects and ensuring a wide variety of degrees are represented could go a long way towards making IE Challenge more popular. 

Secondly, frustrations about workload and fears over grades should be addressed. Possible options include making the subject pass/fail and grading students by comparing them to others in their Challenge. This could be done by grading students on a curve. Normally, there’s an average grade which most students score close to, with a handful of students getting much higher grades and a handful scoring much lower. When grading on a curve, the professor sets a target average. If instead the average is much lower, then the professor can adjust the grades so that it’s closer to the target. The first solution would greatly assuage fears over grades for all students. However, it’s somewhat understandable if IE doesn’t want to make a 6-credit class pass or fail. The second option would reassure those who chose more work-intensive challenges. I think that if IE doesn’t already use this system it should seriously consider implementing it. Not only is it arguably fairer, but it would also prevent students from trying to choose easier challenges just to get higher grades. 

Far too many students have a problem with the IE Challenge course. The main reason for this is that many find it irrelevant to their degrees, which causes bore-out and triggers further disengagement throughout the class. Students also have additional concerns like the workload of the course, especially for some Challenges which revolve around difficult-to-contact users, as well as concerns over grades. Fortunately, there are solutions for this. Most significantly, steps like making the class optional and/or introducing more variety to the Challenges could go a long way to making the class feel relevant and engaging for all students. I’m personally reassured by the fact that IE has already modified the course in the past, such as by letting students pick their Challenges. I believe that it will continue to improve the course until it lives up to its full potential.

Featured image: Pixabay

Sabina Narvaez
Sabina Narvaez
Originally from Mexico, but mostly grew up abroad and has Spanish nationality. Studies Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics and mostly writes about these topics. Also interested in sustainability.

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