Take-home exam challenges students to hack the corona crisis
Robert Östling, Associate Professor at the SSE Department of Economics, and his colleagues Pamela Campa, Jesper Roine and Mari-Jane Jonsson, quickly adapted the traditional exam to a take-home exam, that took place on 30 March, in which they asked students to think of ideas of how the public sector and corporations could help in reducing the spread of the virus and lessen its negative consequences.
”We had the sense that there was a high demand for ideas about how to handle the crisis and we thought we might as well use some of our students’ time to see if interesting new ideas would emerge”, explains Robert Östling. “When almost three hundred SSE students spend time thinking about what can be done, it comes as no surprise that interesting ideas emerge”.
And there were many interesting ideas indeed. While some ideas focused on fiscal and monetary policies to mitigate negative economic consequences, such as lower interest rates, payroll tax cuts and VAT reductions, others focused on limiting the spread of the virus by, for example, temporarily removing road tolls to incentivize people not to use public transport and turning one traffic lane into a walk lane to permit more distance between pedestrians. Many students also stressed the importance of building test capacity to make Corona testing a part of everyday life.
Collaboration was also an important aspect, such as restaurants collaborating with other restaurants to organize home deliveries, teaming up with struggling taxi companies to deliver food. Students were also concerned with the potential mental health problems arising from living in social isolation, suggesting the creation of a telephone hotline for people that feel lonely and organizing outdoor activities. Robert Östling was surprised by the focus on mental health, stating that it has not been very present in the public debate.
Business plays an important role and must take responsibility
It was clear that many students believed that business plays an important role in the current crisis, and in particular that there are opportunities to create shared value, i.e. to take actions that benefit society and is good for business. Many students believed that sectors that are not hurt badly by the economic downturn have a greater responsibility, like for example big grocery store companies like ICA, since they are profiting from increased demand and could play a critical role by facilitating home deliveries.
Some students argued that the current crisis can provide new business opportunities by re-optimizing sourcing decisions and by switching to more local suppliers, as well as develop better platforms for online work and to train the workforce that is temporarily idle.
About Global Challenges
Global Challenges is a course sequence that is mandatory for all Economics and Business B.Sc. students at Stockholm School of Economics. You can read more about it on the SSE website.