Jun 08, 2017 By G. John Cole
If there is one quality that business, education, and technology share, it is the power to stay one step ahead of the trends of broader society. It is no wonder, then, that business schools are adopting and developing technological solutions with ever increasing enthusiasm, with the results visible everywhere from the classroom and the changing role of professors to the strategies that schools are using to strengthen their connections with the world beyond academia. The Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and new communication tools are driving the way students learn and the ideas they produce.
Blended learning and flipped classrooms are disrupting the established ways of doing things, creating a thriving atmosphere of innovation and diversity. Online tools are facilitating a surge in experiential learning, as remote study and access allow for a more versatile blend of on-campus and action-based programs. This added versatility also allows for greater levels of individual tailoring and specialization. While big business is still figuring out to deal with big data, schools are busy developing programs for those with an aptitude for sorting, interpreting, and utilizing massive amounts of information.
So how can business schools adapt and benefit from these trends? It begins at the front door.
Student recruitment is increasingly digital, with business students utilizing the vast potential of online marketing, SEO optimization and organic search results. Smart recruitment strategies let business schools reach out to students who are already prepared and ready to succeed. And once connected with the right students, clever CRM tools designed for higher education let business schools engage with applicants on a personal level. Video interviews and the use of LinkedIn are two of the most straightforward ways that the web is changing the admissions process. But many American business schools are also using new software to track the behavior of potential students.
Old-school networking and big data seem to have met in the middle. Software such as Talisma and Slate track applicants’ patterns of interaction with current students, alumni and members of the admissions office, and how many admissions events they’ve attended. Relationships are still the principal way of making connections, but with Harvard – for example – needing to narrow down to 9,500 MBA candidates to fit just 900 places, it’s clear that clever use of tech trends has its place. Perhaps more than any other area, MBA students need to be driven, proactive, and engaged – and the software is now available to make a preliminary survey of these attributes before applicants even make that first handshake.
B-schools are also adapting to the needs of the outside world. The number of Harvard MBAs graduating into investment banker positions more than halved (from 12% to 5%) in the quarter-century since 1989 – roughly accounting for the life span of the World Wide Web. Investment banks are scaling down recruitment schemes, and singling out talented junior analysts to develop in-house, rather than those who are set on an employer-funded MBA program. The banks’ change in attitude towards traditional recruits is mirrored by the MBAs themselves, as today’s graduate is more likely to aspire to a consultancy or tech company position than one in banking.
They value flexibility and opportunities for self-development more than big bucks and a job for life.
The change in the business landscape in the States can be traced to the JOBS Act and the fallout of the 2008 crash. The emphasis is shifting instead towards startups and individual entrepreneurship. These are the opportunities for which today’s MBAs are hungry, and for which their educators need to prepare them. Even those destined towards existing companies will increasingly be expected to demonstrate entrepreneurial aptitude. Indeed, entrepreneurship has come to be seen not as a mystical power granted to the gifted few, but a skill that schools can and should teach from an early stage in an individual’s education.
Institutions will benefit from listening not just to students’ requirements, but their ideas. The new breed of tech-savvy, entrepreneurial MBAs are ideally positioned to work with their schools to develop new edtech opportunities and innovations that will continue to filter down to other fields of education – reinforcing the role of b-schools as the widely-acknowledged disruptors of the world of higher education.